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A.B.S. v. Board of Police Commissioners

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

August 12, 2019

A.B.S., as surviving daughter of deceased ANTHONY L. SMITH, and a minor, by And through her next friend CHRISTINA WILSON, Plaintiff,
v.
BOARD OF POLICE COMMISSIONERS, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JEAN C. HAMILTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Annie Smith's Motion pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(6), filed May 17, 2019. (ECF No. 234). The motion is fully briefed and ready for disposition.

         By way of background, this lawsuit was initiated in 2012, and involves claims brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Missouri Wrongful Death Statute against former City of St. Louis Police Officer Jason Stockley (“Stockley”), and the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners (the “Board”). Plaintiff A.B.S., the minor daughter of Anthony Lamar Smith (“Decedent”), alleged that Stockley used excessive force when he fatally wounded her father following a police pursuit on December 20, 2011. Following the shooting, a Taurus revolver recovered from the vehicle driven by Decedent was seized as evidence, and samples were taken for DNA testing. Decedent's mother, Annie Smith (“Smith”), was granted permission to intervene in the underlying action in March, 2013.[1]

         The parties mediated the underlying action in June, 2013, and settled all claims. A.B.S. and Smith each took a share of the settlement proceeds.

         On December 18, 2017, A.B.S. filed a Motion to Re-Open Discovery, Motion for Show Cause Hearing, and Motion for Sanctions (the “motion”). A.B.S. asserted there were intentional abuses of the federal discovery process by Defendants and their counsel, with respect to the lab results on the DNA recovered from the revolver. A.B.S. did not ask that the underlying lawsuit and settlement be reopened; instead, she requested sanctions against Defendants and/or their counsel for their abuse of the discovery process.

         The Court entered a scheduling order with respect to the motion on April 9, 2018, ordering referral to alternative dispute resolution (“ADR”) from August 1, 2018, to September 14, 2018. The Court further ordered supplemental briefing on the motion between August 24, 2018, and September 24, 2018, and set the matter for a hearing on October 9, 2018.

         On May 8, 2018, Smith's current counsel, Jermaine Wooten of the Legal Solution Group, LLC, entered his appearance for Smith.[2] On October 16, 2018, A.B.S.'s attorney filed a notice of settlement. On December 6, 2018, however, A.B.S. and Defendants (collectively “Movants”) filed a Joint Motion for Approval of Settlement, Entry of Judgment and Sanctions. In their joint motion, Movants asserted Smith did not participate in pre-settlement discovery or mediation in the underlying case, nor was she a party to the Motion to Re-Open Discovery, Motion for Show Cause Hearing and Motion for Sanctions. Movants further maintained that although he received all filings in this matter subsequent to his entry of appearance on May 8, 2018, Mr. Wooten did not participate in the discovery process or mediation regarding the motion. Only after Movants filed the notice of settlement on October 16, 2018, did Mr. Wooten contact the City Counselor's Office, requesting that a portion of the settlement be allocated to Smith. Movants requested that Smith's claim to the settlement proceeds, to the extent she had any, be extinguished as a sanction for her failure to participate in the discovery and ADR process. Movants further requested that Smith be barred from filing her own claim with respect to the alleged discovery violation.

         During a hearing held on January 8, 2019, the Court ruled that Smith's intervention as of right ended when the underlying wrongful death litigation was settled and terminated. The Court thus held Smith was not automatically entitled to a portion of the settlement proceeds. On January 9, 2019, the Court refused to approve Movants' proposed settlement, as the Court declined to extinguish any potential claim Smith might have on her own behalf with respect to the alleged discovery violation. The Court ordered the parties to submit a status report by February 18, 2019, indicating their progress in determining the manner in which the case should move forward, either through settlement or otherwise.

         As ordered, the parties submitted a Joint Status Report on February 18, 2019. At that time, the parties informed the Court they had been unsuccessful in their efforts to settle the matter, and thus requested that the case be placed back on the Court's regular docket. The parties further requested that Smith be granted twenty-one days to file her own claim regarding the discovery violation.

         On February 27, 2019, the Court entered a revised scheduling order in this matter, granting Smith until March 15, 2019, within which to seek leave to intervene in this matter as a Plaintiff, and/or to file any motion she may have relative to any claim(s) she may assert against any current or former party. The Court further set deadlines for discovery, ADR, and supplemental briefing.

         On March 15, 2019, Mr. Wooten filed a notice of settlement, stating the parties had agreed in principle to settle the case, and were in the process of preparing and finalizing the settlement documents. On April 24, 2019, however, A.B.S. filed a Motion to Enforce Settlement, in which she claimed that despite agreeing to the express terms of the settlement, Smith refused to execute the Settlement Agreement. According to A.B.S., Smith was again questioning the paternity of A.B.S., and further was recalcitrant to sign the agreement because she disagreed with the distribution of settlement funds. A.B.S. asked that the Court approve the proposed settlement, the exact text of which Smith allegedly previously approved.

         On May 17, 2019, Smith filed a Motion to Intervene, in which she requested leave to intervene in A.B.S.'s Motion for Sanctions. She further requested that she be permitted to represent her own interests, as she sought both monetary sanctions and the setting aside of the 2013 judgment. That same day, Smith filed the instant Motion pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(6), requesting that the Court set aside the 2013 order approving settlement. Finally, on May 18, 2019, Smith filed her response to A.B.S.'s Motion to Enforce Settlement, requesting that the Court decline to enforce the settlement as Smith never agreed to such.

         DISCUSSION

         Rule 60(b) allows a district court to relieve a party from a final ...


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