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Wagner v. City of Saint Louis Department of Public Safety

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

July 16, 2014

BENJAMIN WAGNER, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF SAINT LOUIS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

AUDREY G. FLEISSIG, District Judge.

Plaintiff Benjamin Wagner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis brings this action against Defendants, the City of Saint Louis Department of Public Safety (the "SLDPS") and Leonora (Muhammad) Hatter, the Director of Nursing at the St. Louis City Justice Center (the "CJC"), alleging, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, violation of his constitutional rights.[1] Plaintiff was, at the times relevant to this suit, a pretrial detainee in the custody of the CJC.[2] Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Hatter unlawfully denied his requests for prescription eyeglasses, and that the SLDPS violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment pursuant to a policy to deny prescription eyeglasses until they have been incarcerated for one year.

This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's motions to amend the complaint, for protective order, to compel, and for injunctive relief with respect to certain conditions of his confinement.[3] Also before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motions are denied and Defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted.

I. Procedural Background

The procedural history relevant to the motions pending before the Court is set forth below.

Plaintiff filed this case on October 15, 2012. Plaintiff was granted in forma pauperis status and certain of his claims were dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Under the Case Management Order ("CMO") entered in the case, all motions for amendment of pleadings were to be filed not later than May 6, 2013, and all discovery including the filing of motions to compel was to be completed by October 7, 2013. See Doc. No. 24 at ¶ 4 (providing that "[p]arties shall file motions to compel in a prompt manner and in no event after the discovery deadline").

On May 3, 2013, Plaintiff requested leave to amend his complaint to add a claim and parties alleging that the SLDPS and two individual SLDPS employees violated his First Amendment rights by withholding his mail from May, 2012 to May, 2013. The Court granted that motion. See Doc. No. 39. Thereafter, Plaintiff failed to file or serve an amended complaint with respect to these allegations and therefore, this portion of his suit will be dismissed for failure to prosecute.

On June 21, 2013, Defendants made their initial disclosures producing approximately 500 pages of documents including Plaintiff's medical records. As discovery proceeded, Defendants also responded to Plaintiff's interrogatories and requests for production and admission. On September 17, 2014, Plaintiff filed a "Motion for Production of Discovery, " which the Court construed as a motion to compel. The motion was denied on October 9, 2013, because Plaintiff failed to identify any discovery requests that Defendants had not responded to in a timely fashion. See Doc. No. 64. In addition, the Court extended the discovery period set forth in the CMO through October 17, 2013, to permit Plaintiff additional time to respond to Defendants' discovery requests. See id.

On October 18, 2013, Plaintiff filed a "Stipulation for Protective Order." However, the "stipulation" contained no indication that the parties had in fact agreed upon its terms. On October 25, 2013, more than five months after the expiration of the time period for amending the complaint, Plaintiff moved for leave to amend his complaint to add allegations and parties relating to difficulties he alleges he experienced as a result of the new eyeglasses he received after his March, 2013 ophthalmologic exam. Plaintiff also challenged a subsequent refusal of the CJC to refer him to an ophthalmologist for additional care.

On November 4, 2013, the deadline for filing any such motions under the CMO, Defendants filed their motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff responded to that motion on December 2, 2013, and Defendants filed their reply on December 12, 2013. On December 4, 2013, almost seven months after the deadline for amendments of the complaint and after the filing of the motion for summary judgment, Plaintiff filed a third motion to amend his complaint seeking to substitute the City of Saint Louis in place of the SLDPS. On the same day, Plaintiff also filed motions for court orders mandating that he receive telephone access and access to Westlaw Online at the CJC.

On December 17, 2013, two months after the close of discovery, Plaintiff filed a motion to compel production of documents to obtain the files related to the grievances he filed with respect to his eyeglasses. (Doc. No. 81).

Finally, on March 24, 2014, Plaintiff, having been transferred to the ERDCC in Bonne Terre, Missouri, filed a motion for a court order mandating that he receive access to a "constitutionally adequate law library" at that facility. Doc. No. 85.

II. Plaintiff's Motions to Amend

Plaintiff's motions for leave to amend his complaint will be denied for failure to show good cause for departure from the terms of the Court's CMO.

In circumstances where a party seeks leave to amend a pleading outside the deadline established by the court's scheduling order, the party must satisfy the goodcause standard of Rule 16(b)(4), rather than the more liberal standard of Rule 15(a).[4] Sherman v. Winco Fireworks, Inc., 532 F.3d 709, 716 (8th Cir. 2008). Under Eighth Circuit law, "a motion for leave to amend filed outside the district court's Rule 16(b) scheduling order requires a showing of good cause." Williams v. Tesco Servs. Inc., 719 F.3d 968, 977 (8th Cir. 2013). In order to meet the "good cause" requirement, a party must establish "diligence in attempting to meet the order's requirements.'" Sherman, 532 F.3d at 716-17 (quoting Rahn v. Hawkins, 464 F.3d 813, 822 (8th Cir. 2006)). In addition, leave to amend is properly denied when the proposed amendment would be futile. See Zutz v. Nelson, 601 F.3d 842, 852 (8th Cir. 2010). And a proposed amendment is deemed futile when "the district court reache[s] the legal conclusion that the amended complaint could not withstand a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6)." Id. at 850 (citation omitted).

