United States District Court, District of Columbia
PATRICIA GRIMES, as the next best friend and Personal Representative of the Estate of Karl Grimes, Plaintiff,
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al. Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION [DKT. #101]
RICHARD J. LEON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Karl Grimes ("K.G.") was a juvenile offender in
Defendant District of Columbia's custody
("District"). On or about August 29, 2005, K.G. was
committed to the Oak Hill Juvenile Detention Facility
("Oak Hill"). See Compl. ¶¶ 10,
17 ("Compl.") [Dkt. #1]. Decedent's mother
Patricia Grimes ("Grimes" or "plaintiff) filed
this suit alleging that on or about November 23, 2005, K.G.
was attacked by several Oak Hill residents, resulting in his
death. Id. ¶¶ 11> 15. According to
plaintiff, the attack occurred because "the facility was
under-staffed and/or improperly-staffed to accomplish the
detention of young males in a reasonably safe
environment." Id. ¶ 12. The District of
Columbia "knew of the unsafe conditions at the Oak Hill
Facility, " but, "through deliberate indifference,
did nothing." Id. ¶ 18. Plaintiff alleges
that the District's "deliberate indifference"
to these conditions violated decedent's Eighth Amendment
rights. Id. ¶ 21. Plaintiff also alleges
negligent hiring, training, and supervising on the part of
the District. Id. ¶ 26.
this Court is the District's Renewed Motion for Summary
Judgment. [Dkt. #101]. For the reasons that follow, the
Motion is GRANTED.
District's Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment follows a
very lengthy and somewhat convoluted path of judicial
proceedings, with multiple modifications to the discovery
schedule and multiple trips to our Court of Appeals.
Proceedings Following November 6, 2009 Scheduling
November 6, 2009, the Court issued its Scheduling Order.
[Dkt. #34]. That Order specified that Rule 26(a)(1) Initial
Disclosures would be due on November 30, 2009; Written
Discovery Requests on December 30, 2009; Proponent's Rule
26(b)(4) Expert Statement on January 18, 2010; and
Opponents' Rule 26(b)(4) Expert Statement on March 18,
2010. Id. Per the Scheduling Order, Discovery would
close on May 31, 2010, and Dispositive Motions would be due
July 15, 2010. Id.
the least, Discovery was slow-going. Neither plaintiff nor
the District filed a Rule 26(a)(1) Statement. Only Dimensions
Health Corporation, d/b/a Prince George's
Hospital Center ("PGHC"), no longer a party to this
case, filed a Rule 26(a)(1) Statement.[Dkt. #
36]. On January 7, 2010, Defendants District of Columbia and
PGHC jointly filed a Motion for Entry of Protective Order.
[Dkt. # 37]. Then, on January 15, 2010, more than two months
after the Rule 26(a) Initial Disclosures deadline, and not
having received Initial Disclosures from plaintiff, PGHC
filed a Motion to Compel and for Sanctions. [Dkt. #38], PGHC
sought an order to compel plaintiffs Rule 26(a) Statement,
noting that Defendant PGHC had been prejudiced by plaintiffs
failure to observe the Court's timeline, since Initial
Disclosures "serve as a building block for the
remainder of discovery." Id. ¶ 6.
"Without this information, Defendant [PGHC] is severely
limited in its ability to pursue discovery and prepare its
defense." Id. Indeed, PGHC noted, in light of
the discovery deadline of May 31, 2010, "there is a very
limited period of time remaining for [PGHC] to pursue
discovery in this matter." Id. ¶
Motion to Compel and for Sanctions spurred plaintiff to
action. Little more than one week later, plaintiff filed a
Motion for Extension of Time to Complete Discovery. [Dkt. #
40]. The Motion contained no explanation, however, as to why
plaintiff had failed to file the Rule 26(a)(1) Initial
Disclosures, as required by the Scheduling Order.
Id. Instead, plaintiff represented to the Court that
due to the lack of protective order, neither defendant had
responded to discovery. Id. Plaintiff advised that,
without defendants' responses, she could not file the
expert report due on March 18, 2010. Id. For this
reason, plaintiff asked that the deadlines specified in the
Scheduling Order each be moved back 60 days. Id. In
plaintiffs view, 60 days "would provide ample time to
complete discovery in this rather complex case."
