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Huffman v. Missouri Department of Corrections

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

July 20, 2017




         This matter is before the Court on plaintiff's second motion for an extension of time to respond to the Court's show cause order and plaintiff's motion for a telephonic status conference. For the following reasons, the Court will deny both motions and order plaintiff to appear for deposition no later than Monday, August 21, 2017.


         (A) Plaintiff's Complaint

         On May 13, 2015, plaintiff, a former prisoner at Eastern Reception Diagnostic & Correctional Center (“ERDCC”), filed this prisoner civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff alleges that while he was incarcerated at ERDCC, defendants were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

         Plaintiff suffers from caudal regression syndrome, spinal bifida, scoliosis, sciatica, and severe back pain, and has been confined to a wheelchair for the duration of his life. Plaintiff alleges defendants refused to change or assist him in changing his diapers and colostomy bag, and refused to assist him in performing other necessary maintenance procedures. Plaintiff alleges defendants routinely refused or delayed plaintiff's access to medical supplies necessary to care for his condition, which led to infections. He states that he was not provided with a handicap-accessible cell, could not reach the sink, and frequently fell attempting to perform simple tasks such as brushing his teeth or cleaning his body or clothes after a diaper or colostomy bag leak. Finally, plaintiff alleges that while he was located in the St. Louis Community Release Center, he suffered excessive force and violence. Specifically, he alleges on February 13, 2015, he was awoken for a head count, forcefully placed in his wheelchair, handcuffed, and pepper sprayed by defendants Debose and Nieves. After administering the pepper spray, plaintiff alleges the St. Louis Community Release Center officers began kicking and laughing at plaintiff as he lay defenseless on the floor of the facility. He was then sent to St. Louis University Hospital. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 26-29.)

         (B) Procedural History of Case

         On August 19, 2015, the Court appointed counsel for plaintiff. Counsel filed an amended complaint, and the Court issued its case management order on January 8, 2016. The Court has granted three motions to amend the case management order. The current case management order sets May 26, 2017 as the deadline for completing discovery; June 30, 2017 as the deadline for filing dispositive motions; and a trial date of September 18, 2017.

         On May 24, 2017, defendants filed a motion to dismiss the case for failure of plaintiff to appear at his deposition. Defendants had scheduled plaintiff's deposition for March 22, 2017. That day, plaintiff's attorneys requested to move the deposition from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. to allow plaintiff to attend a job interview. The deposition was later rescheduled again, this time to start at 2:00 p.m. Plaintiff never appeared. Plaintiff told his attorney that he was unable to attend because of a “family emergency.”

         Defendants rescheduled plaintiff's deposition for 10:00 a.m. on May 22, 2017. Prior to the time of the deposition, however, plaintiff's attorneys advised defendants that they had been unable to make contact with plaintiff, and cancelled the deposition.

         Because of these failures of plaintiff to appear for his scheduled depositions, defendants moved to dismiss the case as a sanction under Federal Rule 37(d)(3). Plaintiff did not respond to this motion to dismiss.

         In addition to failing to appear for his deposition, the parties failed to mediate the case. On June 16, 2017, defendants filed a motion to vacate the Order referring the case to mediation, stating that mediation would not be useful considering they had been unable to depose plaintiff and had a pending motion to dismiss for failure to prosecute. Again, plaintiff did not respond to defendants' motion.

         On June 29, 2017, the Court issued an order to show cause. The Court ordered plaintiff to respond by July 7, 2017 as to why the case should not be dismissed as a sanction for his failure to appear at deposition.

         On July 6, 2017, plaintiff's counsel sought an extension of thirty days to respond to the order to show cause. Counsel stated that he had been attempting to communicate with plaintiff regarding defendants' motion ...

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