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Hathaway, v. City of Memphis

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division

December 27, 2016

LAQUITA HATHAWAY and DARRELL ANDERSON, JR., a minor, by and through his Natural Mother and Legal Guardian, LAQUITA HATHAWAY, Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF MEMPHIS, OFFICER GUY HENDREE, OFFICER CHRIS MILLER, OFFICER DARNELL BRIDGEFORTH, OFFICER JOHN BARRETT, OFFICER JOHN DOE, OFFICER JANE DOE, ALL IN THEIR INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITIES, and CHIEF TONY ARMSTRONG, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY, Defendants.

          ORDER

          SAMUEL H. MAYS, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court are two motions. On December 1, 2016, Defendants City of Memphis, Chris Miller, Guy Hendree, Darnell Bridgeforth, and John Barrett (“Defendants”) filed a Joint Motion to Dismiss. (Defs.' Jt. Mot. to Dismiss and Mem. in Supp., ECF No. 59 (“Second Mot. to Dismiss”).) On December 12, 2016, Plaintiffs' counsel filed a Response in Support of Defendants' Joint Motion to Dismiss. (ECF No. 60 (“Second Mot. to Dismiss Resp.”).)

         On December 12, 2016, Plaintiffs' counsel filed a Motion to Withdraw as Counsel. (ECF No. 61 (“Second Mot. to Withdraw”).)

         For the reasons discussed below, the Second Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED with prejudice. The only remaining claim in the case is Plaintiff Darrell Anderson, Jr.'s claim for intentional and/or negligent infliction of emotional distress. The Second Motion to Withdraw is GRANTED as to Hathaway and DENIED as to Anderson.

         I. Background

         On July 18, 2013, Plaintiffs filed their original complaint in the Circuit Court of Shelby County, Tennessee. (Compl., ECF No. 1-3 (“Compl.”).) The Complaint alleges that on or about July 2, 2013, Memphis Police Department officers Guy Hendree, Chris Miller, Darnell Bridgeworth, and John Barrett (the “Defendant Officers”), while responding to a domestic dispute, used excessive force and arrested Plaintiff Laquita Hathaway without probable cause, in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. (Id. at PageID 16-19.) Plaintiffs also allege state-law claims against Defendants for intentional and/or negligent infliction of emotional distress, negligence, assault and battery, and false arrest/false imprisonment. (Id. at PageID 19-22.) On September 4, 2013, Defendants removed the case to this Court. (Notice of Removal of Civil Action, ECF No. 1.)

         On October 27, 2015, Defendant Officers filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.[1] (Def. Officers' Mot. to Dismiss and Mem. in Supp., ECF No. 20 (“First Mot. to Dismiss”).)

         The Court entered an amended scheduling order on March 15, 2016. (Am. Scheduling Order, ECF No. 39.) Under the amended scheduling order, the deadline for completing all discovery was October 14, 2016. (Id.)

         On May 9, 2016, Plaintiffs filed a notice to take the depositions of Defendant Officers on June 23, 2016. (Notice of Deps., ECF No. 40.) On May 10, 2016, Defendant Officers filed a notice to take Hathaway's deposition on June 29, 2016. (Notice to Take Dep. of Pl., ECF No. 41.) On June 7, 2016, Plaintiffs' counsel notified defense counsel that he had “lost communication with [his] client.” (Def. Officers' Mot. for Sanctions ¶ 11, ECF No. 50 (“Mot. for Sanctions”).) The depositions were cancelled. (Id. ¶ 12.)

         On June 13, 2016, Plaintiffs' counsel filed a Motion to Withdraw as Counsel and Assert Lien. (ECF No. 42 (“First Mot. to Withdraw”).) The motion stated, inter alia, that “Plaintiff [sic] has lost contact with her counsel and has not responded to numerous attempts to reach her by mail, phone, and text.” (Id. ¶ 1.)

         On July 12, 2016, the Court entered an order granting in part the First Motion to Dismiss. (Order, ECF No. 43 (“Order on First Mot. to Dismiss”).) The order dismissed the claim that Hathaway was arrested without probable cause and Plaintiffs' claims of false arrest and unlawful detention. (Id. at 14.) It also dismissed Plaintiffs' claims of excessive force, assault, and battery to the extent those claims relied on events before or during Hathaway's arrest. (Id.)

         On September 15, 2016, the Court entered an order that, in relevant part, denied the First Motion to Withdraw. (Order on Mot. to Withdraw as Counsel and Assert Lien, ECF No. 44 (“Withdrawal Order”).) The order stated that allowing Plaintiffs' counsel to withdraw from representing Hathaway and Anderson because of Hathaway's conduct would strip both Hathaway and Anderson, her minor son, of representation. (Id. at 4-5.) The order also stated that, “[a]s the case proceeds, if [Plaintiffs' counsel's] inability to reach Plaintiffs affects the parties' ability to proceed to trial, the Court will consider appropriate relief.” (Id. at 6 n.3.)

         On September 20, 2016, Defendant Officers filed a notice to take Hathaway's deposition on September 27, 2016. (Notice to Take Dep. of Pl., ECF No. 46.) Hathaway did not appear for the deposition. (See, e.g., Dep. of Laquita Hathaway, ECF No. 50-1.)

         On October 12, 2016, Defendant Officers filed a Motion for Sanctions Under Rule 37(d)(3). (ECF No. 50 (“Sanctions Mot.”).) Because Hathaway had not appeared for her properly noticed deposition, the Officers asked that “Plaintiff be sanctioned and that her case be dismissed . . . as she has abandoned her cause of action.” (Id. ¶ 18.) On October 13, 2016, the Court referred the Sanctions Motion to United States Magistrate Judge Diane K. Vescovo. (Order of Reference, ECF No. 52.) On October 25, 2016, Plaintiffs filed a response to the Sanctions Motion. (Pl.'s [sic] Resp. Opposing Def. Officer's [sic] Mot. to Dismiss and Mem. in Opp'n, ECF No. 53.)

         On November 4, 2016, the Magistrate Judge entered an Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part Defendant Officers' Motion for Sanctions under Rule 37. (ECF No. 54 (“Sanctions Order”).) The order denied the Sanctions Motion as to Defendant Officers' request for a dismissal of Plaintiffs' case. (Id. at 8.) The Magistrate granted the Motion for Sanctions as to Defendant Officers' request that Hathaway pay Defendant Officers' reasonable expenses related to Hathaway's September 2016 deposition. (Id.) ...


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