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Estate of Jones v. City of Spokane

United States District Court, E.D. Washington

February 2, 2017

ESTATE OF DANNY CECIL JONES, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF SPOKANE, FRANK STRAUB, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART MOTION TO COMPEL AND DENYING MOTION FOR PROTECTIVE ORDER

          JUSTIN L. QUACKENBUSH SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         BEFORE THE COURT is Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel Discovery (ECF No. 21) and Defendant City of Spokane's Motion for Protective Order (ECF No. 26). Both sides to the litigation requested expedited hearing because the discovery issues related to the resolution of a pending Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. The court granted the request for expedited consideration. The court has considered the briefing and the Motions were submitted without oral argument on January 31, 2017. The court has denied the Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings via separate Order.

         I. Introduction and Background

         This action was filed in state court on August 19, 2016, and removed to this court on September 16, 2016. The Complaint alleges Danny Jones was shot and killed by City of Spokane police officers on August 22, 2013. The Complaint is brought by his wife, surviving children, and his parents. Plaintiffs allege Danny Jones was in his vehicle, stopped in a parking lot, and surrounded by several police vehicles when officers "opened fire." (Complaint ¶ 27). Plaintiffs allege Danny Jones was unarmed and did not pose a threat to officers. Plaintiffs assert several claims, including: 1) excessive force in violation of Constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. 1983; 2) Monell liability against the City and Chief Straub under 42 U.S.C. 1983; 3) denial of Due Process; 4) wrongful death; and 5) negligence.

         On September 21, 2016, this court issued an Order, which stated in part: "The parties shall confer, as required by Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(f), within twenty-one (21) days of the date of this Order, and discovery shall commence promptly thereafter." (ECF No. 3). The court held a Scheduling Conference on November 10, 2016, and on that date issued an Order which stated in part: "Counsel are reminded the court views Rule 26 liberally and the parties have an obligation to disclose the good and the bad and observe an 'open file' policy with the exception of privileged materials. Violations of Rule 26 and the spirit of open discovery will result in the imposition of appropriate sanctions." (ECF No. 12).

         The City answered the Complaint on September 28, 2016, and on December 8, 2016, filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (ECF No. 15). On November 16, 2016, just after the Scheduling Conference and before Defendant filed the Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, Plaintiffs served written discovery. (ECF No. 21, p. 2). The City's response, or lack thereof, to the written discovery is the basis for the instant dispute.

         II. Discussion

         The Motion to Compel seeks to have the court overrule Defendant's objections to several Interrogatories and Requests for Production and order Defendant City to provide full and complete responses. The Motion attaches the discovery at issue (See ECF No. 21-1). Plaintiffs' counsel has filed a Statement pursuant to Local Rule 37.1, which states the parties have conferred and have been unable to resolve the City's objections to Interrogatories 3 thru 10, and Requests for Production 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, and 9. (ECF No. 22).

         The City's Motion for Protective Order (ECF No. 26) does not seek to protect any specific information from discovery, but rather asks to stay discovery until after resolution of the Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. (ECF No. 26, p. 2). The City states Plaintiffs allegations are "baseless" and therefore Plaintiffs are "not entitled to discovery." (Id.). The City contends it would take "dozens" of hours to respond to the written discovery. The City's Motion cites to an attached Declaration, but the Declaration offers no support for the contention as to the amount of time required to respond.

         The City was served with discovery on November 16, 2016. By that date, this court had issued two Orders concerning discovery and directed discovery "shall" commence. The City had not moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim, or for more definite statement, but had answered the Complaint. The discovery was served on November 16, 2016, and both Fed.R.Civ.P. 33 and 34 provide for a 30-day period of time to respond unless otherwise stipulated or ordered by the court. Thus responses were due on or about December 16, 2016. On December 16, 2016, the City filed its Responses, and Objections in which the City objected to every interrogatory and request for production. (See ECF No. 27). While the discovery was pending, the City filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings on December 8, 2016. As the City's own Motion acknowledges, the filing of such motion does not stay discovery. The parties state they met and conferred on January 12, 2017. At that time, discovery responses were nearly one month overdue, and the City had not filed a motion to stay discovery.

         A. The Specific Objections

         Interrogatory No. 1 - Defendant City interposed a frivolous objection and refused to answer the basic question of who was answering the interrogatories, and stated "to be supplemented." (See ECF No. 27, Ex. A). Failing to identify a person resulted in the answers being unverified and failure to comply with Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(b). The parties have apparently now resolved this objection.

         Interrogatory No. 3 - This question was answered, with the City stating it has not identified any experts at this time.

         Interrogatory No. 4 - This question asks for information "in the last 10 years" involving other lawsuits in which the City was a party and wherein the claims concerned an officer involved shooting. The court finds this overbroad as to temporal scope. The incident here occurred in August 2013. The City ...


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