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Igou v. Wexford of Indiana, LLC

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

June 8, 2018

LANCE IGOU, Plaintiff,
v.
WEXFORD OF INDIANA, LLC, et al. Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SANCTIONS AND DEFENDANTS' CROSS-MOTION FOR SANCTIONS

          MATTHEW P. BROOKMAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff, Lance Igou, has filed a motion for sanctions against the remaining Defendants, Corizon Health, Inc., Megan Miller, Hanna Winningham, and The Geo Group, Inc.[1], pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 11. Igou argues Defendants violated the rule by waiting over six weeks before withdrawing the failure to exhaust defense, a delay which Plaintiff asserts is unreasonable, inexcusable, and in violation of Rule 11. (Docket No. 71 at ECF p. 4). Defendants respond that Fed.R.Civ.P. 11 is not a proper vehicle for the relief Igou seeks and that, even if it was, Igou's request is baseless. (Docket No. 72). As a result, Defendants request cross sanctions also pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 11. Id. For the reasons that follow, the undersigned recommends Igou's Motion for Sanctions (Docket No. 71) be denied and recommends Defendants' Cross Motion for Sanctions (Docket No. 72) also be denied.[2]

         II. Background

         On August 24, 2017, Plaintiff brought this claim alleging violation of his rights under the U.S. Constitution, Indiana Constitution, and for negligence related to his medical care and treatment for an eye issue. (Docket No. 1). At all times relevant to this lawsuit, Plaintiff has been incarcerated at the New Castle Correctional Facility. Id. In Defendants' answers each pled the affirmative defense of failure to exhaust administrative remedies pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”). (Docket No. 17; Docket No. 23; Docket No. 26). Specifically, Corizon, Winningham, and Miller stated that “Plaintiff may have failed to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to filing suit as required by the [PLRA].” (Docket No. 23 at ECF p. 14, ¶ 7). The GEO Group, Inc.'s affirmative defense stated, “Plaintiff may have failed to exhaust his administrative remedies under the [PLRA] before he filed suit herein.” (Docket No. 17 at ECF p. 5, ¶ 3). Wexford of Indiana, LLC's affirmative defense stated, “To the exten[t] Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies, which are available to him through the prison grievance procedure, his claims are barred by 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a).” (Docket No. 26 at ECF p. 12, ¶ 2).

         On November 28, 2017, the Court directed the Defendants to take action on their exhaustion defense. (Docket No. 50). Pursuant to the Entry, the Defendants had until February 16, 2018, to either (1) file a dispositive motion in support of the exhaustion defense; (2) file a notice with the Court specifically identifying the fact issue(s) that precluded resolution of this affirmative defense via a dispositive motion and request a Pavey hearing; (3) or file a notice with the Court withdrawing the exhaustion defense. Id. The Court stated that the exhaustion “defense must be resolved before reaching the merits of this case.” Id. However, the Court did not explicitly stay the proceedings on the merits on this date. Id.

         On November 30, 2017, Defendants filed a Joint Motion to Stay Proceedings Pending Resolution of the Exhaustion Defense. (Docket No. 52). After the motion was fully briefed, the Court granted this request on December 20, 2017. (Docket No. 60). Each Defendant provided notice of the withdrawal of the defense to the Court on or before February 16, 2018, in compliance with the Court's Order. (Docket No. 61; Docket No. 62; Docket No. 63).[3]

         III. Conclusions of Law A. Standard

         Plaintiff has moved for sanctions pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 11(b). Rule 11 enables courts to impose sanctions on parties who violate its provision. Fed.R.Civ.P. 11(c). Rule 11 imposes a duty on attorneys to inquire reasonably into any court paper's viability before signing it. Fred A. Smith Lumber Co. v. Edidin, 845 F.2d 750, 751 (7th Cir. 1988). Specifically, Rule 11(b) states:

(b) Representations to the Court. By presenting to the court a pleading, written motion, or other paper-whether by signing, filing, submitting, or later advocating it-an attorney or unrepresented party certifies that to the best of the person's knowledge, information, and belief, formed after an inquiry reasonable under the circumstances:
(1) it is not being presented for any improper purpose, such as to harass, cause unnecessary delay, or needlessly increase the cost of litigation;
(2) the claims, defenses, and other legal contentions are warranted by existing law or by a nonfrivolous argument for extending, modifying, or reversing existing law or for establishing new law;
(3) the factual contentions have evidentiary support or, if specifically so identified, will likely have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery; and (4) the denials of factual contentions are warranted on the evidence or, if so specifically identified are reasonably based on belief or a lack of information.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(b). The Seventh Circuit has instructed that “[t]he district court in analyzing a Rule 11 sanction claim should determine if there has been a ‘callous disregard for governing law or the procedures of the court . . .'” Harlyn Sales Corp. Profit Sharing Plan v. Kemper Fin. Servs.,9 F.3d 1263, 1269 ...


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