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Peterson v. Next Production, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

August 21, 2017

CHAD ALLEN PETERSON
v.
NEXT PRODUCTION, LLC

         SECTION "F"

          ORDER AND REASONS

          MARTIN L. C. FELDMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court are four motions by Next Production, LLC: (1) motion for discovery sanctions or, in the alternative, to extend trial and defendant's expert deadlines and to award costs; (2) motion for summary judgment; (3) motion in limine to exclude all evidence, reference to, and argument concerning plaintiff's unalleged wage claim; and (4) motion in limine to limit plaintiff's alleged damages. For the reasons that follow, the motion for summary judgment is GRANTED, and the remaining motions are DENIED as moot.

         Background

         This is an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) case in which the plaintiff, pro se, alleges that he suffers from anxiety and depression, and that the defendant failed to accommodate his disability and wrongfully terminated his employment as a Key Assistant Location Manager on the production of Season 2 of the MTV television series Scream.

         Chad Allen Peterson sued Next Production, L.L.C. on September 22, 2016, alleging that Next Production refused to provide him with reasonable accommodations and fired him, in violation of the ADA, because his major depressive and anxiety disorders made it difficult for him to maintain the grueling work schedule demanded of him. This case is set for trial on September 25, 2017. In June 2017, the Court granted the defendant's motion to extend its expert report deadline after the plaintiff cancelled the independent medical exam scheduled by the parties. The plaintiff again cancelled the rescheduled independent medical exam in spite of a July 19, 2017 order compelling his attendance. This prompted the defendant's motion for discovery sanctions; the plaintiff's failure to submit to the examination rendered the defendant incapable of complying with its August 9, 2017 deadline to submit expert reports.

         On August 4, 2017, the Court granted the defendant's motion for expedited hearing on its motion for discovery sanctions and further ordered the plaintiff to file his response or opposition papers no later than August 8, 2017. The Court expressly ordered: “If Mr. Peterson fails to timely file papers into the record addressing the defendant's motion, the Court will treat Mr. Peterson's silence as abandonment of his case and acquiescence to the defendant's motion for discovery sanctions.” Next Production now moves for discovery sanctions, summary relief, and to limit or exclude some aspects of the plaintiff's claims or damages at trial. Not only has Mr. Peterson failed to respond to the defendant's motion for discovery sanctions, but he has also failed to respond to the defendant's motion for summary judgment and its two motions in limine.

         I.

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 instructs that summary judgment is proper if the record discloses no genuine dispute as to any material fact such that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. No genuine dispute of fact exists if the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). A genuine dispute of fact exists only "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         The Court emphasizes that the mere argued existence of a factual dispute does not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion. See id. Therefore, "[i]f the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, " summary judgment is appropriate. Id. at 249-50 (citations omitted). Summary judgment is also proper if the party opposing the motion fails to establish an essential element of his case. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). In this regard, the non-moving party must do more than simply deny the allegations raised by the moving party. See Donaghey v. Ocean Drilling & Exploration Co., 974 F.2d 646, 649 (5th Cir. 1992). Rather, he must come forward with competent evidence, such as affidavits or depositions, to buttress his claims. Id. Hearsay evidence and unsworn documents that cannot be presented in a form that would be admissible in evidence at trial do not qualify as competent opposing evidence. Martin v. John W. Stone Oil Distrib., Inc., 819 F.2d 547, 549 (5th Cir. 1987); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(2). "[T]he nonmoving party cannot defeat summary judgment with conclusory allegations, unsubstantiated assertions, or only a scintilla of evidence." Hathaway v. Bazany, 507 F.3d 312, 319 (5th Cir. 2007)(internal quotation marks and citation omitted). In deciding whether a fact issue exists, courts must view the facts and draw reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007). Although the Court must "resolve factual controversies in favor of the nonmoving party, " it must do so "only where there is an actual controversy, that is, when both parties have submitted evidence of contradictory facts." Antoine v. First Student, Inc., 713 F.3d 824, 830 (5th Cir. 2013)(internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         II.

         A. Disability Discrimination/Wrongful Termination

         When a plaintiff has only circumstantial evidence of discrimination, the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework governs the summary judgment inquiry into the plaintiff's claim for wrongful termination under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101. McInnis v. Alamo Cmty. Coll. Dist., 207 F.3d 276, 279 (5th Cir. 2000). The plaintiff ...


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