United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana
RICHARD L. BOURGEOIS, JR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
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).
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).
instant dispute concerns certain interrogatory responses and
denials of admission made by the City-Parish in response to
Plaintiff's discovery requests.
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.
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).
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).
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.
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).
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.
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
Law and Analysis
The City-Parish's Verified ...