Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Doe v. City of Memphis

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

June 27, 2019

Jane Doe, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
City of Memphis, Defendant-Appellee.

          Argued: January 29, 2019

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee at Memphis. No. 2:13-cv-03002-John Thomas Fowlkes, Jr., District Judge.

         ARGUED:

          Bryan M. Meredith, THE SPENCE LAW FIRM, Memphis, Tennessee, for Appellants.

          Robert D. Meyers, GLANKLER BROWN, PLLC, Memphis, Tennessee, for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

          Bryan M. Meredith, Robert L. J. Spence, Jr., THE SPENCE LAW FIRM, Memphis, Tennessee, Ricky E. Wilkins, Sharon Harless Loy, THE LAW OFFICES OF RICKY E. WILKINS, Memphis, Tennessee, for Appellants.

          Robert D. Meyers, Jessica L. Indingaro, GLANKLER BROWN, PLLC, Memphis, Tennessee, Jon P. Lakey, WALK COOK LAKEY, PLC, Memphis, Tennessee, for Appellee.

          Before: CLAY, McKEAGUE, and WHITE, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          CLAY, Circuit Judge.

         Plaintiff Jane Doe No. 2 appeals the district court's March 9, 2017 Order granting Defendant City of Memphis summary judgment, and the district court's May 22, 2018 Order granting Defendant's motion to strike class allegations. For the reasons set forth below, we REVERSE the district court's judgment and REMAND for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs, Jane Doe No. 1, Jane Doe No. 2, and Jane Doe No. 3, are three women who allege that Defendant failed to submit for testing the sexual assault kits ("SAKs") prepared after their sexual assaults. Each Plaintiff separately reported a sexual assault to the Memphis Police Department ("MPD"), and a bodily fluid sample was taken from each Plaintiff and placed in an SAK. Plaintiffs allege that Defendant possessed over 15, 000 such kits that it failed to submit for testing, resulting in spoliation. Plaintiffs sought to certify a class of women whose kits Defendant failed to test.

         Discovery revealed that the SAKs of Jane Doe No. 1 and Jane Doe No. 3 were both tested soon after their assaults. However, Jane Doe No. 2's SAK, with which this appeal is concerned, was submitted for testing in 2013, and the results were received in 2014-eleven years after her assault in 2003. This appeal concerns only Jane Doe No. 2 and the purported class, inasmuch as Plaintiffs do not appeal the grant of summary judgment for Defendant on the claims of Jane Doe No. 1 or Jane Doe No. 3.

         Plaintiffs filed a complaint on December 20, 2013, alleging various constitutional violations. Pursuant to Defendant's subsequently filed motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' claims, the district court dismissed with prejudice all of Plaintiffs' claims except their claims of sex discrimination in violation of the Equal Protection Clause. Discovery proceeded on Plaintiffs' remaining Equal Protection claim and lasted nearly two years.

         During discovery, Defendant produced materials on MPD's policies, procedures, and training relating to sexual assault, investigative files for the three representative Plaintiffs, and affidavits by Major Don Crowe of the Special Victims Unit and Sergeant Margaret Houston of the Sex Crimes Division. Defendant also produced spreadsheets it had prepared containing data from 2001 to 2005 related to MPD's investigations into sexual assaults and other violent crimes. This information constituted 7, 200 pages of spreadsheets detailing 15, 465 criminal investigations. Defendant claims that producing this discovery cost the City over $1 million. Because the scope of discovery and the events surrounding the discovery process are the crux of this case, more details of the nearly two years of discovery that occurred will be provided below.

         On January 25, 2016, Defendant moved for summary judgment on all of Plaintiffs' claims. On February 5, 2016, Defendant filed a Motion to Strike Class Allegations pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(d)(1)(D). On March 9, 2017, the district court granted Defendant's motions for summary judgment as to Jane Doe No. 1, Jane Doe No. 2, and Jane Doe No. 3.

         On March 15, 2017, Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Reconsider Order Granting Summary Judgment as to Jane Doe No. 2, and on May 17, 2018, the district court denied Plaintiffs' motion. On May 22, 2018, the district court granted Defendant's Motion to Strike Class Allegations.

