United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Harrisonburg Division
JOHN E. LONEWOLF, Plaintiff,
SGT. STEVE GARRETT, Defendant
MICHAEL F. URBANSKI CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
in this case are Defendant Steve Garrett's motions for
sanctions, for summary judgment, and to deem the requests for
admissions admitted. ECF Nos. 26, 28, 50. Plaintiff John
Lonewolf has responded and a hearing was held in the matter
on April 10, 2019. As discussed more fully below, the court
(1) denies the motion for summary judgment because of the
existence of disputed issues of material fact; (2) grants the
motion for sanctions to the extent that any evidence
requested and not provided will not be admitted at trial; (3)
awards monetary sanctions; and (4) grants in part and denies
in part the request to deem the admissions admitted.
filed this lawsuit on January 5, 2018, alleging deliberate
indifference to his health and safety by defendants Steve
Garrett and John Higgins. Plaintiff entered Rockbridge
Regional Jail ("Rockbridge") on October 30, 2012 to
serve a sentence for a drug offense. He had been convicted in
1991 of aggravated sexual assault of a child and was required
to register as a sex offender.
was processed into custody by defendant Garrett, who used
Lonewolf s birth name of Earl William Giger. When Lonewolf
protested that he had changed his name to John Earl Lonewolf
in April 2012, Garrett became angry and refused to use
Lonewolf s new name. Lonewolf asserts that Garrett, in the
presence of two "Trusty" inmates, stated that
Lonewolf was a sex offender.
protested that he was afraid for his safety because the
"Trusty" inmates overheard Garrett mention his sex
offender status and asked that Garrett not place him in
general population. Garrett refused the request, stating that
Lonewolf had been incarcerated in the Rockbridge general
population before without any problems.
was assigned to the same cell block as Joel Copper. In July
2010, while incarcerated at Rockbridge, Copper had viciously
assaulted inmate Fabian Schlegel because he believed Schlegel
was a child rapist. Defendant Garrett's wife, also an
employee at Rockbridge, witnessed the assault and filed a
asserts he told defendant Garrett in August 2012 that he did
not want to be housed with a child sexual offender because of
his violent reaction to them. Three days before Lonewolf was
transferred to Rockbridge, Copper asked that a presumed child
sex offender be moved and again told defendant Garrett of his
violent disposition towards them.
hours of Lonewolf being processed into Rockbridge, Copper
learned of Lonewolf s sex offender history from other
inmates. Shortly after 8:00 p.m., Copper entered Lonewolf s
cell and brutally assaulted him. During die assault, Copper
called Lonewolf by the name "Hinger,"
"Hanger," or "Giger," and accused him of
being a child sex offender.
approximately 9:50 p.m., guards, on duty, including defendant
Garrett's wife, discovered Lonewolf barely conscious in
his cell. He told them that Copper had beaten him and he was
transported to the hospital emergency department. Lonewolf
suffered multiple injuries to his left eye, left ocular
ridge, left parietal skull, mandible, palate, spleen, two
ribs, left lung, and intestines. He was hospitalized from the
date of the assault, October 30, 2012, until February 2013.
Lonewolf claims ongoing physical and mental injuries.
initially filed this action on October 31, 2013 and the
parties consented to the magistrate judge's jurisdiction
on February 24, 2014. See Lonewolf v. Garrett, No.
7:13-CV-00519 (W.D. Va.'2017) (the "first
suit"). Following a motion for summary judgment and an
evidentiary hearing on the motion, United States Magistrate
Judge Robert Ballou entered an order granting summary
judgment on the claims against Higgins and denying summary
judgment as to Garrett.
evidentiary hearing in the first suit, Copper admitted to
beating Lonewolf after finding out he had been convicted of
sexually assaulting a child. Copper corroborated Lonewolf s
version of events, including beating inmate Schlegel in 2010,
asking Garrett not to house him around child sex offenders,
having Garrett imply to him that Lonewolf was a child sex
offender, having other inmates confirm Lonewolf s conviction,
and beating Lonewolf. Garrett, Lonewolf, Higgins, and Candice
Bane, a major at Rockbridge, also testified at the hearing.
before the trial date, Garrett filed a motion for sanctions
asking to exclude certain evidence because Lonewolf had not
responded to discovery requests. Lonewolf then voluntarily
dismissed the lawsuit without prejudice via joint stipulation
dated July 6, 2017. He filed the instant action on January 5,
2018, within the six-month period allowed by Va. Code §
Garrett and Higgins filed a motion to dismiss in this current
suit on May 5, 2018, to which Lonewolf did not respond. A
hearing was held on June 26, 2018. The court dismissed the
claims against Higgins on res judicata and
collateral estoppel grounds, and dismissed claims against the
defendants in their official capacities. The case was set for
trial against Garrett in his individual capacity.
suit was set for trial on March 3-4, 2019. Lonewolf again
stonewalled discovery, leading Garrett to file a motion for
sanctions and motion for summary judgment on December 19,
January 7, 2019, a stipulation of dismissal with prejudice,
signed by counsel for both Lonewolf and Garrett, was filed.
