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Meeker v. Life Care Centers of America, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Colorado

April 11, 2016

MICHELLE MEEKER, Plaintiff,
v.
LIFE CARE CENTERS OF AMERICA, INC., d/b/a Heritage Park Care Center, COLORADO MEDICAL INVESTORS, LLC, d/b/a Heritage Park Care Center, TOWN OF CARBONDALE, COLORADO; EUGENE SCHILLING, Chief of the Carbondale Police Department, in his official and individual capacities; and MICHAEL ZIMMERMAN, Police Officer in the Carbondale Police Department, in his official and individual capacities, Defendants.

ORDER ON DISCOVERY MOTIONS

NINA Y. WANG UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

This matter comes before the court on Plaintiffs Motion for Sanctions for LCCA Defendants'[1] Failure to Comply with this Court s Order on Discovery Motions [Doc. 204] Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 37 [#221, filed Dec. 24, 2015] and Defendants Life Care Centers of America, Inc. and Colorado Medical Investors, LLC’s Motion for Extension of Time [#258, filed Feb. 23, 2016] (collectively, “Motions”). The court considers these Motions pursuant to the Order of Reference dated July 29, 2014 [#6], the Reassignment dated February 10, 2015 [#58], the Memorandum dated December 29, 2015 [#222], and the Memorandum dated February 24, 2016 [#259]. Having reviewed the associated briefing and the applicable case law, the court rules on the pending Motions as follows.

BACKGROUND

The relevant factual background of this case is set forth in this court’s Recommendation on Plaintiff’s Motion to Strike LCCA Defendants’ New and Untimely Legal Defenses [#189], which is docketed concurrently with the present Order, as well as other orders and recommendations. For the sake of efficiency, the court sets forth only the circumstances most relevant to Plaintiff’s Motion for Sanctions for LCCA Defendants’ Failure to Comply with this Court’s Order on Discovery Motions [Doc. 204] Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 37 [#221], and Defendants Life Care Centers of America, Inc. and Colorado Medical Investors, LLC’s Motion for Extension of Time [#258].

Plaintiff Michelle Meeker (“Plaintiff” or “Ms. Meeker”) alleges that she participated in a hostage-taking drill in which she unwittingly assumed the role as the hostage. As a result of the harm caused by believing that she was actually a hostage being held at gunpoint, Plaintiff asserts a number of claims under federal and state law: (1) claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for unreasonable seizure, excessive force, and false imprisonment in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution against all Defendants; (2) a § 1983 claim under the Fourteenth Amendment for a violation of procedural due process against all Defendants; (3) a § 1983 claim under the Fourteenth Amendment for a violation of substantive due process against all Defendants; (4) a § 1983 claim under the Fourteenth Amendment for failure to train and/or supervise against Defendant Town of Carbondale and Defendant Eugene Schilling; (5) a claim for civil assault against the Life Care Defendants, Defendant Schilling, and Defendant Michael Zimmerman; (6) a claim for civil battery against the Life Care Defendants, Defendant Schilling and Defendant Zimmerman; (7) a claim for civil false arrest/imprisonment against the Life Care Defendants, Defendant Schilling and Defendant Zimmerman; (8) a claim for outrageous conduct against the Life Care Defendants, Defendant Schilling, and Defendant Zimmerman; and (9) willful and wonton breach of contract against the Life Care Defendants [#172].[2]

The court entered a Scheduling Order on November 12, 2014 [#39], and the Parties proceeded to exchange discovery requests. In the First Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that the Life Care Defendants “deliberately intended to cause Ms. Meeker’s injuries, and acted directly to bring about her injuries.” [Id. at ¶ 101]. As part of her claim for willful and wonton breach of contract, Ms. Meeker seeks “all damages allowed by law, including but not limited to exemplary and treble damages, as well as the maximum increase of such damages for the continued behavior as allowed by law.” [Id. at ¶ 243]. To that end, Plaintiff served discovery regarding both the Life Care Defendants’ prior conduct of similar drills, and the financial relationship and condition of Defendants. The court has conducted repeated informal discovery conferences related to the adequacy of Defendants’ disclosures. [#156, #166, #194].

