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Bost v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

August 16, 2017

SHARON BOST, individually and as personal representative of the ESTATE OF FATIMA NEAL, Plaintiff,


          Ellen Lipton Hollander United States District Judge

         This Memorandum addresses the Objection (ECF 178) filed by plaintiff Sharon Bost as to discovery rulings made by U.S. Magistrate Judge A. David Copperthite. See ECF 166; ECF 171; ECF 176. No hearing is necessary to resolve the Objection. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons that follow, I shall deny the Objection.

         I. Factual Background[1]

         This action arises from the unfortunate death of Fatima Neal (the "Decedent") in 2012, who suffered a stroke while she was detained at the Baltimore City Detention Center ("BCDC"). Sharon Bost, the Decedent‘s mother, filed this suit on October 27, 2015, both individually and as the personal representative of the Estate of Neal. ECF 1.[2]

         In the First Amended Complaint (ECF 56) ("Amended Complaint"), which is the operative pleading, Bost sued a host of defendants: Wexford Health Sources, Inc. ("Wexford"); the State of Maryland ("State"); BCDC; medical staff employed by Wexford, including Anike Ajayi, R.N.; Elizabeth Obadina, R.N.; Ebre Ohaneje, R.N.; Najma Jamal, R.N.; Karen McNulty, R.N.; Andrea Wiggins, P.A.; Getachew Afre, M.D.; Jocelyn El-Sayed, M.D.; Obby Atta, C.R.N.P.; twenty-five unnamed medical service providers; various BCDC employees, including Shavella Miles, Carol McKnight, Valerie Alves, Cierra Ladson, Gwendolyn Oliver, Carolyn Atkins, Rickey Foxwell, Carol Harmon, and twenty-five unnamed "custody officers" at BCDC. Id. ¶¶ 40-48.[3] I shall refer collectively to the individual health care providers as the "Medical Defendants." And, I shall refer to the BCDC employees collectively as the "Custody Defendants."

         In the Amended Complaint, Bost asserted several claims for relief. The "First Claim for Relief, " lodged against all defendants, is brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for the denial of adequate medical care, in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. ECF 56, ¶¶ 153-68. The Second Claim for Relief is brought only against Wexford under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging an unconstitutional policy and practice of denial of medical care (the "Monell Claim"). Id. ¶¶ 169-86. See Monell v. New York City Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978). The Third Claim for Relief, against all defendants, asserts a claim under Article 24 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights for deprivation of life without judgment of one‘s peers. Id. ¶¶ 187-206. In her fourth claim, Bost alleged a claim against Wexford and the Medical Defendants for medical malpractice. Id. ¶¶ 207-17. The fifth claim asserted negligence against the State, BCDC, and the Custody Defendants. Id. ¶¶ 218-25. In addition, as to all defendants, Bost asserted a sixth claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress (id. ¶¶ 226-37) and a seventh claim for wrongful death. Id. ¶¶ 238-43.[4]

         The Court circulated a proposed scheduling order on March 9, 2016. ECF 30. Thereafter, the Court discussed the proposed scheduling order with counsel during a telephone conference held on April 18, 2016. See Docket. My notes of that conference reflect - and I recall - that during the telephone conference plaintiff asked for 150 deposition hours. I do not recall any objection. Nevertheless, I expressed to counsel my view that 150 hours of depositions appeared excessive. Although I agreed to 100 hours of depositions, I indicated that, in a case of this kind, 100 hours is quite generous. However, in my notes, I wrote that the number of deposition hours could be increased, "if needed." In addition, in lieu of the initial proposed discovery deadline of August 17, 2016 (ECF 30 at 3), defendants sought 18 months to complete discovery, while plaintiff sought 15 months.

         The Scheduling Order followed on April 19, 2016. ECF 44. It sets a discovery deadline of June 30, 2017, consistent with plaintiff‘s request. Id. at 2. In addition, the Scheduling Order provided for 100 hours of depositions exclusive of for fact witnesses, i.e., experts. Id. at 3.

         During the first three months of 2017, the parties filed several discovery motions. See ECF 128 (plaintiff‘s motion to compel); ECF 131 (Wexford‘s motion for protective order); ECF 136 (Custody Defendants‘ motion for protective order); ECF 150 (plaintiff‘s motion to compel); ECF 154 (motion for extension of time to complete discovery and extension of allotted deposition hours).[5] The Objection pertains to Judge Copperthite‘s rulings as to Bost‘s "Motion For An Extension Of Discovery Deadlines And Allotted Deposition Hours, " filed on March 13, 2017. ECF 154 ("Motion for Extension").

