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Mealy v. Gautreaux

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

July 15, 2019

SHERIFF SID J. GAUTREAUX, III, as the political entity responsible for the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison, ET AL.



         Before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion for Sanctions Against the City/Parish of East Baton Rouge for Suborning Sworn Falsehoods or, Alternatively, for Attorney's Fees Pursuant to Rule 37(c)(2). (R. Doc. 109). The motion is opposed. (R. Doc. 110).

         I. Background

         On October 25, 2016, Sherman Mealy (“Plaintiff”) commenced this action seeking relief under Title II of the Americans with Disability Act (“ADA”), the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“RA”), and 42 U.S.C § 1983. (R. Doc. 1). Plaintiff filed this action after his release from the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison. Plaintiff, who is a paraplegic and confined to a wheelchair, alleges that he was denied access to wheelchair-accessible showers and instead forced to ask other inmates to help him use the general population showers. Plaintiff also alleges that he was denied various medical supplies. Defendant Sheriff Sid Gautreaux and Defendant the City-Parish of East Baton Rouge (“City-Parish”) each filed motions to dismiss Mr. Mealy's claims. (R. Doc. 10, 12). On July 21, 2017 those opposed motions were denied with respect to Mr. Mealy's Constitutional claims under Section 1983, and freestanding ADA and RA claims. (R. Doc. 41).

         The instant dispute concerns certain interrogatory responses and denials of admission made by the City-Parish in response to Plaintiff's discovery requests.

         Plaintiff argues that the City-Parish should be sanctioned under the Court's inherent power because of a conflict between statements made in a verified interrogatory response and later deposition testimony.

         On March 9, 2018, the City-Parish provided, in relevant part, the following unverified response to Plaintiff's Interrogatory No. 3: “The Parish Prison is in compliance with all applicable provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act regarding prisons. For example, Parish Prison was at all times pertinent herein equipped with shower seats, grab bars, and floor space allowable for wheelchair maneuvering.” (R. Doc. 109-4 at 10). Upon Plaintiff's motion, the Court ordered the City-Parish to verify its interrogatory answers under oath as required by Rule 33(b)(3). (R. Doc. 83). On October 16, 2018, the City-Parish provided verifications under oath, including a verification by Dwayne Dufour. (R. Doc. 109-5).

         On October 29, 2018, an architect for the City-Parish conducted a site inspection, noting various deviation from the 2010 ADA standards in the toilet/shower facilities in Building Q (the general population building). (R. Doc. 109-3). On December 10, 2018, Plaintiff's expert engineer conducted a site inspection, finding lack of compliance with the 2010 ADA standards in the toilet/shower facilities in Building Q, as well as other areas of the prison. (R. Doc. 109-6). Based on the foregoing, Plaintiff asserts that verified answer to Interrogatory No. 3 is incorrect, as the facility was in violation of the ADA. (R. Doc. 109-1 at 5).

         On January 15, 2019, Mr. Dufour was deposed his capacity as a Rule 30(b)(6) representative of the City-Parish. (R. Doc. 109-2). Plaintiff's counsel presented Mr. Dufour with the City-Parish's interrogatory responses and Mr. Dufour's verification. (R. Doc. 109-2 at 50). Mr. Dufour acknowledged that the signature on the verification was his own but that he had no recollection of signing the verification. (R. Doc. 109-2 at 51-55). Mr. Dufour further testified that he did not conduct any walk-through of the prison to determine compliance with the 1991 or 2010 ADA standards or otherwise made any efforts to determine that the prison complied with the 1991 or 2010 ADA standards. (R. Doc. 109-2 at 55-56). Mr. Dufour confirmed that he does not know whether the prison is in compliance with all applicable provisions of the ADA regarding prisons, despite his verification of the City-Parish's answer to Interrogatory No. 3. (R. Doc. 109-2 at 58-59). There is no dispute that the City-Parish has not withdrawn Mr. Dufour's verification of Interrogatory No. 3.

         Based on the foregoing, Plaintiff argues that the City-Parish has provided Plaintiff with admittedly false testimony, the Court should issue a harsh sanction under its inherent authority to deter future misconduct, and that sanction should consist of prohibiting the City-Parish from using any affidavits, requiring this order to be distributed to all members of the City-Parish council, and ordering the City-Parish to pay attorney's fees and costs. (R. Doc. 23 at 15-19).

         Second, Plaintiff asserts that the City-Parish should be sanctioned under Rule 37(c)(2) in light of the City-Parish's denials to Plaintiff's Request for Admission Nos. 1-2. (R. Doc. 109-1 at 11-12, 18-19). The City-Parish denied that it “does not maintain a facility that is accessible to individuals with disabilities who require wheelchair accessibility as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.” (R. Doc. 109-4 at 3). The City-Parish also denied that it “denied plaintiff Sherman Mealey access to the shower in the jail infirmary upon his request on or around August 2015.” (R. Doc. 109-4 at 3). Plaintiff argues that he has proven both denials are false, and, accordingly, should be awarded attorney's fees because the denials were not premised on a reasonable belief that the City-Parish might prevail on the matters denied.

         In opposition, the City-Parish asserts that the motion is without merit because it has “provided consistent factual information” in response to Plaintiff's written discovery, and that the motion is premature to the extent it involves ultimate issues to be determined by a trier of fact. (R. Doc. 110). The City-Parish argues that Plaintiff confirmed during his own deposition “that he had access to the showers and shower facilities within the jail at all times during his incarceration at the jail.” (R. Doc. 110 at 5-6). The City-Parish further asserts that its responses to the discovery requests were its legal positions as opposed to the factual lack of knowledge of the particulars in the ADA provided by Mr. Dufour at his deposition. (R. Doc. 110 at 7). Finally, the City-Parish asserts that Plaintiff has suffered no prejudice as a result of the City-Parish's discovery responses. (R. Doc. 110 at 7-8).

         II. Law and Analysis

         A. The City-Parish's Verified ...

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