United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Western Division
JUMEL H. SHAIDNAGLE, et al., Plaintiffs,
ADAMS COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI, et al., Defendants.
ORDER OVERRULING OBJECTIONS TO MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S ORDER, DENYING MOTIONS TO STRIKE, AND DENYING MOTION IN LIMINE
DAVID BRAMLETTE, District Judge.
This matter is before the Court on Defendant's, Laura Smith, Motion to Strike Plaintiff's Expert [docket entry no. 142], Motion in limine re: Order to Hold [docket entry no. 144], Motion to Strike Expert [docket entry no. 183], Motion to Strike Expert [docket entry no. 184], and Motion for Review of Magistrate Judge's Order [docket entry no. 197], and Plaintiff's, Jumel Shaidnagle, Motions for Review of Magistrate Judge's Order [docket entry nos. 201 and 202]. Having reviewed the motions and responses, other orders in this case, applicable statutory and case law, and being otherwise fully informed in the premises, the Court finds as follows:
I. Factual and Procedural Background
This case arises from the in-custody suicide of Nicholas Pastor on July 28, 2012. Pastor was being held in the Adams County Jail ("the Jail") on an Order to Hold signed by the Special Master for the Adams County Chancery Court. Pastor hanged himself in his cell. Shaidnagle, individually, on behalf of Pastor's wrongful death beneficiaries, and as administratrix of Pastor's estate (collectively, "Shaidnagle") filed suit on July 29, 2013, In its current posture, this case has a pretrial conference on January 12, 2015, and is set for trial in February. Discovery has closed, and experts have been designated. There remains only an intense, and at times frenetic, pretrial motion contest between the parties.
On September 30, 2014, Defendant Laura Smith filed her first motion to strike one of Shaidnagle's experts. See Mot. Strike Pl.'s Experts ("Strike 1"), ECF No. 110. On October 1, 2014, Smith filed her second motion to strike. See Mot. Strike Pl.'s Expert ("Strike 2"), ECF No. 142. In that same filing, Smith also moved to limit Shaidnagle's use of the Order to Hold. See Mot. in limine, ECF No. 144. On that same day, Shaidnagle filed a motion to compel, and three days later, amended that motion. See Mot. Compel, ECF No. 146; Am. Mot. Compel, ECF No. 154. On November 14, 2014, Smith filed two more motions to strike, to prevent this Court from considering certain expert testimony in ruling on her motion for summary judgment currently pending. See Mot. Strike Resp. ("Strike 3"), ECF No. 183; Mot. Strike Resp. ("Strike 4"), ECF No. 184.
Defendants Adams County, Mississippi, Sheriff Charles Mayfield, James Allred, and Charles Harrigill have joined all of Smith's above motions. See Joinder, ECF No. 114 (joining Strike 1); Joinder, ECF No. 149 (joining Strike 2); Joinder, ECF No. 150 (joining motion in limine); Joinder, ECF No. 188 (joining Strike 3); Joinder, ECF No. 189 (joining Strike 4). Defendants Ronald Dunmore and Gary Conn also joined two of Smith's motions. See Joinder, ECF No. 113 (joining Strike 1); Joinder, ECF No. 191 (joining Strike 4).
On December 2, 2014, Magistrate Judge John C. Gargiulo entered orders granting in part and denying in part Smith's first motion to strike and denying Shaidnagle's motion and amended motion to compel. See Order, ECF No. 194 (granting in part and denying in part Strike 1); Order, ECF No. 195 (denying motion and amended motion to compel).
On December 16, 2014, both Shaidnagle and Smith filed objections to Judge Gargiulo's order denying the motion and amended motion to compel. See Def.'s Mot. Review Mag. Judge Order re 195 ("Review 1"), ECF No. 197; Pl.'s Mot. Review Mag. Judge Order re 195 ("Review 3"), ECF No. 202. Adams County, Mississippi, joined in Smith's objection. Joinder, ECF No. 199. Shaidnagle also objected to Judge Gargiulo's order striking her rebuttal expert. Pl.'s Mot. Review Mag. Judge Order re 194 ("Review 2"), ECF No. 201.
Because the Court relies infra on Judge Gargiulo's orders, it will first rule on the objections to them.
A. Objections to Magistrate's Orders
Both Smith and Shaidnagle have raised their objections through Local Uniform Civil Rule 72(a) that permits a party to object to any ruling made by a magistrate judge within fourteen days. Both Smith and Shaidnagle timely filed their objections.
