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Latson v. Clarke

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Abingdon Division

May 14, 2018

REGINALD CORNELIUS LATSON, Plaintiff,
v.
HAROLD W. CLARKE, ET AL., Defendants.

          Caitlin Marie Kasmar, Katherine Katz, John B. Williams III, and Timothy J. Coley, BuckleySandler LLP, Washington, D.C., and Elliot M. Mincberg, Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, Washington, D.C., for Plaintiff;

          Laura Maughan, Office of the Attorney General, Richmond, Virginia, and Jeff W. Rosen, Pender & Coward, PC, Virginia Beach, Virginia, for Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          James P. Jones United States District Judge

         The plaintiff in this civil rights case has moved to compel additional testimony pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30(b)(6), asserting that the designated organizational witnesses were unprepared for their depositions and did not give adequate testimony on the topics for which they were designated. For the reasons that follow, I will grant the motion in part and will permit the plaintiff to serve additional interrogatories and requests for admission on defendant Virginia Department of Corrections (“VDOC”).

         I.

         The allegations in this case were set forth in great detail in my earlier opinion disposing of the defendants' Motion to Dismiss. Latson v. Clarke, 249 F.Supp.3d 838, 844-50 (W.D. Va. 2017). Because I write only for the parties, I will not repeat them here.

         The plaintiff's Motion to Compel Additional 30(b)(6) Testimony focuses on six witnesses who were designated to testify on behalf of VDOC. The plaintiff contends that these six witnesses undertook little or no preparation for their depositions and did not give adequate responses to questions on certain topics on which they had been designated to testify.

         The Notice of Deposition that the plaintiff issued to VDOC pursuant to Rule 30(b)(6) originally sought testimony on 18 topics, two of which specified a number of subtopics. The parties met and conferred about the notice several times, and the plaintiff ultimately agreed to narrow some of the topics at VDOC's request. VDOC designated witnesses for all of the topics. However, it later notified plaintiff's counsel that some of these witnesses would not be able to testify about topics on which they had been designated. In some cases, VDOC's counsel communicated these limitations less than 24 hours before the depositions were scheduled to begin, and in one case, VDOC's counsel withdrew a designation with only about one hour's notice.

         Harold Clarke, the Director of VDOC, is a named defendant in this case and was deposed both in his individual capacity and as a representative of VDOC. He was designated to testify on behalf of VDOC as to, among other things, “[c]ommunications between VDOC and Rappahannock Regional Jail regarding Mr. Latson's treatment and placement.” Mem. Supp. Pl.'s Mot. Compel, Williams Decl. Ex. D, App. A ¶ 14, ECF No. 177-5. During his Rule 30(b)(6) deposition, Clarke testified that his only preparation for the deposition was a brief meeting with counsel on the morning of the deposition. Clarke was asked about the nature of communications between VDOC and Rappahannock Regional Jail (“Rappahannock”) regarding the decision to move Latson to Marion Correctional Treatment Center (“MCTC”). He was unable to testify about the subject and stated that Keith Dawkins, Manager of Central Classification Services, would have been the person who had those discussions with Rappahannock personnel. VDOC argues that the plaintiff has not been prejudiced by any inadequacies in Clarke's testimony because the plaintiff obtained the information sought from other witnesses, including Dawkins, and from emails produced in discovery.

         Ann Horst, M.D., is the attending psychiatrist at MCTC. She was deposed as an individual fact witness and also testified on behalf of VDOC. However, she stated that she was not comfortable answering questions on behalf of VDOC.

         Horst testified that her only preparation for the Rule 30(b)(6) deposition had been a short meeting with counsel on the morning of the deposition.

         In her capacity as a representative of VDOC, Horst was designated to testify about “[t]he frequency with which Mr. Latson's medications were reviewed and assessed” and “[c]ommunications between VDOC and any other person or entity regarding Mr. Latson's treatment and placement.” Id. at ¶¶ 6, 15. VDOC counsel limited Horst's testimony on the former topic to administration of psychological medications. Horst could not say how frequently Latson's medications were reviewed and stated that she was unable to discuss his medications without looking at the records. Regarding the latter topic, she testified only to her own communications regarding Latson. VDOC argues that plaintiff's counsel should have introduced Latson's medical records as exhibits during the deposition so that Horst could testify about them. VDOC also argues that the information sought is irrelevant to the plaintiff's claims.

         Amanda McGrady is the Psychologist Supervisor at MCTC. She, too, was deposed as both an individual fact witness and a Rule 30(b)(6) witness. On behalf of VDOC, she was designated to testify about “[t]he mental and physical health care treatment administered to Reginald Cornelius Latson during his incarceration at MCTC, including communications among Mr. Latson's treatment team, the selection of individuals for Mr. Latson's treatment team, and oversight over treatment decisions.” Id. at ¶ 3. At the beginning of her deposition, VDOC's counsel limited McGrady's testimony on this topic to mental health treatment only and indicated that McGrady would not be testifying about physical health care. Despite this limitation, McGrady testified that she had never seen Latson's treatment plan and could not answer questions about it. McGrady was also designated to testify on the topic of “[t]raining provided to . . . mental health care treatment team members at MCTC, including but not limited to those responsible for the care of Reginald Cornelius Latson.” Id. at ¶ 2. She was unable to answer questions regarding what training VDOC or MCTC provided that covered Autism Spectrum Disorder and how that training was tracked. The defendants argue that there was no prejudice to the plaintiff because both of these topics are irrelevant to the plaintiff's claims.

         Terry Richards is Chief of Security at MCTC. He was deposed only as a representative of VDOC. He testified that his sole preparation for the deposition was a ten-minute meeting with counsel and that he did not review any documents. Richards was designated to testify about “[t]raining provided to guards . . . at MCTC, including but not limited to those responsible for the care of Reginald Cornelius Latson.” Id. at ΒΆ 2. He was unfamiliar with training documents shown to him during the deposition and could not answer questions about training provided to correctional officers. He indicated that VDOC's Academy of Staff Development or the MCTC training department would be able to answer those questions. VDOC contends that Richards's responses were appropriate because he was only ...


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