United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville
ESTATE OF DUSTIN BARNWELL, by next of kin, S.C.B., a minor, b/n/f, SHASTA LASHAY GILMORE, Plaintiff,
MITCH GRIGSBY, DAVID RANDLE, RICHARD STOOKSBURY, and ROBERT COOKER, in their individual capacities, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
REEVES, UNITED STATE DISTRICT JUDGE.
lawsuit began in November 2012. By the time the case went to
trial on October 3, 2017, the issues to be decided for each
remaining defendant-two officers and two medics-were as
follows: (1) whether the defendant had a role in
administering the succinylcholine to Dustin Barnwell; (2) if
so, whether the defendant was acting in a law-enforcement
capacity or as a medical responder; (3) if the former,
whether the administration of the drug was objectively
reasonable or instead constituted excessive force; and (4) if
the administration was objectively unreasonable, whether the
defendant acted with evil motive or intent [see D.
298, at 8; Trial Transcript (T.T.), D. 366, at 57, 59, 149].
For the officer defendants, there was an additional issue as
to whether either officer had committed a state-law battery.
conclusion of Plaintiff's proof, Defendants moved for
judgment as a matter of law on grounds that a reasonable jury
would not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find
in favor of Plaintiff. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(a).
After consideration, the Court found that Plaintiff had
presented no proof that either of the officer defendants
(Grigsby and Stooksbury) ordered that the medics use
succinylcholine, or that they did anything to assist in its
administration aside from restraining Mr. Barnwell [T.T., D.
366, at 147-49]. Additionally, the Court found that there was
no proof that the medic defendants (Randle and Cooker) were
acting to assist law enforcement in enforcing the law or in
deterring misconduct [Id.]. Because the defendants
were all acting to render solicited aid in an emergency
situation, the Fourth Amendment does not apply. Accordingly, the
Court granted Defendant's motion for judgment as a matter
of law, and the case was dismissed. Judgment was entered in
Defendants' favor the following day, on October 6, 2017
November 2, 2017, Plaintiff filed a motion [D. 367] under
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 59(e) and 60(b)(6) and the
Seventh Amendment, asking the Court to reconsider this
Judgment, as well as two previous orders, dated October 25,
2013 [D. 66], and June 16, 2016 [D. 250]. Defendants
responded in opposition [D. 369], and Plaintiff replied [D.
370]. For the reasons explained below, the Court declines to
reconsider either of these orders or its judgment, and
Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration will be denied in
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e), a party may file a
motion to alter or amend a final judgment no later than 28
days after the entry of the judgment. A court may grant a
Rule 59(e) motion based on “(1) a clear error of law;
(2) newly discovered evidence; (3) an intervening change in
controlling law; or (4) a need to prevent manifest
injustice.” Nolfi v. Ohio Ky. Oil Corp., 675
F.3d 538, 551-52 (6th Cir. 2012). But Rule 59(e) “may
not be used to relitigate old matters, or to raise arguments
… that could have been raised prior to the entry of
judgment.” J.B.F. by & through Stivers v. Ky.
Dep't of Educ., 690 Fed.Appx. 906, 907 (6th Cir.
2017) (quoting Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker, 554 U.S.
471, 485 n.5 (2008)). Ultimately, the grant or denial of a
Rule 59(e) motion “is within the informed discretion of
the district court, reversible only for abuse.”
Betts v. Costco Wholesale Corp., 558 F.3d 461, 467
(6th Cir. 2009) (citation and internal quotation marks
omitted). See also Leisure Caviar, LLC v. U.S. Fish &
Wildlife Serv., 616 F.3d 612, 615 (6th Cir. 2010)
(noting that the district court has “considerable
discretion” in deciding whether to grant a motion under
60 motion for relief from a final judgment may be granted
only for certain specified reasons, including mistake, fraud,
newly discovered evidence, and a void or satisfied judgment.
See Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b). Plaintiff is proceeding
under subsection (b)(6), “a ‘catch-all
provision' providing relief from a final judgment for any
reason not otherwise captured in Rule 60(b).”
Miller v. Mays, 879 F.3d 691, 698 (6th Cir. 2018)
(citing West v. Carpenter, 790 F.3d 693, 696-97 (6th
Cir. 2015)). Rule 60(b)(6) applies only in “exceptional
and extraordinary circumstances where principles of equity
mandate relief.” Id. The Sixth Circuit has
made clear that the district court's discretion in
deciding a Rule 60(b)(6) motion is “especially broad
due to the underlying equitable principles involved.”