A magistrate judge is empowered "to hear and determine any pretrial matter pending before the court" with some exceptions not relevant here. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) (2009). The district court "may reconsider any pretrial matter" decided by a magistrate judge "where it has been shown that the magistrate judge's order is clearly erroneous or contrary to law." Id .; see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a).
The standard of review applied to Smith's and Shaidnagle's objections is "clearly erroneous or contrary to law." A finding is clearly erroneous when the district court is "left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed" after reviewing "the entire evidence" of the magistrate judge's order. See Easley v. Cromartie, 532 U.S. 234, 242 (2001) (quotations omitted). "The clearly erroneous' standard applies to the factual components of the magistrate judge's decision." Smith v. Smith, 154 F.R.D. 661, 665 (N.D. Tex. 1994) (citing RTC v. Sands, 151 F.R.D. 616, 619 (N.D. Tex. 1993)). This standard is "extremely deferential." Bailey Metals, LLC v. Superior Boat Works, No. 4:08cv153, 2011 WL 320805, at *1 (N.D. Miss. Jan. 31, 2011) (quoting Reko v. Creative Promotions, Inc., 70 F.Supp.2d 1005, 1007 (D. Minn. 1999)).
A finding "is contrary to law if the magistrate judge misinterpreted or misapplied applicable law." Martinez v. Porta, No. Civ.A. 4:03cv915y, 2006 WL 3289187, at *2 (N.D. Tex. Nov. 1, 2006) (citing Marks v. Struble, 347 F.Supp.2d 136, 149 (D.N.J. 2004)). The magistrate judge must have "erred in some respect in his legal conclusions. The magistrate judge's legal conclusions are freely reviewable by the district judge, who applies a de novo standard." Smith, 154 F.R.D. at 665.
The district court will not reverse the magistrate judge merely because it "would have decided the [motion] differently." Easley, 532 U.S. at 242. For a party seeking review of a magistrate judge's order to prevail, "she must show, not that the magistrate judge could have exercised his discretion and ruled in her favor, but rather that she is entitled to a ruling in her favor as a matter of law." Barnett v. Tree House Cafe, Inc., No. 5:05cv195, 2006 WL 3083757, at *3 (S.D.Miss. Oct. 27, 2006).
1. Defendant's Objection
Smith objects to and appeals "any evidentiary rulings, if any, regarding the admissibility at trial of any post mortem changes to Pastor's booking sheet" in Judge Gargiulo's order on the motion and amended motion to compel. Review 1 ¶5. Smith explicitly "does not appeal... the denial of [Shaidnagle]'s Motions to Compel...." Mem. Supp. p. 3, ECF No. 198. Smith quotes two paragraphs in their entirety as objectionable. They are reproduced here:
In this case, Plaintiff alleges that Pastor was a known suicide risk and that Defendants should have placed Pastor on "Suicide Watch" while he was detained in the Adams County jail. Plaintiff also alleges that Pastor's in-custody suicide was caused by Defendants' improper failure to place Pastor on "Suicide Watch." It is now undisputed that Pastor's booking information in the jail's computer system was changed after Pastor's suicide to show that he was placed on "Suicide Watch" and that he was recognized to have a "Mental Illness" when booked into the jail. A factfinder could determine that such circumstantial evidence is relevant to the "knowledge" and/or "subjective deliberate indifference" of Defendants in light of Plaintiff's allegations. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 842-43, 114 S.Ct. 1970, 1981-82 (1994) ("Whether a prison official had the requisite knowledge of a substantial risk is a question of fact subject to demonstration in the usual ways, including inference from circumstantial evidence, and a factfinder may conclude that a prison official knew of a substantial risk from the very fact that the risk was obvious.").
Adams County has also conceded that the post-suicide changes to Pastor's booking information in the jail's computer system cannot be explained. Presumably, the motive for the post-suicide changes made to Pastor's booking information also cannot be explained. The absence of any explanation for the post-suicide changes could also be relevant under the circumstances. Id. at n. 8 ("While the obviousness of a risk is not conclusive and a prison official may show that the obvious escaped him, see infra, at 1982, he would not escape liability if the evidence showed that he merely refused to verify underlying facts that he strongly suspected to be true, or declined to confirm inferences of risk that he strongly suspected to exist...."). Accordingly, the denial of additional electronic discovery is not prejudicial to Plaintiff in light of the other undisputed facts in this case.
Order p. 6-7, ECF No. 195; Mem. Supp. p. 3-4, ECF No. 198. In particular, Smith objects to the language: "A factfinder could determine that such circumstantial evidence is relevant to the knowledge' and/or subjective deliberate indifference' of Defendants in light of Plaintiff's allegations." See Review 1 ¶ ...