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Goode v. City of Southaven

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Oxford Division

March 6, 2019

KELLI DENISE GOODE, Individually, and also as the Personal Representative of Troy Charlton Goode, Deceased, and as Mother, Natural Guardian, and Next Friend of R.G., a Minor, and also on behalf of all similarly situated persons PLAINTIFF
v.
THE CITY OF SOUTHAVEN, et al. DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SANCTIONS AND SETTING ASIDE PRIOR ORDER

          MICHAEL P. MILLS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This cause comes before the Court on defendants' Joint Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Other Sanctions (Renewed). Doc. #587.

         I Relevant Background and Procedural History

         On January 13, 2016, Kelli Denise Goode-individually, and in her capacity as the personal representative of her deceased husband, as next friend of her minor son, and on behalf of “all similarly situated persons”-filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee[1] “seek[ing] damages and injunctive relief based upon the untimely death of [her husband] Troy Charlton Goode ….” Doc. #1 at 1-2.

         On August 15, 2016, Kelli, [2] in the same capacities as named in her original complaint, filed an amended complaint, naming as defendants the City of Southaven, Todd Baggett, Jeremy Bond, Tyler Price, Joel Rich, Jason Scallorn, Stacie J. Graham, Mike Mueller, William Painter, Jr., Bruce K. Sebring, Joseph Spence, Richard A. Weatherford; John Does 1-10; Baptist Memorial Hospital-Desoto (“BMH-D”); Southeastern Emergency Physicians, Inc.;[3] and Lemuel D. Oliver, M.D. Doc. #107. In her amended complaint, Kelli asserts numerous state and federal claims against the defendants regarding Troy's death on July 18, 2015. Id. at 35-62. On that day, Troy and Kelli drove to Southaven from Memphis, Tennessee to attend a Widespread Panic concert, but before the concert started “Troy came under the influence and commenced to exhibit fear and paranoia.” Id. at 13. Troy encountered Southaven police after leaving the concert venue to drive back to Memphis with Kelli and was detained and brought to BMH-D, where he died. Id. at 13, 26-27.

         A. Kelli's Creation of Timelines

          Before filing suit, Kelli prepared two timelines of the events of July 18, 2015 that she emailed to her attorneys Kevin McCormack, Tim Edwards, and paralegal Diane Asbridge on August 11, 2015. Doc. #587-2; Doc. #587-4. According to both timelines, on July 18, 2015, “Troy smoked [marijuana] at home (a joint); from a batch he had previously smoked from; no issues.” Doc. #587-2; Doc. #587-4. The documents also state that Troy was “a daily smoker” of marijuana, which he “purchase[d] from the same person.” Doc. #587-2; Doc. #587-4. Regarding the LSD consumed by Troy, the timelines state that “Mike Friedman had same vile [sic] over a year” and that “Troy used LSD on paper previously while in Chicago from same vile [sic].”[4] Id. Kelli's second timeline also describes Troy escaping from an automobile and being chased by his friend Andrew Kratzke on foot and Kelli by car from the concert venue to Goodman Road. Doc. #587-4 at 3.

         The timelines were provided to the defendants during discovery. See Doc. #587-15 at 2.

         B. Kelli's Response to Interrogatories and Requests for Production

         Oliver propounded his first set of interrogatories and requests for production on August 25. 2016. Doc. #133. Oliver asked Kelli to identify any healthcare provider who had treated Troy in the past ten years (“interrogatory two”) and the name and source of any illegal drugs Troy had taken in the last ten years (“interrogatory six”). Doc. #587-5 at 2, 4-5. Oliver also requested documents or records-whether medical, criminal, legal, or otherwise-of any prior reaction by Troy to LSD (“request for production thirty-two”), along with contact information for those that had provided Troy illegal drugs (“request for production thirty-three”). Doc. #587-6 at 11.

         On September 27, 2016, [5] Kelli served her answers and responses to Oliver's discovery requests. Doc. #587-5 at 7; 587-6 at 16. In her answer to interrogatory two, [6] Kelli provided the names and addresses of a physician, dentist, pediatrician, pharmacy, and pharmacy clinic. Doc. #587-5 at 2. Kelli's answer did not disclose that Troy was transported by EMS and then hospitalized in 2008 and again in 2013.

         In her answer to interrogatory six, [7] Kelli answered that Troy “was an infrequent user of LSD and marijuana. He sought no treatment nor was treatment necessary. The source or sources of supply are unknown.” Doc. #587-5 at 5.

         In response to requests for production thirty-two and thirty-three[8], Kelli did not produce the timeline or medical records, responding that she was “in possession of no responsive documents and believes that none exists.” Doc. #587-6 at 11.