Tyler v. Anderson, 749 F.3d 499, 509 (6th Cir. 2014)
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
Seventh Amendment to the United States Constitution provides
for the right to a civil jury trial. U.S. Const., amend. VII.
The maintenance of a jury as a fact-finding body “is of
such importance … that any seeming curtailment of the
right to a jury trial should be scrutinized with the utmost
care.” Dimick v. Schiedt, 293 U.S. 474, 485-86
(1935). Nevertheless, it has long been settled that the entry
of judgment as a matter of law before the case reaches the
jury does not violate the Seventh Amendment's guarantee.
See Weisgram v. Marley Co., 528 U.S. 440, 449-50
(2000); Neely v. Martin K. Eby Const. Co., 386 U.S.
317, 321 (1967); Galloway v. United States, 319 U.S.
372, 389 n.19 (1943) (citing cases as early as 1850). Thus,
once a party has been fully heard on an issue at a jury
trial, the Court may grant a motion for judgment as a matter
of law for the opposing party if it finds that “a
reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient
evidentiary basis to find for the [nonmovant].”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a). That is what occurred in this case at the
conclusion of Plaintiff's proof on the third day of
October 25, 2013 Order [D. 66]
Court's October 25, 2013 Order addressed two motions
challenging Plaintiff's medical malpractice claim against
Roane County and four individual medics. In April 2013, these
defendants moved to dismiss the claim against them due to
Plaintiff's failure to comply with the good faith
certification requirements under the Tennessee Health Care
Liability Act (THCLA), Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-122 [D.
8, 24]. In August 2013, they also moved for summary judgment
on grounds that Plaintiff had not complied with the
THCLA's pre-suit notice requirements as stated in Tenn.
Code Ann. § 29-26-121 [D. 48].
September 26, 2013, United States District Judge David L.
Bunning held a telephonic oral argument on these motions [D.
50], after which he ordered Plaintiff's counsel to file
an affidavit demonstrating extraordinary cause for
Plaintiff's failure to comply with the statutory
requirements [D. 59]. Plaintiff's counsel submitted an
affidavit [D. 63], but it was insufficient. Judge Bunning
determined that counsel had not provided any new information
for the Court's consideration, but simply
“restate[d] facts and allegations that are already
contained in the record.” [D. 66, at 3]. This showing
did not constitute “extraordinary cause, ” which
would excuse Plaintiff's non-compliance with the
statutes. Thus, on October 25, 2013, Judge Bunning dismissed
Plaintiff's medical malpractice claim [Id.]. In
doing so, he noted that non-compliance with either Tenn. Code
Ann. § 29-26-121 or § 29-26-122 would support a
dismissal with prejudice [Id. at 3 nn.1-2].
Analysis under Rule 59(e)
does not expressly state the grounds for her motion under
Rule 59(e), but it seems to turn on an alleged intervening
change in controlling law. She says that, in the years since
Judge Bunning's decision, “there has been a
noticeable trend in the judicial interpretation of Tenn. Code
Ann. §§ 29-26-121 and 29-26-122, ” which has
led to the relaxation of certain technical and procedural
requirements [D. 368-1, at 14].
Tennessee Code § 29-26-121
Code Ann. § 29-26-121 requires a plaintiff asserting a
medical malpractice claim to provide “written notice of
the potential claim to each health care provider that will be
a named defendant at least sixty days before the filing of a
complaint.” Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-121(a)(1).
Notice may be given either personally or by certified mail.
Id. § 29-26-121(a)(3). “The statute is
very specific about how and when the notice must be sent and
the information the notice must contain.” Conrad v.
Washington Cty., 2012 WL 554462, at *2 (E.D. Tenn. Feb.
21, 2012) (Jordan, J.). Plaintiff must also state in the
complaint whether she complied with the pre-suit notice
requirements, and must attach documentation certifying proof
of service. Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 29-26-121(a)(3).
Compliance with the statute may be excused “only for
extraordinary cause shown.” Id. §
case, it is undisputed that Plaintiff only provided pre-suit
notice to Roane County. [see D. 1-1, at 7; D. 22].
None of the four medic defendants received any sort of
individualized notice. Nor were their addresses provided in
the notice to Roane County, as is required under Tenn. Code
Ann. § 29-26-121(a)(2)(D) [see D. 48-1]. In her
response to the defendants' motion for summary judgment,
Plaintiff claimed that the medics were immune from suit in
their individual ...