United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
PLAINTIFF'S MOTION REGARDING SUFFICIENCY OF OBJECTIONS (DKT. 56) AND ON
PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO COMPEL DISCOVERY AND FOR EXTENSION OF TIME TO SERVE EXPERT
REPORTS (DKT. 57).
DEBRA McVICKER LYNCH, Magistrate Judge.
This case has hit a wall because of neglect on both sides of the caption regarding defendants that plaintiff Aaron Fromer named in his complaint as (a) "Miami Correctional Facility Health Services Administrator individually and in his or her official capacity as an employee of Defendant Corizon, Inc." (hereafter, "Miami HSA") and (b) Putnamville Correctional Facility Health Services Administrator individually and in his or her official capacity as an employee of Defendant Corizon, Inc" (hereafter, "Putnamville HSA").
This order contains various rulings intended to put this case back on course, while recognizing that both parties share blame for the current state of affairs. As explained below, the court will give the plaintiff an opportunity to seek to amend his complaint if he wishes to pursue individual judgments against the Miami HSA and Putnamville HAS and can do so consistent with the facts gathered to date and Fed.R.Civ.P. 11. (The court makes no determination at this time whether leave to amend will, in fact, be granted.) The court will require the defendants to provide at this time answers to discovery on behalf of the offices of Miami HSA and Putnamville HSA and requires other supplements to the defendants' discovery responses. It extends the time for the plaintiff to serve his expert report. And it recommends that the District Court (a) deny the defendants' motion for summary judgment but without prejudice to its renewal after they serve supplemental answers to discovery and (b) vacate the current trial date.
The Complaint, Its Service, and the Defendants' Answers
Mr. Fromer is in prison. His complaint alleges that the health care he received for infections, which ultimately were diagnosed as MRSA, while incarcerated at Miami (from March 2009 to June 2012) and Putnamville (from June 20, 2012, to the time his complaint was filed) was so inadequate and ineffective that his constitutional rights were violated. In addition to naming as defendants the Miami and Putnamville HSAs, Mr. Fromer named two doctors-Noe Marandet, M.D., who saw him while at Miami, and Naveen Rajoli, M.D., who saw him while at Putnamville-and Corizon, Inc., a private corporation that has (and had at the time period Mr. Fromer received medical care) a contract with the Indiana Department of Corrections to provide medical care to inmates at IDOC facilities, including Miami and Putnamville. According to the complaint, Corizon employed the two defendant doctors and the Miami and Putnamville HSAs during the relevant periods.
Mr. Fromer's complaint states that he does not know the identities of the persons who served as the Miami HSA or the Putnamville HSA. Even though Mr. Fromer's complaint purports to sue people who held these positions in their individual capacities, he did not name any individuals who occupied these positions and against whom he seeks a monetary judgment. And despite not having named individuals, Mr. Fromer mailed summonses and complaints addressed to the office of Miami HSA and the office of Putnamville HSA. He then filed proofs of service and attached the certified mailing return green cards showing that someone at each prison signed for the papers addressed to the "Miami Correctional Facility Health Services Administrator" and "Putnamville Correctional Facility Health Services Administrator." (Dkts. 16 and 17).
Naming an office without naming and serving a particular individual is insufficient for the court to exercise personal jurisdiction and have power eventually to enter judgment against the individual. In cases such as this one, where the plaintiff needs some discovery to identify the persons he believes wronged him, the court generally allows the plaintiff sufficient time to learn the names and then serve them with summonses so that the court can exercise personal jurisdiction. The Seventh Circuit described this process in Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Service, 577 F.3d 816 (7th Cir. 2009), noting particularly that it is not unusual in prison cases that the plaintiff does not at the time of filing his complaint know the names of the persons who injured him. The court remarked:
If a prisoner makes allegations that if true indicate a significant likelihood that someone employed by the prison system has inflicted cruel and unusual punishment on him, and if the circumstances are such as to make it infeasible for the prisoner to identify that someone before filing his complaint, his suit should not be dismissed as frivolous. The principle is not limited to prisoner cases. It applies to any case in which, usually because the plaintiff has been injured as the consequence of the actions of an unknown member of a collective body, identification of the responsible party may be impossible without pretrial discovery.... Of course, eventually the plaintiff must discover the names of the defendants in order to serve summonses on them and thus establish the court's personal jurisdiction, without which the suit must be dismissed.
