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Ashdown v. Buchanan

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

June 26, 2019

BRANDON J. ASHDOWN, Plaintiff,
v.
TIM BUCHANAN, et al., Defendants.

          JAMES L. GRAHAM JUDGE

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          ELIZABETH P. DEAVERS CHIEF MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff, a state inmate who is proceeding without the assistance of counsel, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This matter is before the Court for consideration of Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment (ECF No. 60), Putative Defendants' and Interested Party, State of Ohio's Response in Opposition (ECF No. 61), and Plaintiff's Reply (ECF No. 63). For the following reasons, it is RECOMMENDED that Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment (ECF No. 60) be DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff initiated this action on June 8, 2017, alleging deliberate medical indifference to his serious medical needs. (ECF Nos. 1, 4.) On August 7, 2017, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 7.) On September 27, 2018, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (ECF No. 15.) The Court granted Defendants' Motion to Dismiss on February 2, 2018, as to Defendants Tim Buchanan, Charles Bradley, and Vanessa Sawyer. (ECF No. 32.) The Court did not dismiss the case as to the unnamed Defendants “FMC Transport Staff” and “FMC Doctors and Staff.” (Id.) On February 5, 2018, the Court granted Plaintiff sixty (60) days to engage in further discovery or to amend his Complaint in order to identify the unnamed Defendants. (ECF No. 33.) Interested Party, the State of Ohio, made a limited appearance pertaining to the unnamed Defendants. (ECF No. 36.)

         On March 26, 2018, Plaintiff requested an extension of time to file an Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 35.) The Court granted Plaintiff's Motion and permitted him leave to file his Amended Complaint on or before June 8, 2018.[1] (ECF No. 38.) On June 4, 2018, Plaintiff again requested an extension. (ECF No. 41.) The Court again granted Plaintiff's Motion and permitted him to file his Amended Complaint on or before July 28, 2018. (ECF No. 42.) On June 22, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Motion for an Order Compelling an Answer and Discovery Response. (ECF No. 43.) Plaintiff alleged that the State of Ohio had failed to respond to a letter he sent its counsel requesting assistance in naming the unnamed Defendants. (Id.) Plaintiff therefore moved for an order directing the State of Ohio to produce any and all documents pertaining to the event in question. (Id.) The State of Ohio responded on July 6, 2018, opposing the Motion for an Order Compelling an Answer and Discovery Response. (ECF No. 44.) On July 25, 2018, the Court granted Plaintiff's Motion, finding that the State of Ohio's attempts to partially meet Plaintiff's discovery request were woefully inadequate. (ECF No. 45.) The Court ordered the State of Ohio to fully comply with Plaintiff's discovery request by informing the Court by written notice of the results of its compliance within thirty (30) days of the date of the Order. (Id.)

         The State of Ohio responded to the Order on August 24, 2018 with the results of its compliance with the discovery request and a Motion to Dismiss. (ECF No. 48.) Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment, which is at issue in the instant Report and Recommendation, was construed as Plaintiff's Response in Opposition given that Plaintiff titled the Motion for Default Judgment as “Motion for Default Judgment and Objection Response to Interested Party - Discovery Status Report and Motion to Dismiss for Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies.” (See ECF No. 60.) In the Motion, Plaintiff included a heading titled with Roman Numeral II as “Objection Argument to Interested Party - Motion to Dismiss for Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies” which contained the entirety of his Response in Opposition, providing as follows:

The State argues that Plaintiff Ashdown failed to exhaust his “administrative remedies[.]” However, to no surprise, the State failed to produce any adequate evidence to support such a claim. Thus, one can only assume that the State must have misplaced, or destroyed it prior to filing its response when it “inadvertently deleted” the logs that this court Order [sic] it to produce.

(ECF No. 60, at pg. 3 (emphasis in original).) Accordingly, this section of Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment is not addressed at this juncture, as the Undersigned previously issued a Report and Recommendation regarding the Motion to Dismiss on February 21, 2019. (ECF No. 62.) On May 30, 2019, the presiding United States District Judge issued an Order converting the Motion to Dismiss to a Motion for Summary Judgment, finding the Report and Recommendation moot, “insofar as it recommended granting the motion to dismiss which has now been converted to a motion for summary judgment.” (ECF No. 71.)[2] The Order permitted Plaintiff to submit evidentiary materials outside the pleadings in opposition to the State of Ohio's motion to dismiss on the ground of failure to exhaust administrative remedies within thirty (30) days of the date of the Order.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Plaintiff asks the Court to dismiss this action as a sanction for Defendants failure to comply with their discovery obligations. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(b)(2) sets forth a laundry list of sanctions, including dismissal, that a court could impose when a party fails to comply with its discovery orders. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(b)(2). The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has identified four factors that it considers when reviewing a district court's dismissal of a case under Rule 37:

(1) whether the party's failure to cooperate in discovery is due to willfulness, bad faith, or fault; (2) whether the adversary was prejudiced by the dismissed party's failure to cooperate in discovery; (3) whether the dismissed party was warned that failure to cooperate could lead to dismissal; and (4) whether less drastic sanctions were imposed or considered before dismissal was ordered.

Harmon v. CSX Transp. Inc., 110 F.3d 364, 366-67 (6th Cir. 1997). Of course, dismissal is a harsh sanction, and is thus “a sanction of last resort that may be imposed only if the court concludes that a party's failure to cooperate in discovery is due to willfulness, bad faith, or fault.” Patton v. Aerojet Ordnance Co., 765 F.2d 604, 607 (6th Cir. 1985) (citations omitted); cf. Nat'l Hockey League v. Metro. Hockey Club, 427 U.S. 639, 643, 676 (1976) (recognizing dismissal as the “most severe in the spectrum of sanctions provided by statute or rule”).

         III. ...


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