A. The October 25, 2013 Motion for Leave to Amend

With respect to the first proposed amendment, filed on October 25, 2013, Plaintiff fails to establish diligence and hence, good cause for the Court to grant him leave to amend more than five months after the date for amendment specified in the CMO and after the close of discovery. Plaintiff's proposed amendment seeks to add new parties and includes allegations about the new eyeglasses he received on March 19, 2013. Plaintiff alleges in the proposed amended complaint that he "had a problem with the new eyeglasses as soon as I put them on...." Doc. No. 66 at 2. Yet Plaintiff fails to explain why he waited seven months to seek leave to amend the complaint to add these allegations. Moreover, the Court cannot permit Plaintiff to continuously amend his complaint whenever he experiences new problems regarding his medical care. See Popoalii v. Corr. Med. Servs., 512 F.3d 488, 497 (8th Cir. 2008) (holding that denial of a motion to amend a complaint approximately five months after the deadline set forth in the scheduling order is appropriate where the motion fails to state "persuasive reasons for the delay"); Freeman v. Busch, 349 F.3d 582, 589 (8th Cir. 2003) (denying a motion for leave to amend filed seven weeks before the end of the discovery and ten months after the scheduling order was entered).

In addition, even if Plaintiff had shown diligence in seeking leave to amend, the prejudice to Defendants in this situation persuades the Court that the granting of leave to amend would not be proper here. Plaintiffs initial complaint related to a refusal to grant requests for eyeglasses, and an alleged policy to refuse eye glasses for a one-year period. While the proposed amendment also relates to eyeglasses, it is markedly different and names different parties. Permitting amendment of the complaint when discovery has closed prejudices Defendants by requiring them to defend against new claims and wait for resolution of the claims against them while service and discovery proceed with respect to the newly added claims and parties. See Sherman, 532 F.3d at 717 (holding that even if the party seeking leave shows he has been diligent in attempting to comply with the court's timeline, the court also properly considers whether the non-movant will be prejudiced if the amendment is allowed).

On the basis of the foregoing, the Court will deny, without prejudice, Plaintiff's October 25, 2013 motion for leave to amend his complaint.

B. The December 4, 2013 Motion for Leave to Amend

On December 4, 2013, seven months after the CMO deadline for amendment of the complaint, two months after the close of discovery, and after the filing of the motion for summary judgment, Plaintiff filed another motion for leave to amend his complaint. Upon consideration of this motion, the Court again concludes that Plaintiff fails to establish good cause for his delay in seeking leave to amend. Williams, 719 F.3d at 977.

In support of his motion, Plaintiff asserts that he now realizes that he may have named the wrong party as a defendant and claims his ignorance of the law as the cause for the delay. The Court does not find this argument persuasive. Pro se litigants are expected to abide by the Court's requirements and are subject to the same substantive and procedural requirements as other litigants. Burgs v. Sissel, 745 F.2d 526, 528 (8th Cir. 1984) (holding that pro se parties are "not excused from failing to comply with substantive and procedural law"). Therefore, Plaintiff's claim of unfamiliarity with the law is neither an excuse for lack of diligence nor good cause for waiver of the requirements of the CMO. Sherman, 532 F.3d at 716-17 (requiring a showing of "diligence in attempting to meet the order's requirements" to establish good cause) (internal quotation omitted). More importantly, however, the Court concludes that this motion for leave also should be denied on the basis of futility. As more fully discussed below, the amendment Plaintiff proposes-the substitution of the City of St. Louis for the SLDPS-would nonetheless fail as a matter of law. See Zutz, 601 F.3d at 852.

For these reasons, Plaintiff's December 4, 2013, motion to amend his complaint will be denied.

III. Plaintiff's Motion to Compel

On December 17, 2013, Plaintiff filed a motion seeking to compel production of his inmate grievance file. Defendants responded to Plaintiff's request for the grievance file stating that "[o]ther than documents which have been produced to Plaintiff, Defendant has no such documents within its possession or control." Doc. No. 82. Plaintiff argues that under the Department of Correction's document retention policy, an inmate grievance file must be maintained for five years and therefore, that the file relating to the grievance he filed in July of 2012 should presently remain within Defendants' control. DOC Policy Part VIII (k)(8).

Plaintiff filed his motion to compel almost two months after the close of discovery and after the filing of Defendants' motion for summary judgment, but fails to establish good cause for this delay. Plaintiff asserts that he made several requests for the grievance file, but the record does not substantiate his assertion. Before the close of discovery, Plaintiff filed a "motion for production, " which the Court construed as a motion to compel, but that motion made no specific reference to the grievance file and failed to identify any delinquent discovery responses. Doc. No. 56. Finally, the Court notes that this is not a case where defendants' dilatory or evasive responses have impeded discovery. As Plaintiff acknowledges, Defendants responded to the discovery requests he propounded by producing many pages of relevant documents.

Therefore, in light of Plaintiff's lack of diligence or demonstration of good cause for that lack of diligence, the Court concludes that the motion to compel should ...


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