         In the Motion for Extension, plaintiff sought an additional 60 days to complete discovery, "starting on the date that the last of the currently pending discovery motions are resolved, " and an additional 50 hours of deposition time. Id. According to plaintiff, an extension of the discovery deadline and provision of additional deposition hours are warranted because of alleged obstructionism in discovery on the part of Wexford, in addition to the pendency of several discovery disputes. ECF 154-1 at 25-26. Plaintiff claimed that without an extension, she would "suffer substantial prejudice." Id. at 26.

         While the various discovery motions were pending, Wexford and the Medical Defendants (ECF 130) and the Custody Defendants (ECF 135) moved to bifurcate plaintiff‘s Monell Claim, and to stay discovery as to that claim. By Memorandum Opinion (ECF 159) and order (ECF 160) of May 8, 2017, I granted ECF 130 and ECF 135. In my Memorandum Opinion, I explained that bifurcation of the Monell Claim was appropriate in order to conserve resources, promote judicial efficiency, and to avoid a significant risk of prejudice to the individual defendants. ECF 159 at 27. In addition, I determined that after the resolution of the claims against the individual defendants, the Court will issue a scheduling order concerning the Monell Claim, providing a reasonable period for discovery and for the filing of dispositive motions. Id.

         Shortly after I resolved the motions to bifurcate and stay discovery, Judge Copperthite issued several orders resolving the pending discovery disputes. In particular, in ECF 161, Judge Copperthite denied plaintiff‘s motion to compel (ECF 128), "without prejudice in light of Court's Ruling [in] ECF 159." In ECF 162, Judge Copperthite denied Wexford‘s motion for protective order (ECF 131), without prejudice. In ECF 163, Judge Copperthite denied the Custody Defendants‘ motion for protective order (ECF 136), without prejudice. And, in ECF 164, Judge Copperthite denied plaintiff‘s second motion to compel (ECF 150), "without prejudice in light of Court's Ruling [in] ECF 159." In ECF 166, Judge Copperthite denied the Motion for Extension (ECF 154), without prejudice, "in light of the Court's Ruling [in] ECF 159-60." On June 5, 2017, plaintiff filed an objection (ECF 167) to Judge Copperthite‘s ruling (ECF 166) denying the Motion for Extension (ECF 154). Plaintiff also filed an objection (ECF 168) to Judge Copperthite‘s ruling (ECF 161) denying plaintiff‘s motion to compel (ECF 128). By Order of June 8, 2017 (ECF 169), Judge Copperthite rescinded his rulings (ECF 161; ECF 166) underlying the objections. In view of Judge Copperthite‘s Order rescinding ECF 161 and ECF 166, I denied the two objections (ECF 167; ECF 168) as moot, without prejudice, by Order of June 8, 2017. ECF 170. Thereafter, Judge Copperthite issued an eight-page letter order concerning the motion to compel (ECF 128) and the Motion for Extension (ECF 154). ECF 171.

         Specifically, Judge Copperthite granted in part and denied in part plaintiff‘s motion to compel (ECF 128). Id. at 1. He said: "[T]his Court finds that Plaintiffs' requests are, for discovery purposes, relevant to the claims of the individual medical defendants alleged." Id. at 3. Judge Copperthite also said: "Discovery will therefore be permitted, subject to any limitations set forth in this Order, so long as the discovery sought by Plaintiff is not privileged." Id. Accordingly, he granted the motion to compel as to additional depositions of Afre and McNulty, allowing four hours for Afre‘s deposition and two hours for McNulty‘s deposition. Id. But, Judge Copperthite denied the motion to compel as to Jamal, Ohaneje, Ajayi, and Harmon, for reasons explained in his letter order. Id.

         In addition, Judge Copperthite extended the discovery deadline to August 15, 2017. Id. at 8. He said, id.:

It is important to note here that this case has lingered in discovery and motions since its filing in October of 2015. While one may argue that the delay may not be unusual given the nature of the case and the complexities of individual medical defendants and Wexford, this Court has a vested interest in moving this case toward conclusion.

         On June 26, 2017, plaintiff filed a request for a status conference to seek "clarification of the Court‘s June 19, 2017 decision granting in part and denying in part Plaintiff‘s motion to compel and motion for an extension of discovery deadlines and deposition hours." ECF 172. In particular, plaintiff said, id. at 1:

Although the court ruled on Plaintiff‘s request for additional hours to question each party Defendant about investigations into Ms. Neal‘s death, the Court‘s ruling did not address Plaintiff‘s request - made not as part of her motion to compel but instead as part of her motion for an extension of discovery deadlines - for additional deposition hours to ...

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