IN COURT OF APPEALS
St. Luke's Hospital Association of Duluth,
Patti J. Skoglund, David J. Hoekstra, Jardine, Logan & O'Brien, P.L.L.P., 2100 Piper Jaffray Plaza, 444 Cedar Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent St. Luke's)
Robert T. Torgerson, Hanft, Fride, O'Brien, Harries, Swelbar & Burns, P.A., 1000 First Bank Place, Duluth, MN 55802 (for respondent Alioto)
Considered and decided by Davies, Presiding Judge, Toussaint, Chief Judge, and Harten, Judge.
In this employment action, the district court first granted respondents summary judgment and then dismissed as moot appellant's motion to compel discovery. Appellant seeks review of both district court actions. Because the district court should have decided the discovery motion before granting summary judgment, we affirm in part, and reverse and remand in part.
Trial was set for September 1997. Respondents served their motion for summary judgment on July 10, 1997. Pfuhl served her motion to compel on July 25, 1997. The motions were heard together on August 11, 1997. On October 23, 1997, the district court granted summary judgment to respondents and dismissed as moot Pfuhl's motion to compel. Pfuhl concedes that her claim based on collective bargaining was properly dismissed by the district court, and as to that part of the district court's decision, we affirm. She appeals the remaining causes of action dismissed by the summary judgment and the denial of her motion to compel.
The district court, in one sentence, dismissed as moot Pfuhl's motion to compel because it had already granted respondents summary judgment on the employment law claims. The motion to compel was considered at the same time as the summary judgment; no hearing transcript was furnished on appeal. Other than mootness, there is no indication of the district court's reasoning behind its dismissal of appellant's motion to compel.
In Rice, the district court erred when it failed to allow additional discovery. 320 N.W.2d at 413; see also Bixler by Bixler v. J.C. Penney Co., 376 N.W.2d 209, 216-17 (Minn. 1985) (summary judgment for defendants premature because appellants likely to discover relevant material facts and because their discovery was diligent in light of the complex and confusing procedural occurrences). In that case, there was no question as to the plaintiff's diligence due to the compressed timing; the defendant's motion for summary judgment was brought less than one month after the plaintiff served the complaint, and the plaintiff filed a motion to continue shortly after receiving the summary judgment motion and before the summary judgment hearing date. Rice, 320 N.W.2d at 413. The plaintiff sought additional discovery in good faith. Id. at 412. The supreme court quoted the following with approval: Sufficient time for discovery is considered especially important when the relevant facts are exclusively in the control of the opposing party * * *. Indeed, the majority of the continuances granted under Rule 56(f) involve cases in which one party has exclusive knowledge of the relevant facts.
Id. (quoting 10 Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 2741, at 733-34 (1973)).
Rice and Bixler create a presumption in favor of granting discovery motions when the moving party brings the motion in good faith, has been diligent, and the opposing party controls the material sought. The presumption-inducing criteria are present in the instant case. Respondents delayed in producing answers and documents within their control. The adequacy of their responses is questionable. Additionally, Pfuhl's demonstrated efforts to resolve the discovery problems show that she was not delaying; she was seeking to obtain the discovery without further litigation.
In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the facts must be seen in the light most favorable to the party against whom the motion was granted. Offerdahl v. University of Minn. Hosps. & Clinics, 426 N.W.2d 425, 427 (Minn. 1988). Here the circumstances leading up to the summary judgment suggest that it was premature and unfair for the district court to decide that there was no question of fact without first deciding the motion to compel discovery of evidence claimed to support Pfuhl's action. We conclude that the district court should have resolved the motion to compel prior to deciding summary judgment. See Hasan, 377 N.W.2d at 475 (it is better to rule on motion to compel discovery before considering motion for summary judgment). We therefore reverse the district court's summary judgment on the remaining causes of action.
To summarize, we affirm the district court's summary judgment as to Pfuhl's collective bargaining count stated in the complaint. We reverse and remand that part of the district court's summary judgment dismissing the remaining counts of the complaint. We reverse and remand the district court's dismissal of Pfuhl's motion to compel. Our decision does not infer an opinion on the merits of appellant's motion to compel and does not preclude another summary judgment motion after discovery is resolved. Finally, we deny as moot respondent's motion to strike appellant's deposition and a letter appendix of appellant's reply brief. They were neither relevant to our decision nor utilized in our analysis.
Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.