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Estate of Mikal R. Gaither, By and Through Pearl Gaither, Personal v. District of Columbia

February 28, 2011

ESTATE OF MIKAL R. GAITHER, BY AND THROUGH PEARL GAITHER, PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Colleen Kollar-kotelly United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff Pearl Gaither ("Plaintiff") commenced this action on July 1, 2003, as the personal representative of the estate of Mikal R. Gaither. Named as defendants are the District of Columbia, Odie Washington, Marvin L. Brown, Dennis Harrison, Zerline Brooks, Gounod Toppin, and Joseph White (collectively, "Defendants"). Presently before the Court is Defendants' [195] Motion for Reconsideration of the Court's September 8, 2009 Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part Their Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings and/or for Summary Judgment ("Motion for Reconsideration"). Although styled as such, Defendants' motion plainly is not one for reconsideration, as it either raises arguments that should have been raised in their underlying motion for summary judgment but were not, or merely recycles the same arguments already pressed and rejected. Accordingly, based on the parties' submissions, the attachments thereto, the relevant authorities, and the record as a whole, the Court shall DENY Defendants' [195] Motion for Reconsideration.*fn1

I. BACKGROUND

The Court assumes familiarity with its prior opinions in this action, which set forth in detail the extensive history of this case, and shall therefore only address the factual and procedural background necessary to address the discrete issues currently before the Court.

Plaintiff first commenced this action on July 1, 2003, as the personal representative of the estate of Mikal R. Gaither ("Gaither"), who was fatally stabbed on December 14, 2002 while incarcerated at the District of Columbia's Central Detention Facility (the "Jail"). See Compl., Docket No. [1]. In her Second Amended Complaint,*fn2 Plaintiff asserts the following three causes of action:

* First Cause of Action (Section 1983). For her first cause of action, based on 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983"), Plaintiff alleges that Defendants deliberately or recklessly subjected Gaither to an unreasonable risk of violent injury as a result of the conditions at the Jail, in violation of Gaither's Fifth Amendment rights. Second Am. Compl., Docket No. [34], ¶¶ 59-71.

* Second Cause of Action (Negligence/Survival). For her second cause of action, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants were under a statutory and common law duty to provide for the safekeeping, care, and protection of detainees, and their breach of that duty resulted in Gaither's death. Id. ¶¶ 72-78.

* Third Cause of Action (Wrongful Death). For her third cause of action, Plaintiff contends that Defendants' negligence proximately caused Plaintiff, as Gaither's next of kin, to suffer the loss of, inter alia, Gaither's services, companionship, and financial support. Id. ¶¶ 79-81.

This action was stayed for approximately three years pending resolution of a criminal investigation into the circumstances surrounding Gaither's death, after which an extended and often contentious period of discovery ensued. At the conclusion of discovery, the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. As described in greater detail below, see infra Part III, Defendants raised some of the very same arguments in support of their Motion for Summary Judgment that they now press in their Motion for Reconsideration, and failed to raise others altogether despite having ample opportunity to do so. See generally Mem. of P. & A. in Supp. of Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. ("Defs.' Summ. J. Mem."), Docket No. [146]; Stmt. of Material Fact as to Which There Is No Genuine Issue ("Defs.' Summ. J. Stmt."), Docket No. [146]; Reply to Pl.'s Opp'n to Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. ("Defs.' Summ. J. Reply"), Docket No. [162]; Resp. to Pl.'s Resp. Stmt. Regarding Material Facts and Suppl. to Defs.' Stmt. of Material Facts ("Defs.' Resp. Summ. J. Stmt."), Docket No. [162]. On September 8, 2009, the Court issued a 61-page decision resolving the parties' respective cross-motions for summary judgment. See Estate of Gaither ex rel. Gaither v. District of Columbia, 655 F. Supp. 2d 69 (D.D.C. 2009). Immediately on the heels of the Court's decision, Defendants filed the present [195] Motion for Reconsideration.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Under Rule 54(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the district court may revise its own interlocutory orders "at any time before the entry of judgment adjudicating all the claims and all the parties' rights and liabilities."*fn3 Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b). While Rule 54(b) affords a procedural mechanism for courts to reconsider prior interlocutory orders, its actual text provides little guidance as to when reconsideration may be appropriate. Wultz v. Islamic Republic of Iran, __ F. Supp. 2d __, 2011 WL 263676, at *3 (D.D.C. Jan. 28, 2011). To fill this gap, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has provided that relief under Rule 54(b) is available "as justice requires." Capitol Sprinkler Inspection, Inc. v. Guest Servs., Inc., __ F.3d __, 2011 WL 117067, at *8 (D.C. Cir. Jan. 14, 2011). The "as justice requires" standard may be met where the district court has "patently" misunderstood the parties, strayed far afield of the issues presented, or failed to consider a controlling or significant change in the law or facts since the submission of the issue. Konarski v. Donovan, __ F. Supp. 2d __, 2011 WL 383995, at *5 (D.D.C. Feb. 7, 2011). In the final analysis, the district court must ask whether relief upon reconsideration is "necessary under the relevant circumstances." Lewis v. District of Columbia, 736 F. Supp. 2d 98, 102 (D.D.C. 2010) (internal quotation marks omitted). In this regard, the district court's discretion is broad. Id.

III. DISCUSSION

Defendants ascribe three errors to this Court's prior opinion resolving the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment:

* First, Defendants contend that this Court erred because Gaither's detention status at the time of his death precludes Plaintiff from relying on the Fifth Amendment as the basis for the predicate constitutional violation supporting her Section 1983 claim, requiring judgment as a matter of law ...


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