         Plaintiffs then appealed to this Court the district court's order granting Defendant summary judgment and its order granting Defendant's motion to strike class allegations.[1]

         DISCUSSION

         Standard of Review

         We review de novo a district court's grant of summary judgment. Spadafore v. Gardner, 330 F.3d 849, 851 (6th Cir. 2003). Summary judgment is proper where there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In considering such a motion, the court construes all reasonable factual inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). The central issue is "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986).

         "This court reviews a district court's decision on a Rule 56(d) motion for discovery for an 'abuse of discretion.'" In re Bayer Healthcare & Merial Ltd. Flea Control Prods. Mktg. & Sales Practices Litig., 752 F.3d 1065, 1074 (6th Cir. 2014) (quoting United States v. Dairy Farmers of Am., Inc., 426 F.3d 850, 862 (6th Cir. 2005)). "An abuse of discretion occurs when the reviewing court is left with the definite and firm conviction that the trial court committed a clear error of judgment." FTC v. E.M.A. Nationwide, Inc., 767 F.3d 611, 623 (6th Cir. 2014) (quoting United States v. Hunt, 521 F.3d 636, 648 (6th Cir. 2008)). To reverse, this Court must find that the district court's "ruling was arbitrary, unjustifiable, or clearly unreasonable." Id.

         Analysis

         While Plaintiffs' underlying claim pertains to Equal Protection Clause violations, Plaintiffs acknowledge that their primary argument "is the absence of a meaningful opportunity to conduct discovery" prior to the entry of summary judgment. (Appellants' Br. 20.) Plaintiffs do not argue in their briefs that the district court erred in striking class allegations based on the record before the court. Thus, we emphasize at the outset that all we are asked to consider is whether the district court erred in granting summary judgment and striking Plaintiffs' class allegations before Plaintiffs had a meaningful chance to pursue further discovery.

         a. Sex Discrimination Claim

         To the extent that the merits of Plaintiffs' underlying claims are relevant to our analysis of whether the district court abused its discretion in denying further discovery, we briefly note the elements of Plaintiffs' claim of sex discrimination in violation of the Equal Protection Clause.

         For a plaintiff to succeed on an Equal Protection claim of sex discrimination, she "must show that she is a member of a protected class and that she was intentionally and purposefully discriminated against because of her membership in that protected class." Jones v. Union County, 296 F.3d 417, 426 (6th Cir. 2002). The latter showing requires a demonstration that it is the policy or custom of Defendant to provide less protection to victims of sexual assault than those of other crimes, and that gender discrimination was the motivation for this disparate treatment. See id. Absent direct evidence of discriminatory motivation, "[a] discriminatory effect which is severe enough can provide sufficient evidence" of such motivation under appropriate circumstances. See United States v. Thorpe, 471 F.3d 652, 661 (6th Cir. 2006) (quoting United States v. Tuitt, 68 F.Supp.2d 4, 10 (D. Mass. 1999)).

         To adequately review the claims made in this appeal relating to discovery, we must scrutinize the details of the discovery process. After a May 2014 scheduling order, Plaintiffs submitted their first set of interrogatories and requests for production of documents, which included, as relevant to Plaintiffs' claims on appeal, the following:

INTERROGATORY NO. 3: For each SAK collected by the Defendant during the years 1980 to the present, identify the following:
a) the name, gender, and race of the individual from whom the SAK was collected; b) the date of collection of the SAK;
c) the crime being investigated;
d) the physical location(s), person/entity with custody of each SAK, dates that each SAK was in a particular location; and
e) any other identifying information used by the Defendant to distinguish between SAKs.
INTERROGATORY NO. 4: For each SAK identified in the preceding Interrogatory, state and identify the following:
a) whether and when the SAK has been tested for serology;
b) whether and when the SAK underwent forensic DNA analysis;
c) any reason that each SAK was or was not submitted for testing within 96 hours of recollection;
d) any reason that each SAK was submitted for testing on the date(s) it was submitted;
e) any individual or agency that requested and/or approved submission of the SAK for serology/DNA testing; f) any individual or agency that declined to approve submission of the SAK for serology/DNA testing;
g) any cost associated with the testing of each SAK and what person/entity bore any cost identified;
h) and whether and when the suspect of the crime for which the SAK was collected and charged with a crime for which the SAK was collected.
** *
INTERROGATORY NO. 5: For each DNA sample collected by the Defendant during the years 1980 to the present for crimes other than sexual assault, identify the following:
a) the name, gender, and race of the individual from whom the DNA sample was collected; b) the date of ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.