A new trial date may or may not affect the existing pretrial deadlines, eg., disclosures of witnesses, experts, damages, exhibits, instructions etc. Some guidance when the new trial order may not be clear is found in the COA decision of Rawlings v. Interlock Industries, Inc. The decision has some extensive analysis on the statute of limitations (2 years vs. 1 year) that hinges on the use of a motor vehicle and the unloading of a truck.
Here is the extract from Judge Caperton's decision regarding the pretrial order:
Interlock argues that the trial court abused its discretion when it entered an order on June 5, 2008, which excluded the testimony of Interlock’s expert witness, Harold I. Durham, from trial for failure to comply with the Civil Rules and the court’s order of November 28, 2007.
Interlock argues that any non-compliance on its behalf was inadvertent and resulted from misreading the court’s order, because the order did not specify whether the timing for disclosure of expert witnesses was to be from the date of the order or within so many days before trial. Interlock contends that it thought Rawlings’s expert disclosures were due 90 days before trial and that it
own disclosures were due 60 days before trial. Interlock claims that it filed its disclosures on May 29, 2008,12 in good faith, believing that it had complied with the court’s pretrial order. Thus, Interlock contends that it has the right to have its expert witness testify at trial if this case is remanded and that such testimony would not result in any prejudice to any party.
At the crux of Interlock’s argument is whether the trial court abused its discretion in imposing sanctions on Interlock for failure to comply with our Civil Rules and with the court’s pretrial order. The test for abuse of discretion is whether the trial judge's decision was arbitrary, capricious, or unsupported by sound legal principles. LeBlanc v. Dorten, --- S.W.3d ----, 2009 WL 2971760 (Ky.App. 2009) (internal citations omitted). As stated in LeBlanc, “[a] sanction imposed should bear some reasonable relationship to the seriousness of the defect.” Id. at *2. In the case sub judice, the sanction directly related to the defect and was not capricious or arbitrary. Accordingly, we find no abuse of discretion.
In support of its argument that it has the right to have its expert witness testify at trial if this case is remanded, Interlock references the trial court’s subsequent order entered on December 27, 2007, rescheduling the trial from July
12 Interlock argues that discovery continued through June of 2008. We think this argument would have been more appropriately addressed to the trial court, especially given the pretrial order.
13 Rawlings argues that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by excluding Interlock’s expert witness. Rawlings contends that the pretrial order was not confusing and, given that the trial court is permitted wide discretion over the admission of expert testimony, we should not overturn the decision, citing to Baptist Healthcare Systems, Inc. v. Miller, 177 S.W.3d 676 (Ky. 2005). We agree that the trial court has wide discretion in admitting or excluding expert testimony. However, this issue is one concerning a trial court’s discretion in enforcing its own pretrial order, and we believe that the trial court acted within its discretion.
14, 2008, to July 21, 2008, which did not address the dates set by the prior pretrial order. Interlock argues that under Rippetoe v. Feese, 217 S.W.3d 887 (Ky.App. 2007), once the December 2007 order changed the trial date but did not address the pretrial dates, no discovery deadlines remained in place.
Our reading of Rippetoe yields a much different interpretation. In Rippetoe, this Court explained its reasoning in holding that no discovery deadlines remained in place:
First, the June 5 disclosure deadline was set in the initial order setting the trial for June 11, 2005. This order was clearly superceded by the trial court's subsequent order which advanced the trial date to May 11, and correspondingly advanced the discovery deadlines. Rippetoe then moved for a continuance of the May trial date, admittedly for reasons which involved the inability to comply with the trial court's discovery deadlines. We are compelled to conclude that once the trial court granted that motion without imposing additional discovery deadlines, no discovery deadlines remained in place. Rippetoe at 891. To understand Interlock’s argument and Rippetoe’s application, if any, we must understand the pretrial order and the order rescheduling trial entered by the trial court below. The November 28, 2007, pretrial order consisted of seventeen numbered paragraphs and a “Deadline Checklist.” That pretrial order set discovery deadlines and witness disclosures in terms of a certain number of days before trial, except in the case of disclosure of expert witnesses. The disclosure of expert witnesses was to be completed within ninety (90) days by the Plaintiff; thereafter, the Defendant had sixty (60) days to disclose its expert witness.
The pretrial order made no less than seven references to “prior to trial” and “before trial” in matters other that expert disclosure. In the paragraph that set the terms for expert disclosure, conspicuously absent is any reference to the phrases “prior to trial” or “before trial.” As a matter of fact, that paragraph does not use the word “trial” at all. The December 27, 2008, order rescheduling trial consisted of three typewritten lines. It rescheduled the start of trial from July 14, 2008, to July 21, 2008, and set a final pretrial conference for any motions on June 18, 2008.
Clearly, in the case sub judice, the trial court’s order rescheduling the trial date did not affect the pretrial order’s deadlines. The rescheduling order simply moved the trial date and thereby increased the time allowed for the preparation for trial. The order neither addressed the pretrial deadlines nor vacated the pretrial order.
In contrast, the court in Rippetoe advanced a trial date which, action in and of itself, changes the timeframe given the litigants to prepare for trial. When a trial date is initially set by a trial court, there is little doubt that the litigants will voice their opinion as to the time they need for discovery and preparation for trial, and the trial court will establish an appropriate trial date. Advancing the trial date compresses the time and, thereby, may make other previously established deadlines in the trial order impractical. By contrast, extending the trial date increases the time for preparation for trial but has little if any effect on the other previously established deadlines; the litigants simply have more time to prepare for trial.
There was nothing in the rescheduling order that made the discovery deadlines or the time for preparation for trial impractical or otherwise incongruous with the flow of pretrial matters. As Interlock has only cited this Court to the one case, we are unprepared to establish a new stringent rule that a trial court may not issue an order rescheduling trial without imposing additional discovery deadlines when it is apparent from the trial court’s order that the original discovery deadlines were unaffected. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court’s exclusion of Interlock’s expert witness.