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Gayle Brock v. County of Napa and Does 1 Through 50 Inclusive

July 16, 2012

GAYLE BROCK, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COUNTY OF NAPA AND DOES 1 THROUGH 50 INCLUSIVE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joseph C. Spero United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SANCTIONS

United States District Court Northern District of California

I. INTRODUCTION 20

Plaintiff Gayle Brock ("Plaintiff") filed a Motion for Sanctions ("Motion") against Defendant County of Napa ("Defendant"), alleging that Defendant violated its discovery obligations. 22

Defendant opposes the Motion. The Court finds that the Motion is suitable for determination 23 without oral argument pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7--1(b). Accordingly, the hearing on the Motion 24 set for Friday, July 20, 2012, at 9:30 a.m. is VACATED. For the reasons stated below, the Motion is 25 DENIED.

II. BACKGROUND 2

A. The Motion

Plaintiff's Motion alleges that sanctions are warranted due to 1) Defendant's failure to timely 4 disclose documents sought by Plaintiff, and 2) Defendant's destruction of evidence. Motion at 3-5. 5 Plaintiff asserts that on March 28, 2012-during expert discovery but two months after the 6 close of all other discovery-Defendant produced its "Third Supplemental Disclosures," which 7 included a March 2, 2009 Corrections Housing Classification Form ("March Classification Form") 8 for Plaintiff's deceased son, Theodore Scott Mostek, and training materials for the officers who 9 responded when Mosetk's body was found in his cell on March 20, 2009. Id. at 5-6, 7-8. Regarding 10 the March Classification Form, Plaintiff asserts that the form should have been revealed in Plaintiff's 11 initial disclosures, which already included documents related to Mostek's housing file. Id. at 11. 12

Additionally, Plaintiff states that the March Classification Form should also have been disclosed in response to Plaintiff's request for production of documents ("RFP"). Id. at 6. The relevant request 14 reads as follows: "Please produce any and all RECORDS in YOUR possession[,] custody or control, 15 made by COUNTY STAFF that specifically refer to decedent Mostek (including but not limited to 16 emails, notes, and other correspondence to and from COUNTY STAFF)." Declaration of Jesse S. 17

Turner in Support of Motion for Sanctions ("Turner Decl."), Ex. D, 3. On October 19, 2011, after 18 voicing its objections to the request, Defendant stated that "it previously produced all non-privileged 19 records pertaining to Mostek's March 2009 incarceration at the Napa County Jail." Id. 20

Plaintiff contends that the March Classification Form supports her case and is "perfectly 21 consistent with the allegations" of her complaint since it shows that Defendant knew of Mostek's 22 mental condition prior to his suicide while in custody. Motion at 6. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant 23 only disclosed the existence of the form during the deposition of Plaintiff's jail management expert 24 Jeff Hilsop, when it became apparent to Defendant that the absence of the March Classification 25 Form would constitute a "per se breach of the standard of care." Id. at 5. Plaintiff asserts that "it 26 was now clearly better to produce the document and ‗explain' its contents than to face the standard 27 of care issue without it." Id. at 6.

Plaintiff argues that Defendant should be excluded from using the March Classification Form 2 at trial since Defendant's counsel made an "improper certification" of Defendant's initial disclosures 3 and its response to Plaintiff's RFP. Id. at 9-11 (citing, inter alia, Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(g)(1)(A) & 4 (g)(3)). Plaintiff asserts that the improper certifications were not "substantially justified" since 5 Defendant's counsel's reason for nondisclosure was entirely strategic and it knew of the existence of 6 the form when it was obligated to produce it. Id. at 12. Plaintiff also requests that this Court make 7 findings of fact as to when Defendant became aware of the March Classification Form. Id. at 17. 8

Regarding the training materials, Plaintiff argues that Defendant should also be precluded 9 from using these documents at trial since their nondisclosure cannot be shown to be substantially 10 justified or harmless. Id. at 12-14 (citing Kempf v. Barrett Business Servs., Inc., 336 Fed. Appx. 658 11 (9th Cir. 2009)). Plaintiff appears to argue that Defendant was required to produce the training 12 materials in its initial disclosures prior to the close of discovery. Id. at 14. Plaintiff contends that Defendant was aware that officer training was at issue in this case because Plaintiff's claim of 14 deliberate indifference is "often closely linked to proof that the government failed to adequately train 15 its officers." Id. at 13-14 (citing, inter alia, Long v. County of Los Angeles, 442 F.3d 1178 (9th Cir. 16 2006)). Additionally, Defendant was on notice that officer training was an issue given that Plaintiff 17 posed training questions to each officer deposed. Id. at 14.

Plaintiff claims she is prejudiced by the late disclosure of the training documents because she "needs to have adequate time to investigate" further discovery arising out of the training materials, 20 including deposing each of the persons mentioned in the materials. Id. at 15. Plaintiff asserts that 21 she is further prejudiced by Defendant's "limited" proposal to continue discovery in light of the new 22 materials. Id. 23

Finally, Plaintiff asserts that Defendant wrongfully destroyed Mostek's January 2009 Housing Classification Form ("January Classification Form") and requests that this Court grant a 25 default in Plaintiff's favor as a sanction. Id. at 16-17. Plaintiff also appears to suggest that 26 Defendant may not have actually destroyed the January 2009 form and is instead concealing it from 27 Plaintiff. Id. at 17. Plaintiff requests that this Court "do findings of fact" regarding the alleged 28 destruction of this form. Id.

B. The Opposition

In response, Defendant first argues that the Motion should be denied because Plaintiff has not 3 followed this Court's required procedures relating to discovery disputes. Defendant County of 4 Napa's Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion for Sanctions ("Opposition"), 11. Specifically, Defendant 5 contends that this Court's prior orders require that the parties arrange an in-person meet and confer 6 prior to seeking relief from the Court. Opposition at 11 (citing Notice of Reference and Order re 7 Discovery Procedures, Dkt. No. 18). If any dispute still remains following the meet and confer, the 8 issues must be presented to the Court in the form of a joint letter from the parties. Id. Defendant 9 contends that Plaintiff prematurely abandoned efforts to resolve this dispute and filed the present 10 Motion without regard to this Court's required procedures. Id. 11

Defendant next argues that sanctions are not warranted because it has complied with its 12 disclosure obligations under Rule 26 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Id. Defendant states that Rule 26 obligates a party to disclose only those witnesses and documents that the disclosing 14 party may use to support its claims or defenses; a party is not obligated to disclose witnesses or 15 documents that it does not intend to use. Id. (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 26 advisory committee's note). 16

Regarding the officer training materials, Defendant asserts that those documents were not disclosed 17 until the Third Supplemental Disclosure because officer training had not been identified as an issue 18 "until experts were disclosed and Mr. Hilsop's deposition was taken." Id. at 12. Prior to expert 19 discovery, any claims alleging inadequate training were directed at mental health staff, not 20 correctional officers. Accordingly, Defendant concludes, the training materials were not ...


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