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Farivar v. Lawson

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee

January 13, 2017

LARRY LAWSON, individually, and RICK HAMBY, individually, Defendants.


          Thomas A. Varlan Chief United States District Judge

         This civil matter is before the Court on pro se plaintiff's motion for reconsideration [Doc. 88], to which defendants responded [Doc. 90], as well as plaintiff's motion to correct the record [Doc. 89], and motion for a hearing [Doc. 95]. Also before the Court is defendants motion for summary judgment [Doc. 91], to which plaintiff responded [Doc. 94]. For the reasons discussed herein the Court will deny plaintiff's motion for reconsideration, grant plaintiff's motion to correct the record, and grant defendants' motion for summary judgment.

         I. Background

         This case arises from law enforcement's decision to arrest and detail plaintiff on suspicion of domestic violence [Doc. 50].

         A. Plaintiff's Arrest and First Lawsuit

         According to the complaint, plaintiff contacted the Morgan County Sheriff's Department on October 31, 2009, with concern over the safety and location of his wife [Id. at 3]. Deputies Larry Lawson and Rick Hamby (“defendants”) responded [Id.]. While they were in route, they submit that plaintiff's wife placed a 911 call in which she accused plaintiff of “push[ing] her down and grab[bing] her wrist” [Doc. 93-1]. Defendants further submit that plaintiff's wife subsequently gave a signed statement, in which she alleged “abuse-physical, verbal, mental” [Doc. 93-2]. Defendant Lawson further states that he observed “bruises to [plaintiff's wife's] left arm as defensive injuries” [Doc. 93-3]. Plaintiff was arrested, but the criminal charges against him were dismissed twelve days later [Id.].

         Plaintiff filed suit against defendants, among others, in both their individual and official capacities, on November 1, 2010. Farivar v. Ledbetter, No. 3:10-cv-462, 2012 WL 2565040 (E.D. Tenn. July, 2, 2012) (“Farivar I”). The complaint sought compensatory and punitive damages for the violation of civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as false imprisonment, false arrest, and malicious prosecution under the Tennessee Government Tort Liability Act (“TGTLA”), Tenn. Code. Ann. § 29-10-101, et seq. [Farivar I, Doc. 1]. Following the Court's dismissal on summary judgment of plaintiff's claims against defendants in their official capacities, the parties stipulated to a dismissal without prejudice of the claims against defendants in their individual capacities on February 28, 2013 [Farivar I, Doc. 50].

         B. Plaintiff's Second Lawsuit

         Plaintiff initiated the instant action, (Farivar II), on February 28, 2014, with summons issued on March 3, 2014. Plaintiff alleges the same claims in Farivar II that he voluntarily dismissed in Farivar I. Nearly sixteen months later, plaintiff had not served defendants, and on July 2, 2015, the Court ordered plaintiff to show cause as to why this case should not be dismissed for failure to prosecute [Doc. 2]. Plaintiff subsequently sought an extension of time to serve defendants [Doc. 3], and Magistrate Judge H. Bruce Guyton granted the motion [Doc. 5]. Plaintiff then subsequently served defendants on October 9, 2015 [Docs. 6, 7].

         On November 17, 2015, the Court issued a Scheduling Order in this case, which provides in section 3(j) that in the event of a discovery dispute, the parties should meet and confer to attempt to resolve the issue [Doc. 18]. Should the parties be unable to resolve the dispute, the Scheduling Order then requires them to attempt to resolve the dispute by conference with the magistrate judge [Id.]. The Scheduling Order further provides that “[i]f and only if, the parties' dispute is unresolved following the conference with the Magistrate Judge, the parties may file appropriate written motions with the Court” [Id.]. These requirements have been explained to the parties in previous orders [Docs. 31, 54].

         On August 4, 2016, plaintiff filed a Motion for Default Judgment [Doc. 65] as a discovery sanction, arguing that such a sanction was appropriate because he contended that defendants had refused to participate in any discovery. Plaintiff did not seek a conference with the magistrate judge to resolve this issue prior to filing his motion, arguing that such a conference was not required because the Court had previously directed defendants to follow the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure [Doc. 54]. Because plaintiff failed to comply with the Scheduling Order, and considering the drastic nature of a default judgment as a discovery sanction, Magistrate Judge Guyton denied plaintiff's motion [Doc. 76].

         Plaintiff then filed a motion with the Court, seeking leave to take an interlocutory appeal of the order issued by Judge Guyton [Doc. 82]. Because Judge Guyton's order was issued pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b), the Court found it appropriate to construe plaintiff's motion as an objection to Judge Guyton's order. Noting that plaintiff had failed to comply with the mandates of the Scheduling Order, and noting further the default judgment is a “drastic step only appropriate in the most extreme of cases, ” the Court denied plaintiff's appeal of Judge Guyton's order [Doc. 86]. Furthermore, the Court found that even in the event that it was to consider plaintiff's motion as a request for certification for interlocutory appeal, the Court would deny that request [Id.].

         Plaintiff subsequently filed the instant Motion for Reconsideration, urging the Court to reconsider either granting him a default judgment, or allowing him leave to take an interlocutory appeal [Doc. 88]. Defendants then moved for summary judgment, arguing that plaintiff's claims were barred by statute of limitations, and also that defendants are entitled to qualified immunity [Doc. 91].

         II. Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration

         In his motion for reconsideration, plaintiff states that he is moving pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b). Pursuant to Rule 54(b) and the “inherent power” that district courts possess, a court may reconsider interlocutory orders or reopen portions of a case before a final judgment is entered. See Johnson v. Dollar Gen. Corp., No. 2:06-CV-173, 2007 WL 2746952, at *2 (E.D. Tenn. Sept. 20, 2007) (citing Rodriguez v. Tenn. Laborers Health & Welfare Fund, 89 F. App'x 949, 959 (6th Cir. 2004); Mallory v. Eyrich, 922 F.2d 1273, 1282 (6th Cir. 1991)). This standard “vests significant discretion in district courts.” Rodriguez, 89 F. App'x at 960 n.7. The Sixth Circuit has stated that a district court's authority allows them to “afford such relief from [interlocutory orders] as justice requires.” Id. at 959 (citations ...

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