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Crumb v. McDonald's Corp.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

December 6, 2017

EALISE CRUMB
v.
McDONALD'S CORPORATION, et al.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          DEBORAH K. CHASANOW UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Presently pending and ready for resolution in this discrimination case are a motion for summary judgment filed by Defendants McDonald's Corporation and Ram Foods, Inc. (“RAM Foods”) (collectively, “Defendants”) (ECF No. 129) and a motion to deny or defer summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d) filed by Plaintiff Ealise Crumb (“Plaintiff”) (ECF No. 133). The issues have been briefed, and the court now rules, no hearing being deemed necessary. Local Rule 105.6. For the following reasons, the motion for summary judgment will be granted in part, and denied in part, and the motion to deny or defer summary judgment will be denied.

         I. Background

         A more complete recitation of the factual and procedural background of this case can be found in the court's prior memorandum opinion resolving Defendants' motion to dismiss. (ECF No. 67, at 2-8). The remaining counts against Defendants are racial discrimination in a place of public accommodation in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 2000a (“Title II”) (Count II), racial discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Count II), retaliation (Count IV), and fraud and deceit (Count VII).[1]Plaintiff's claims stem from two visits to a McDonald's restaurant in Oxon Hill, Maryland (the “restaurant”), which is owned and operated by Defendant RAM Foods, Inc. (“RAM Foods”). Plaintiff alleges that on March 19, 2013, after requesting hot fries “right out of the grease, ” restaurant employee Ashley Alston “placed the bag of food on the counter and . . . [w]hen Plaintiff reached to pick up the bag, [Ms.] Alston called Plaintiff a ‘big fat black hussy.'” (ECF No. 2 ¶¶ 39-43). Plaintiff complained to the restaurant manager, Greg Edwards, and relayed what Ms. Alston had called her. (Id. ¶¶ 66-68). Mr. Edwards asked Plaintiff to allow him to handle her complaint at the franchise without involving Defendant McDonald's Corporation. (Id.). Plaintiff alleges that when she returned to the restaurant on May 27, Ms. Alston refused to serve Plaintiff and ordered the cashier who took Plaintiff's order to return Plaintiff's money and refuse to serve her. (Id. ¶¶ 91-94).

         Defendants filed the pending motion for summary judgment on July 19, 2017. (ECF No. 129). Plaintiff filed a motion to deny or defer Defendants' motion for summary judgment on August 4. (ECF No. 133). Defendants submitted a reply in support of their motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 134), and Plaintiff submitted a reply in support of her motion to deny or defer (ECF No. 135).

         II. Motion to Deny or Defer Summary Judgment

         A. Standard of Review

         Ordinarily, summary judgment is inappropriate if “the parties have not had an opportunity for reasonable discovery.” E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Kolon Indus., Inc., 637 F.3d 435, 448 (4th Cir. 2011). Rule 56(d) allows the court to deny a motion for summary judgment or delay ruling on the motion until additional discovery has occurred if the “nonmovant shows by affidavit or declaration that, for specified reasons, it cannot present facts essential to justify its opposition.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d). “Such a motion is only appropriate in situations where the discovery sought could not have been obtained during the course of normal discovery.” Zimmerman v. Novartis Pharms. Corp., 287 F.R.D. 357, 363 (D.Md. 2012) (citation omitted). Notably, “Rule 56(d) does not authorize ‘fishing expedition[s].'” Nautilus Ins. Co. v. REMAC Am., Inc., 956 F.Supp.2d 674, 683 (D.Md. 2013) (citation omitted). Courts interpreting Rule 56(d) have consistently held that a nonmovant's request may be denied if “the additional evidence sought for discovery would not have by itself created a genuine issue of material fact sufficient to defeat summary judgment.” Ingle ex rel. Estate of Ingle v. Yelton, 439 F.3d 191, 195 (4thCir. 2006) (internal quotation marks omitted); see Poindexter v. Mercedes-Benz Credit Corp., 792 F.3d 406, 411 (4th Cir. 2015) (upholding the district court's summary judgment ruling despite the plaintiff's Rule 56(d) request because she “has not explained . . . how the information [sought in discovery] could possibly create a genuine issue of material fact sufficient for her to survive summary judgment, or otherwise affect the court's analysis”). “In other words, a nonmovant must provide ‘a reasonable basis to suggest that [the requested] discovery would reveal triable issues of fact' in order for such a request to be granted.” Agelli v. Sebelius, No. DKC-13-497, 2014 WL 347630, at *9 (D.Md. Jan. 30, 2014) (quoting McWay v. LaHood, 269 F.R.D. 35, 38 (D.D.C. 2010)).

         B. Analysis

         Plaintiff's Rule 56(d) affidavit seeks several forms of discovery. First, Plaintiff requests that the court “permit [] discovery to be completed” because “[Defendants] have not provided substantial answers to the interrogatories and requests to produce, objecting to most of them, not answering some of them and providing only sketchy and evasive answers to most of the rest.” (ECF No. 133-3 ¶ 65). Discovery in this case closed on September 6, 2016. Plaintiff has had multiple opportunities to file a motion to compel regarding Defendants' discovery responses. Plaintiff filed two motions for an extension of time to file a motion to compel, which the court granted, as well as a third motion for an extension of time, which the court denied, refusing to allow Plaintiff's alleged discovery dispute to delay the resolution of this case indefinitely. (See ECF Nos. 120; 124; 128, at 3).

         Plaintiff also states that she is entitled to discovery on “the true identity of the employee who discriminated . . . and retaliated against [her]” and that she “should not have to rely on the Defendants” to tell her whether the employee's true name is Ashley Alston or Ashley Austin. (ECF No. 133-3 ¶ 69). Plaintiff requests this court to issue a subpoena to the department of motor vehicles for Plaintiff to ascertain the “true identity of this individual.” (Id.). This request stems from an insurance form in which the employee's last name was recorded as “Austin, ” instead of Alston. “Defendants contend that the form contains a typo (ECF No. 84, at 1), and have repeatedly and consistently identified the employee's name as ‘Alston.'” (ECF No. 95, at 6). Moreover, whether the employee's last name is Alston or Austin does not create a genuine issue of material fact sufficient to defeat summary judgment and Plaintiff's request will be denied. Additionally, Plaintiff requests this court to issue a subpoena to the Prince George's County Human Relations Commission “so that [Plaintiff] can inspect the Commission's file.” (ECF No. 133-3 ¶ 79). The Commission is no longer a party to this case as all claims against it were dismissed. (ECF No. 68 ¶ 5). Plaintiff's request is not only a fishing expedition but would not reveal triable issues of fact in order for such a request to be granted. Accordingly, her request will be denied.

         In addition to the above discovery, Plaintiff seeks numerous categories of documents and identifies five witnesses that she wants to depose. (ECF No. 133-3 ¶¶ 72, 73, 76, 77, 80). Plaintiff had the opportunity to pursue such discovery within the limits of the rules and within the discovery period set by the court's scheduling order. Plaintiff's motion to deny or defer summary judgment to allow for additional discovery will be denied.

         III. Motion for Summary Judgment

         A. ...


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