Id. ¶ 4. The District of Columbia consented to
the Motion, but PGHC opposed. Id.
thereafter, on January 27, 2010, the District of Columbia
moved for an extension of time to complete discovery,
requesting 30 days from the issuance of the Protective Order
to respond to the interrogatories and requests for production
of documents served by plaintiff. [Dkt. #41]. On February 4,
2010, the Court issued the Protective Order. [Dkt. # 43].
This set out procedures for the use of "juvenile social
service records, medical records, investigative reports,
[Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services] records,
psychiatric and/or psychological records, educational
records, financial records, or other personal and private
information, documents and things" over the course of
the litigation. Id. ¶ 1.
than PGHC's Rule 26(b)(4) expert designations [Dkt. #
48], the docket-reflects no discovery activity over the next
two months. On March 30, 2010, PGHC filed a Motion to
Dismiss. [Dkt. # 49]. PGHC's motion relied on both
plaintiffs and the District's failure to identify and
proffer experts under the timeline set out in the Scheduling
Order. This is because "[i]n order to prove a prima
facie case of medical malpractice, a plaintiff must produce
expert testimony." Mem. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss at 3
(citing Nichols v. Greater Se. Cmty. Hosp., 382
F.Supp.2d 109 (D.D.C. 2005)) [Dkt. # 49-1].
Court ruled on these four sets of motions-PGHC's Motion
to Compel and for Sanctions; Plaintiffs Motion for Extension
of Time to Complete Discovery; the District's Motion for
Additional Time to Respond to Discovery and to Serve Written
Discovery; and PGHC's Motion to Dismiss-on June 21, 2010.
PGHC's Motion to Dismiss and Motion to Compel and for
Sanctions were denied; and Plaintiffs and the District's
respective motions were granted nunc pro tunc.
Proceedings Following Amended Scheduling Order
to this round of orders, the deadlines in the Scheduling
Order were, nunc pro tunc, each moved back 60 days.
Under the amended Scheduling Order, the Initial 26(a)(1)
Disclosures deadline was January 30, 2010; Written Discovery
Requests were due on March 1, 2010; Proponent's Rule
26(b)(4) Expert Statement was due March 20, 2010; Opponents
Rule 26(b)(4) Expert Statement was due May 20, 2010;
Discovery would close on July 29, 2010; and Dispositive
Motions were due on September 12, 2010. In addition, the
District received, nunc pro tunc, 30 days from the
entry of the Protective Order (February 4, 2010) to
"respond to the interrogatories and requests for
production of documents served by plaintiff and co-defendant
[PGHC]." See Def.'s Mot. for Add'l Time
to Respond to Disc, and to Serve Written Disc. (Jan. 27,
2010) [Dkt. #41].
parties made no entries on the docket until September 9,
2010, when PGHC filed a Motion to Dismiss and/or in the
Alternative Motion for Summary Judgment. [Dkt. # 53]. In the
interim, neither plaintiff nor the District filed Rule 26(a)
Initial Disclosures. Nor did they file Rule 26(b)(4)
Statements. Nor did they notice the deposition of PGHC's
fact or expert witnesses.
this lack of discovery, PGHC essentially recited the
arguments made in its earlier Motion to Dismiss. PGHC argued
that, because plaintiff had failed to designate any experts,
she could not establish (i) the appropriate standard of care
and (ii) whether a breach occurred. The lack of expert
testimony would defeat both plaintiffs claims and the
District's cross-claims. Moreover, the brief went on to
say, PGHC had proffered experts in its own properly-submitted
Rule 26(b)(4) Statement that (i) established the correct
standard of care and (ii) demonstrated that PGHC had complied
with that standard. PGHC further argued that plaintiff and
the District "must be precluded from designating experts
at this late stage of the litigation." Mem. in Supp. at
7 [Dkt. # 53-1]. In PGHC's telling, the failure to
designate experts "represents a general pattern of
failure to prosecute their claims." Id. at 9.