Id. at 821 (quoting Billman v. Indiana Department of Corrections, 56 F.3d 785, 789-90 (7th Cir. 1995)).
Until very recently, defendants' counsel never contended that Mr. Fromer had not done enough to state claims against the Miami HSA or the Putnamville HSA, individually and in their capacities as Corizon employees or to bring such persons within the jurisdiction of the court. Indeed, defendants' counsel consistently acted as if claims had been stated against Miami HSA and Putnamville HSA. Counsel (a) entered appearances for Miami HSA and Putnamville HSA, (b) asked for time for them to respond to the complaint; (c) filed answers that say nothing about the plaintiff having failed properly to name individuals, insufficient service, or lack of jurisdiction; (d) filed a proposed case management plan that did not alert the plaintiff or the court to these issues and instead provided merit-based reasons why the two HSAs are not liable (they were "not personally involved in Mr. Fromer's medical care and therefore cannot be held liable on a Section 1983 claim"); (e) appeared at the initial pretrial conference on behalf of the two HSAs; (e) filed witness and exhibit lists on their behalf; (f) sought extensions of time for them to complete case management tasks; (g) appeared at a telephone status conference for them; and (h) participated in a settlement conference and filed a confidential settlement statement on their behalves.
Shortly after the initial pretrial conference held April 4, 2013, defendants' counsel sent emails to Mr. Fromer notifying him of the names of persons who were the HSA at Miami and Putnamville "during the relevant time period" ( see Dkt. 60-1 and 60-2). Mr. Fromer did not thereafter seek to amend his complaint to name these individuals and bring them within the jurisdiction of the court. Rather, Mr. Fromer went along apparently assuming that nothing more needed to be done (or he just forgot he needed to seek to amend the complaint) and defendants' counsel also continued to participate in the case on behalf of the HSAs in their "individual" and their "official" capacities as Corizon employees, including participating in a settlement conference with the magistrate judge in February 2014.
In mid-December 2013, Mr. Fromer served his first sets of written discovery requests. He served interrogatories, requests for admission, and document requests on (a) Corizon; (b) the two doctors named in the complaint; (c) the Miami HSA; and (d) the Putnamville HSA. About a month later, on January 21, 2014, a new lawyer (Brian Richtarcik) for the defendants became involved and was assigned the responsibility to answer all of the discovery. ( See Dkt. 70 at p. 2). He promptly, with the plaintiff's consent, obtained additional time to answer the discovery and served answers in mid-February 2014. Not until mid-February when defense counsel refused to respond to written discovery requests issued to the Miami and Putnamville HSAs did defense counsel for the first time assert that they had not been properly named or served.
Requests for Admission to Miami and Putnamville HSAs
The Miami and Putnamville HSAs refused to answer the requests for admission directed to them on the ground that they are anonymous parties that Mr. Fromer never properly sued or served. Although the court agrees that there are not yet any persons before the court sued in their individual capacities as Miami and Putnamville HSAs and against whom any judgments in their individual capacities could be entered, the defendants have consistently litigated this case as if they represent the offices of Miami and Putnamville HSAs as agents and employees of Corizon. The court will require Corizon to answer each of the requests for admission directed to the Miami and Putnamville HSAs, and Corizon must provide answers based on information within its possession, custody, and control, and on information it can reasonably obtain from its agents and employees. In the answers ( see Request for Admission #s 3 and 4), Corizon must identify by name the person(s) who served as the Miami HSA or Putnamville HSA within the time periods listed in the request. To answer the remaining requests, Corizon must provide answers based on whether the office of the Miami HSA or Putnamville HSA, respectively, had the duties and responsibilities described in the requests during the time ...