United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
JEFFERY RANDOLPH WATTERSON and RANDOLPH ALEXANDER WATTERSON, Plaintiff,
WOODY BURGESS, JASON GREEN, FRANKIE DELLINGER, JENNIFER HOYLE, DAVID HODKINS, BOB AUSTELL, MIKE ALLRED, DAVID HODKINS, CITY OF CHERRYVILLE, BEN BLACKBURN, SELECTIVE INS. OF S.C., CHERRYVILLE CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT AND CHERRYVILLE UTILITIES DEPT., Defendants.
D. WHITNEY, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
MATTER is before the Court following trial in this matter.
During the pretrial conference and at trial, the Court issued
oral rulings on many pending motions. This Order serves to
document those oral rulings so that the docket reflects those
Court first turns to the dispositive motions filed prior to
trial. As to the Motion to Dismiss and for Summary Judgment
(Doc. No. 137) filed by Defendants City of Cherryville, the
Cherryville Police Department, and the Cherryville Utilities
Department, this motion is DENIED IN PART and GRANTED IN PART
for the reasons stated in open court. Similarly, as to the
Motions to Dismiss and Motions for Summary Judgment filed the
individual Defendants Woody Burgess, Bob Austell, Mike
Allred, David Hodkins, and Ben Blackburn (Docs. Nos. 140,
142, 144, 146, 148), those motions are GRANTED for the
reasons stated in open court. As part of that ruling, the
Motions to Strike filed by several Defendants (Docs. Nos.
159, 170) are DENIED. In addition, Plaintiff Randolph
Watterson's Motion for Sanctions (Doc. No. 168), is
DENIED AS MOOT because it related to a Motion for Sanctions
(Doc. No. 161) by opposing parties that was eventually
withdrawn (see Doc. No. 191). To the extent any
issues remained following the withdrawal of the related
motion, Plaintiff's Motion for Sanctions (Doc. No. 168)
the Court turns to Plaintiff Randolph Watterson's Motion
for Extension of Time (Doc. No. 167), which, to some extent,
also sought sanctions against certain defense counsel for
alleged improper contacts with potential witnesses for trial.
That motion is GRANTED IN PART to the extent it sought
additional time to file an affidavit, which Plaintiff filed
(see Doc. No. 173). To the extent that motion sought
sanctions, it is DENIED. Defendants' related Motion to
Strike (Doc. No. 178) is DENIED.
the evidentiary motions made pre-trial, Plaintiff Randolph
Watterson and most Defendants filed Motions in Limine (Docs.
Nos. 195, 212, 214). While the Court deferred ruling on some
portions of those motions in limine until the evidence was
sought to be presented during trial, the Court ultimately
GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART the parties' motions
in limine prior to or throughout the course of trial.
Plaintiff Randolph Watterson also filed a “Motion in
Limine for Records of Proceedings, ” (Doc. No. 197);
however, he did not reassert or orally raise the issue
presented in that motion during any of the pretrial hearings
or during trial. Although it is now moot, the Court notes
that the motion fails to state a sufficient basis to warrant
the extraordinary relief sought. Moreover, Plaintiff Randolph
Watterson's conduct at trial demonstrated his remarkable
ability to follow trial proceedings, recall witness
testimony, and present his case accordingly. Therefore, his
Motion for “Records of Proceedings” (Doc. No.
197) is DENIED.
Allred, Austell, Blackburn, Burgess, and the Cherryville City
Defendants filed two motions to continue (Docs. Nos. 217,
219). For the reasons stated in open court, those motions are
sole remaining pretrial issue concerns Plaintiff Randolph
Watterson's Motion for Default Judgment and for Sanctions
against Defendant Jason Green (Doc. No. 196). By referral of
this Court, the subject of that motion was litigated before
Magistrate Judge David C. Keesler, who issued a Memorandum
and Recommendation (Doc. No. 210) (“M&R”).
The M&R explains in detail the numerous prior attempts
Plaintiff Randolph Watterson made to obtain discovery from
Green (Docs. Nos. 150, 157, 181, 185, 196) and the resulting
multiple orders previously issued by the Court directing
Defendant Green and his counsel to comply (Doc. No. 154, 175,
190, 203). In addressing the instant motion, the M&R
found convincing evidence to award sanctions and recommended
that, in light of Defendant Green's repeated failure to
comply with Court orders, “severe sanctions” may
be appropriate. (See Doc. No. 210, p. 9).
defense counsel nor Defendant Green objected to any portions
of the M&R. Accordingly, after reviewing the M&R and
finding no clear error, the Court accepts the recommendation
and adopts the entire M&R as if fully set forth herein.
In order to fashion appropriate sanctions in accordance with
the M&R, the Court inquired of Green and his counsel
during pretrial proceedings as to the reasons for the
repeated noncompliance. While defense counsel acknowledged
blame and accepted responsibility for the failures to comply,
she offered little to no justification for essentially
ignoring the directives repeatedly provided in the
Court's orders. In light of the unique facts of this
case, including defense counsel's recurrent violation of
the magistrate judge's orders pertaining to this
discovery dispute, the Court finds that default judgment is
not an appropriate sanction, as that sanction punishes
Defendant Green more so than his counsel. Instead, the Court
hereby sanctions defense counsel in the amount of $250.00 to
be made payable to Plaintiff Randolph Watterson. While an
award of attorney's fees might be the more appropriate
sanction here if Randolph Watterson had counsel pursuing the
instant motion to compel (and the related motions that
preceded it), this is the unusual situation where a party
-because he appears pro se - shall receive payment.
In addition, because of the repeated failures to comply, the
Court will also order Green's defense ...