Days later, the District filed its own Motion for Summary
Judgment, which rested primarily on the argument that
plaintiff, despite having the burden of proof had failed to
prosecute her claim. [Dkt. # 55].
did not oppose either motions on the merits. Instead, she
filed a Motion to Strike the District's Motion for
Summary Judgment on December 1, 2010. [Dkt. #
57].The Motion to Strike focused on an alleged
ethical conflict, namely the prior involvement of Peter J.
Nickles, Attorney General for the District of Columbia, in a
pending class action suit against the District, Jerry M.
v. District of Columbia, C.A. No. 1519-85. That suit had
alleged that the Oak Hill facility "had deplorable
conditions, was understaffed, inadequately supervised,
overcrowded, and inherently dangerous." Mot. to Strike
¶ 3 [Dkt. # 57]. Nickles had served as lead
counsel in the Jerry M. suit, of which K.G. was a
class member. The fact that Nickles' name appeared on the
briefs on behalf of the District in the present case,
plaintiff contended, meant that Nickles "[c]learly . . .
[had] a conflict of interest." Id. ¶5. The
District opposed the motion to strike. [Dkt. # 63].
December 10, 2010, the District filed a Motion for Order
granting the District's Motion for Summary Judgment as
conceded, due to plaintiffs failure to respond on the merits.
[Dkt. #58]. For its part, PGHC filed two motions: one seeking
an order granting its dispositive motion as to plaintiffs
claims [Dkt. # 61], and a second seeking an order granting
its dispositive motion as to the District's cross-claim
[Dkt. # 60]. Both of PGHC s motions asked the Court to deem
its earlier motions as conceded, due to the failure of
plaintiff and the District to file briefs in opposition.
Shortly thereafter, plaintiff filed a Motion for Extension of
Time to File an Opposition to the District's Motion to
Treat Motion for Summary Judgment as Conceded. [Dkt. #64].
Plaintiff did not oppose PGHC's motion.
January 10, 2011, this Court issued a Memorandum Order. [Dkt.
# 65]. The order granted as conceded (i) the District's
Motion for Summary Judgment [Diets. ## 55, 58], (ii)
PGHC's Motion to Dismiss and/or in the Alternative Motion
for Summary Judgment against the District of Columbia [Dkts.
## 53, 60], and (iii) PGHC's Motion to Dismiss and/or in
the Alternative Motion for Summary Judgment against plaintiff
[Dkts. ## 53, 61]. The order denied as moot plaintiffs Motion
to Strike [Dkt. # 57].
then filed a Motion to Alter and/or Amend the Court's
Judgment with regard to Defendant District of Columbia. [Dkt.
# 66]. Although plaintiff acknowledged that she
had failed to designate an expert, she attributed this to
"not [having] been provided the opportunity to gather
necessary facts." Id. at 4 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(d)). In particular, plaintiff complained that the Court
granted her motion to amend the initial Scheduling Order
nunc pro tunc. Id. For this reason, plaintiff
asserted that she "was deprived of the opportunity to
take depositions and follow-up on the discovery that was
provided by the District." Id. Plaintiff
"[did] not explain, however, what she was doing during
the discovery time she had." Grimes v. Dist. of
Columbia, 794 F.3d 83, 92 (D.C. Cir. 2015). Plaintiff
also disputed the District's characterization of its
Motion for Summary Judgment as conceded, because the Motion
to Strike was filed prior to the deadline for the opposition
brief. [Dkt. # 66]. The matter was fully briefed, and on May
3, 2011, this Court denied plaintiffs Motion, concluding that
plaintiff had failed to meet her burden under Fed.R.Civ.P.
59(e). See 5/3/2011 Min. Order.