Lonewolf contacted the clerk on January 11, 2019 by
telephone, stating that he did not agree to the stipulation
of dismissal. The court attempted a conference call on the
issue on January 18, 2019, but Lonewolf did not join the
call. The court then set a show cause hearing for January 24,
2019 in open court to address the stipulation of dismissal
and his counsel testified at die January 24, 2019 hearing,
and die court determined to vacate the stipulation of
dismissal with prejudice, based on a misunderstanding between
Lonewolf and his counsel. The court set new deadlines to
respond to the motion for sanctions and summary judgment and
provide responses to the requests for admissions. The parties
appeared and argued die present motions on April 10, 2019.
Motion for Sanctions
37(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a
court may sanction a party for failure to respond to requests
for discovery. Sanctions may include directing that the
matters embraced in the discovery or other designated facts
be taken as established for purposes of the action as the
prevailing party claims; prohibiting the non-responsive party
from supporting or opposing designated claims or defenses, or
from introducing designated matters into evidence; striking
pleadings in whole or in part; staying further proceedings
until the order is obeyed; dismissing the action in whole or
in part; or rendering a default judgment against the
non-responsive party. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(b) and (d). In
addition, if a party fails to provide Rule 26 disclosures,
including die identification of witnesses, the party is not
allowed to use that information or witnesses to supply
evidence at subsequent proceedings, unless the failure was
substantially justified or is harmless. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(c).
filed a motion for sanctions on December 19, 2018, alleging
that Lonewolf never provided answers to the first set of
interrogatories and failed to provide his Rule 26
disclosures. Garrett asks that the case be dismissed, or, in
the alternative, that all evidence requested but not produced
be excluded. After the motion for sanctions was filed,
Lonewolf responded at least in part to the request for
admissions, requests for production, and interrogatories.
dismissal is a potential sanction, courts have more narrow
discretion because "the district court's desire to
enforce its discovery orders is confronted head-on by the
party's rights to a trial by jury and a fair day in
court." Mutual Federal Sav. And Loan Ass'n
v. Richards & Associates. Inc.. 872 F.2d 88, 92 (4th
Cir. 1989) (citing Wilson v. Volkswagen of America.
Inc., 561 F.2d 494, 503-04 (4th Cir. 1977)). In deciding
a motion for sanctions, courts use a four-part test: (1)
whether the noncomplying party acted in bad faith; (2) the
amount of prejudice his noncompliance caused his adversary,
which necessarily includes an inquiry into the materiality of
the evidence he failed to produce; (3) the need for
deterrence of the particular sort of noncompliance; and (4)
the effectiveness of less drastic sanctions. Wilson.
561 F.2d at 503-506. The test ensures "only the most
flagrant case, where the party's noncompliance represents
bad faith and callous disregard for the authority of the
district court and the Rules, will result in the extreme
sanction of dismissal or judgment by default."
Mutual Federal Sav., 872 F.2d at 92.
faith includes willful conduct, where a party clearly
understands its duty to the court but nevertheless
deliberately disregards it. Opportunities Dev. Group, LLC
v. Andruss. No. 1:14-cv-62, 2015 WL 2089841 at * 6 (E.D.
Va. 2015). For example, in Belk v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg
Bd. Of Educ. 269 F.3d 305, 348 (4th Cir. 2001), the
Fourth Circuit found ample evidence of bad faith when a party
was told to supplement its answers to interrogatories when
such information became known, but failed to do so. As an
excuse for untimely disclosure of fact witnesses, the party
relied on the district court's pretrial order that
parties were to provide a witness list to the court on the
first day of trial. The district court found that the
provision of the pretrial order was clearly for the
convenience of the court and could not reasonably have been
interpreted to apply to disclosures to the other parties.
argues that he did not act in bad faith because he did
eventually respond and has not sought to frustrate this
litigation or the discovery process, and, except for medical
records, the vast majority of what he tendered to Garrett was
information already in Garrett's possession. Garrett
points out that Lonewolf was silent after being served with
discovery requests and was silent in response to the motion
for sanctions and motion for summary judgment until the court
ordered him to respond.
court finds evidence of bad faith on Lonewolf s part in
failing to respond to the discovery requests and only doing
so after he faced the threat of sanctions. However, he did
provide the discovery in response to the threat of sanctions
and has since complied with this court's orders, appeared
at scheduled hearings, and has not otherwise frustrated the