         C. Kelli's Deposition

         Kelli was deposed on November 15, 2016. Doc. #587-8 at 1, 257. Kelli testified that, besides the 2015 BMH-D and the 2008 admissions, Troy was not hospitalized at any time.[9] Kelli did not disclose the 2013 hospitalization. See Doc. #587-15 at 2.

         Kelli represented that she did not know whether Troy ingested LSD in 2015 apart from July 18 in Southaven, testifying that to her knowledge it had been “years” since Troy consumed LSD in “liquid” form. Doc. #587-8 at 203, 205. Regarding occasions when Troy had consumed LSD, Kelli testified: “It was long ago. We were young. It could have been at Bonnaroo [before married to Troy].” Id. at 204. Kelli testified that she could not remember whether Troy had ingested LSD during their visit to Chicago for a concert on July 4th weekend of 2015. Id. at 217.

         Kelli initially testified that she did not know either where Troy received the LSD he ingested on the day he died or whether other members of their group used illegal drugs that day. Id. at 20-21. When confronted with a letter[10] written by her expert Cyril Wecht, which stated that Kelli witnessed Troy's group taking LSD in a circle, Kelli responded that she

did not see the actual taking of it because … I was putting our trash back into a car. When I looked up, I saw the circle. I did not see them take LSD. Troy told me after that he did take the LSD. So that would be me putting two and two together.

Id. at 134-35.

         Kelli initially denied that Troy smoked marijuana at their home the day he died, testifying that Troy smoked at a friend's house. Doc. #587-8 at 21. When confronted with Wecht's letter, which stated that Troy had smoked marijuana at their home the day he died, Kelli responded: “It's likely, but I don't remember.” Id. at 131. As to the remainder of Troy's marijuana batch, Kelli testified that: (1) she “believe[d]” Troy stored marijuana in a storage shed outside of their house; (2) she did not search for his marijuana after his death; (3) the marijuana was “not there anymore”; (4) someone besides Kelli had removed the marijuana; and (5) Kelli did not know that there was marijuana, or any other drugs, stored in the shed. Id. at 215-16, 220-22.

         Kelli initially testified that she drove Troy from the venue without incident until he exited the vehicle while it was stopped near the grassy area where Troy was apprehended. Id. at 13-15. When confronted with Wecht's letter-which described Troy as escaping and being chased by Andrew Kratzke (on foot) and Kelli (by car) to the grassy area where he was detained-Kelli testified that Troy merely exited the vehicle twice on the grassy area itself and was then followed by Kelli and Andrew. Id. at 15-18. However, Kelli maintained that Troy did not attempt to exit her vehicle until it had come to a stop on Goodman Road where Troy was detained. Id. at 143.

         D. Post-Discovery Motions

         After an extensive period of discovery, BMH-D filed a joint motion on behalf of all defendants to dismiss or, in the alternative, for other sanctions, based on Kelli's inconsistent accounts of relevant facts during discovery. Doc. #587. On September 11, 2018, Judge Brown denied the joint motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for sanctions without prejudice and ordered the parties to file a renewed motion addressing whether the Court's inherent authority and/or the authority of Rule 37 should be applied to the issues raised, and then analyzing such issues accordingly. Doc. #586 at 7. A week later, the defendants filed a renewed motion which complied with the Court's September 11, 2018, order. Doc. #587.

         On September 27, 2018, Judge Brown entered an order finding that Kelli engaged in bad faith conduct during this litigation, but also that “Kelli's conduct does not rise to the level warranting the sanction of dismissal of her claims or the imposition of any of the specific alternative sanctions requested by the defendants in their renewed motion for sanctions.” Doc. #591 at 3. Instead of the sanctions proposed by the defendants, Judge Brown determined that the appropriate sanction to impose “is to deem certain facts admitted against Kelli, with such facts to be specifically determined following specific briefing on the issue, which briefing may include any additional alternative sanction not yet rejected by the Court.” Id.

         Accordingly, the renewed motion for sanctions was denied in part and deferred in part, and the defendants were given seven days to file a supplement to the renewed motion-with any response from Kelli due seven days later. Id. at 4. On October 4, 2018, defendants filed the supplement to the renewed motion, Doc. #598, along with a memorandum in support, Doc. #599. A week later, Kelli filed her response in opposition, Doc. #600, along with a memorandum in support, Doc. #601.

         Judge Brown recused herself from this case on December 20, 2018 and it is now before this Court.

         II

         Analysis

         The defendants argue that Kelli

[i]n a calculated attempt to further her own interests and conceal the truth … engaged in a concerted effort to mislead and withhold material, relevant information. … In so doing, she has subverted the judicial process, prejudiced the … defense of ...

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