On October 6, 2015, Defendant LCCA[3] filed a Motion for Protective Order, contending that having to perform a company-wide search of all emails to determine whether responsive emails related to the hostage drills exist was overly burdensome. [#167 at 3-4]. LCCA further asserted that the 2013-2015 LCCA Consolidated Financial Statements that were previously produced constituted the “full financial information” that the court ordered and no further production was necessary because the excluded information related to Variable Interest Entities (“VIEs”), whose assets and liabilities, the Life Care Defendants contend, would not be considered the Life Care Defendants’ assets for the purposes of punitive damages. [#167, #166]. Plaintiff opposed the requested protective order, arguing that it was willing to limit the search for electronic mail related to the disaster drills to individuals on the safety committee and management employees of those facilities, that LCCA had failed to establish that producing such e-mail was overly burdensome, that the financials of the VIEs were not relevant, and that the court had already ordered the Life Care Defendants to produce such information and LCCA should not be permitted to re-argue relevance at this juncture. [#173]. LCCA replied, arguing that the search to discover whether any responsive emails exist itself was unduly burdensome, that the potential for any relevant information was “marginal, ” and that the Life Care Defendants had already admitted that its facilities perform unannounced emergency disaster drills. [#183 at 5-8]. LCCA further contended that the court already ruled that Plaintiff was not entitled to discovery on this issue, citing the court’s order dated July 20, 2015. [Id. at 3].

On December 4, 2015, this court issued an Order on three then-pending discovery motions: (1) Defendant Life Care Centers of America, Inc.’s Motion for Protective Order Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c) [#167]; (2) Plaintiff’s Motion to Compel LCCA Defendants’ Discovery Responses Regarding Financial Information Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a) [#192]; and (3) the Life Care Defendants’ Motion to Designate Depositions of Terry Henry and John Van Veen, Jr. as Confidential and Motion to Restrict Access to Document 192 and its Exhibits [#195] filed by the Life Care Defendants. The court ordered, among other things, that the Life Care Defendants “produce organizational charts or other documents sufficient to demonstrate the ownership and management structure of Heritage Park Care Center, including but not limited to Heritage Park Operations, LLC., from 2013 to the present.” [#204 at 16]. The court also ordered the Life Care Defendants to conduct searches of emails for responsive documents for each of the members of the safety committee and the three management employees of each Life Care facility (as identified by Plaintiff by name or title), as well as Jessica Varley and Cathy Ortiz, and specifically for relevant emails about any drill described in [#173-5] as “hostage situation, ” “hostage, ” “active shooter hostage taking, ” “hostage taking - person came in with weapon, ” “hostage/active shooter, ” “hostage taking person with a weapon or armed robbery, ” “code gray intruder in the building with weapon, ” and “man with gun hostage situation, ” and produce any responsive documents no later than December 24, 2015. [#204 at 12].

The court held a Final Pretrial Conference on February 10, 2016, and a Final Pretrial Order was entered. [#248, #249]. An eight-day jury trial is set to begin on October 24, 2016. [#257].

ANALYSIS

The first motion presently before the court is Plaintiff’s Motion for Sanctions for LCCA Defendants’ Failure to Comply with this Court’s Order on Discovery Motions [Doc. 204] Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 37 (the “Motion for Sanctions”). [#221]. In the Motion for Sanctions, Plaintiff seeks sanctions, including an order awarding Plaintiff her reasonable costs and attorneys’ fees, as well as further sanctions as the court deems just and proper pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 37, for the Life Care Defendants’ continued failure to produce any not-previously-produced relevant documents in response to the court’s orders requiring the Life Care Defendants to produce documents pertaining to the ownership and organizational structure of Heritage Park Care Center.

The second motion presently before the court is Defendants Life Care Centers of America, Inc. and Colorado Medical Investors, LLC’s Motion for Extension of Time (“Motion for Extension of Time”). [#258]. In the Motion for Extension of Time, the Life Care Defendants request an extension of the deadline to comply with the court’s December 4, 2015 Discovery Order by at least six months to produce emails for each of the members of the safety committee and the three management employees of each facility where an emergency disaster drill occurred (as identified by Plaintiff by name or title), as well as Jessica Varley and Cathy Ortiz, and specifically, for relevant emails about any drill described . . . as “hostage situation, ” “hostage, ” “active shooter hostage taking, ” “hostage taking - person came in with weapon, ” “hostage/active shooter, ” “hostage taking person with a weapon or armed robbery, ” “code gray - intruder in the building with weapon, ” and “man with gun hostage situation.” [#258]. The Life Care Defendants argue that this extension is necessary because of the large amounts of time and money necessary to comply with the order due to the large amount of potentially relevant data and the number of locations where the data is located.

I. Motion for Sanctions

The court turns first to Plaintiff’s Motion for Sanctions. [#221]. In her Motion for Sanctions, Plaintiff argues that the court should enter appropriate sanctions against the Life Care Defendants, including awarding Plaintiff her reasonable costs and attorneys’ fees, for the Life Care Defendants’ continued failure to produce documents pertaining to the ownership and organizational structure of Heritage Park Care Center.

Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(b)(2), a court may enter sanctions for a party’s failure to obey an order of the court. These sanctions may include:

(i) directing that the matters embraced in the order or other designated facts be taken as established for purposes of the ...

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