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Lewis v. East Baton Rouge Parish

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

June 17, 2019




         Before the Court is Plaintiff's Fourth Motion to Compel the City of Baton Rouge/Parish of East Baton Rouge (“City-Parish”). (R. Doc. 197). The motion is opposed. (R. Doc. 198).

         I. Background

         Adrienne Lewis, by and on behalf of the minor child L.A.J. (“Plaintiff”), filed this civil rights action regarding the arrest, incarceration, and death of Lamar Johnson while held at the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison (“EBRPP”). (R. Doc. 1; R. Doc. 27).

         In the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that on May 26, 2015, Mr. Johnson was arrested after a routine traffic stop for tinted windows, held at the EBRPP on an arrest warrant for a non-violent charge, and sentenced to five days in prison. (R. Doc. 27 at 6-7). Plaintiff alleges that while confined, Mr. Johnson acquired and consumed synthetic marijuana called “mojo” and suffered paranoid delusions and extreme emotional distress. (R. Doc. 27 at 7). Plaintiff alleges that certain Sheriff Defendants later physically attacked and pepper sprayed Mr. Johnson and moved him to a wing consisting of a row of solitary isolation cells, and that Mr. Johnson was again attacked while in solitary confinement. (R. Doc. 27 at 9-10). On May 30, 2015, Mr. Johnson was found hanging from his cell bars, and died a few days later at a local hospital. (R. Doc. 27 at 11).

         Plaintiff alleges that Mr. Johnson “died as a result of both unconstitutional conditions of confinement and particular individual defendants' deliberate indifference to Mr. Johnson's constitutional rights.” (Doc. 27 at 1). Plaintiff further alleges that the unlawful policies and practices at the EBRPP include “racial segregation of prisoner living areas, defects in physical design and manner of operation, including inadequate staffing, inadequate supervision techniques, poor sightlines, and inadequate monitoring of prisoner living areas that combined to result in frequent violence and a continuous pattern of constitutional deprivations for the prisoners in EBRPP, including Mr. Johnson.” (R. Doc. 27 at 16).

         On February 26, 2019, Plaintiff served her Sixth Set of Requests for Production of Documents to the City-Parish. (R. Doc. 197-3). The City-Parish timely responded. (R. Doc. 197-4).

         The requests for production sought the employment personnel files for fourteen individuals, as well as files created by the City-Parish containing documents related to Dr. Rani Whifield's work as a medical professional at EBRPP. (R. Doc. 197-3 at 12-13). The City-Parish objected to the requests on the bases of overbreadth, irrelevant, vagueness, ambiguity, and confidentiality, but produced the Professional Services Agreement between the City-Parish and Dr. Whitfield. (R. Doc. 197-4 at 4-10).

         The parties conferred regarding the written discovery on March 28, 2019. (R. Doc. 197-1 at 3). Plaintiff limited her request to the disciplinary and training records in the files, and the City-Parish produced those records with respect to five individuals. (R. Doc. 197-1 at 3-4). The City-Parish refuses, however, to produce “the disciplinary and training records of Casani Moton, Thu Thu Fontenot, Kim Bates, and Michelle Antoine because this group of nurses only came into contact/had access to Mr. Johnson after his attempted suicide rather than prior to his attempted suicide” and these post-attempted suicide contacts are not within the scope of discovery. (R. Doc. 197-5 at 5).

         Plaintiff now seeks an order compelling production of “the training and discipline records from the personnel files of the nurses who arrived on the scene on May 30, 2015 at 10:25 a.m. when Mr. Johnson was found hanging from a blanket at the jail.” (R. Doc. 197-1 at 8). Plaintiff argues that the training of these nurses, particularly how they respond to emergencies and suicide attempts, is within the scope of discovery even though they are not named defendants. (R. Doc. 197-1 at 7). Plaintiff seeks this information in support of a theory that “lack of proper treatment” from the responding nurses contributed to Mr. Johnson's death. (R. Doc. 197-1 at 7).

         In opposition, the City-Parish argues that the discovery sought is not relevant or proportional to the needs of the case because Plaintiff has not alleged any medical malpractice or negligence claims against the City-Parish, and Plaintiff's “deliberate indifference” claims are limited to other defendants. (R. Doc. 198).

         II. Law and Analysis

         A. Legal Standards

         “Unless otherwise limited by court order, the scope of discovery is as follows: Parties may obtain discovery regarding any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case, considering the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties' relative access to relevant information, the parties' resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit. Information within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). The court must limit the frequency or extent of discovery if it determines that: “(i) the discovery sought is unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or can be obtained from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, ...

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