The Court of Appeals' 2012 Decision
appealed. [Dkt. # 73]. On March 2, 2012, the Court of Appeals
remanded for the Court to "consider the effect of the
2010 amendments to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 and
'state on the record the reasons for granting or denying
[the summary judgment] motion."' Grimes v. Dist.
of Columbia, No. 11-7053 (D.C. Cir. Mar. 2, 2012) (per
curiam) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a)). Consistent with this
instruction, on April 19, 2012, this Court directed the
parties to submit briefs addressing "the effect [on this
case, if any] of the 2010 amendments to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 56, " as well as, "the interaction of
amended Federal Rule of Procedure 56(e) and the accompanying
2010 Advisory Committee Note, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
55, and Local Rule 7(b)." [Dkt. #81].
parties briefed the issue, and I entered my ruling on
February 12, 2013. [Dkt. # 88]. I explained in that opinion
that the District was entitled to summary judgment based on
the "uncontroverted assertions in defendant's
September 13, 2010 motion." Id. at 5. For
plaintiffs Eighth Amendment claim, for instance, I noted
[P]laintiff does not counter defendant's assertions that
there is no record evidence: (1) 'that any employee at
Oak Hill acted with deliberate indifference to a known safety
risk;' (2) 'of a history of assaults on youth at Oak
Hill;' (3) 'that any Oak Hill employee knew or should
have known that a fight between [K.G.] and another youth was
going to take place;' or (4) 'that the youth that
fought with [K.G.] had a history of assaultive behavior while
at Oak Hill.'
Id. (quoting Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. at 7).
"Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(e)(2),
the Court considers defendant's assertions to be
undisputed for purposes of the motion." Id. at
5-6. This Court also determined that plaintiffs failure to
designate an expert on the applicable standard of care
foreclosed her claim of negligent hiring, training, and
supervision. See Id. at 6. This is because "the
average layperson does not possess the technical knowledge
needed to judge staffing and security needs at a juvenile
detention facility." Id.; see also Farooq v. MDRB
Corp., 275 Fed.Appx. 11, 12 (D.C. Cir. Apr. 9, 2008)
(affirming grant of summary judgment when plaintiff had
failed to designate an expert on the standard of care
governing supervision of security personnel). Plaintiff
appealed. [Dkt. # 90].
The Court of Appeals' 2015 Decision
21, 2015, our Circuit Court vacated my grant of summary
judgment in favor of the District, and remanded the case.
[Dkt. # 92]. The Court of Appeals concluded that this Court
had "erred in the sequence in which it rendered its
decisions." Grimes, 794 F.3d at 86. This is
because "a claim of counsel's conflict of interest
calls into question the integrity of the process in which the
allegedly conflicted counsel participates, " requiring
the Court to "resolve a motion to disqualify counsel
before it turns to the merits of any dispositive
motion." Id. Relying on a recent Sixth Circuit
case, Bowers v. Ophthalmology Grp., 733
F.3d 647, 654 (6th Cir. 2013), and despite the "broad
discretion in managing its docket" that the district
court typically enjoys, Grimes, 794 F.3d at 90
(citing Jackson v. Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett
& Dunner, 101 F.3d 145, 151-52 (D.C. Cir, 1996)),
the Court of Appeals held that "[o]nce a party moves to
disqualify an adverse party's counsel, the district court
may not entertain a dispositive motion filed by the very
counsel alleged to be conflicted until the court has first
determined whether that counsel is disqualified, "
this holding, the Court of Appeals went on to offer
"limited guidance on the remaining issues the parties
briefed." Id. at 86; see also Id. at
91 ("We limit ourselves to some considerations that may
inform the proceedings on remand."). Those
"remaining issues" likely to arise before the
district court were (i) whether to grant Grimes additional
time to complete discovery, see Id. at 92-93, and
(ii) whether to grant summary judgment. see Id. at
93-95. The Court of Appeals noted that plaintiff "does
not explain . . . what she was doing during the discovery
time she had, " but hinted that, nonetheless, this Court
should provide an opportunity for additional discovery on
remand. See Id. at 92 ('"[A]ffording an
opportunity to properly support or address [a] fact' is
'in many circumstances . . . the court's preferred
first step.'" (quoting Advisory Comm. Note,
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(1))). Indeed, the panel noted, "Rule
56(d) establishes a mechanism for nonmovants who lack the
facts they need to seek an opportunity to gather more