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Cody v. City of St. Louis

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

October 31, 2019

JAMES CODY, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF ST. LOUIS, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          AUDREY G. FLEISSIG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs' motion (ECF No. 115) to compel Defendant City of St. Louis to allow Plaintiffs' expert to complete inspection of the Medium Security Institution (“MSI”). For the reasons set forth below, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

         BACKGROUND

         The seven named Plaintiffs filed this action on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated against the City of St. Louis, Missouri alleging various dangerous, unsanitary, and inhumane conditions inside the MSI. Plaintiffs, who were all held at MSI at various times in 2017, claim that detainees at MSI are subjected to insufficient ventilation and extreme heat; unsanitary conditions including rodent and insect infestation, overflowing sewage, and black mold; inadequate medical care; overcrowding; inadequate staffing; violence; and retaliation from staff. As relevant here, Plaintiffs' amended complaint specifically describes faulty and regularly malfunctioning air conditioning systems and mold growing from the air vents, as well as severe overcrowding. E.g., ECF No. 22 ¶¶ 29, 42, 53, 85, & 110.

         Plaintiffs served Defendant a Request for Property Inspection pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 34 on May 2, 2018, requesting up to three expert witnesses be allowed to inspect the facilities. Pursuant to this request and with Defendant's consent, James Balsamo (“Mr. Balsamo”), Plaintiffs' retained environmental health and safety expert, arrived at MSI on October 30, 2018, in order to inspect the health and safety conditions at the jail to prepare his expert opinion. Plaintiffs assert this inspection was intended to include the laundry, inmate housing areas, shower areas, janitor sinks, day room areas, janitorial supplies, storage areas, food storage and preparation areas and other ancillary areas of the jail. Mr. Balsamo conducted his inspection over nine hours, and at 7:00 p.m., Mr. Balsamo left the facility.[1] However, Plaintiffs contend that Mr. Balsamo was not allowed to complete his inspection of the air conditioning system, food safety system, or the fire suppression system at MSI.

         Nine months later, on July 30, 2019, Plaintiffs contacted Defendant to request that Defendant allow Mr. Balsamo to complete his inspection of the air conditioning, food safety, and fire suppression systems. Plaintiffs assert completing this inspection would take approximately six hours.

         Defendant contends that Mr. Balsamo could and should have completed his inspection during his initial visit to MSI, and denies that Defendant prevented Mr. Balsamo from completing his inspection. Defendant further asserts that Plaintiffs could and should have raised any issues regarding the inspection earlier.[2] Defendant also opposes Plaintiffs' current request because, according to Defendant, the requested discovery is not relevant to Plaintiffs' claims. Defendant asserts that Plaintiffs' inspection of the fire suppression system is unnecessary and disproportionate to the burden or expense that Defendant will bear. Defendant has offered to produce photographs of the air conditioners at MSI, and Defendant maintains that such evidence is sufficient for Plaintiffs' discovery needs.

         Additionally, Defendant argues that Plaintiffs failed to describe each item or category of items to be inspected in accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 34 (b)(1)(A), or the time, place, and manner for the inspection in accordance with Rule 34 (b)(1)(B). In support of this assertion, Defendant points to an email from Plaintiffs on October 29, 2018 (the day before the initial inspection) stating that, Mr. Balsamo:

would like to inspect the facility for life safety to include review of fire drill, smoke detector, fire alarm and emergency generator testing reports, overall pest control, lighting, general sanitation and air velocity in housing areas, food safety and sanitation practices, laundry sanitation, clothing and bedding exchange policies and practices, personal hygiene supplies availability and toilet, shower and cell sanitation and medical treatment facility safety and sanitation.

         ECF No. 119 at 4.

         Defendant argues that neither Plaintiffs' initial request, nor this email sufficiently apprised Defendant of Plaintiffs' desire to inspect the air conditioning, food safety, and fire suppression systems, and that Plaintiffs' follow-up correspondence in connection with their current request is likewise insufficiently specific.

         DISCUSSION

         Relevance

         Federal Rule of Civil ...


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