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Smentek v. Sheriff of Cook County

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

December 19, 2013

JOHN SMENTEK, et al., Plaintiffs,



Plaintiffs' Renewed Motion to Extend the Discovery Cutoff Date (Pls.' Mot.) [dkt 210], and Defendant Cook County's Motion to Stay Compliance with Requests for Medical Records (Def.'s. Mot.) [dkt 226] are before the court.[1] Defendant Cook County opposes plaintiffs' motion and requests that plaintiffs be barred from seeking additional dental records except as provided in the court's October 30, 2013 order regarding the production of dental and medical records. Cook County's motion asks that the County not be required to comply with requests for inmates' medical records that plaintiffs' counsel has sent directly to Cermak Health Services ("Cermak"). For the following reasons, plaintiffs' motion is granted in part and denied in part as detailed below. Cook County's motion is granted on an interim basis and otherwise taken under advisement pending further briefing. In addition, in a footnote in Cook County's response, its counsel states that she believes that Mr. Smentek has passed away. If Mr. Smentek is deceased, his counsel must file a suggestion of death. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 25(a).


The certified classes

In this class action case, plaintiffs allege that defendants reduced dental staff at the Cook County Jail to a level that made it a virtual certainty that inmates would not receive adequate dental care. (Mem. Op. and Order, Aug. 17, 2011 at 6.) [Dkt 93.] The District Judge held that, to prevail on this claim, plaintiffs must "prove that a condition of confinement-near elimination of dental care-is one of deliberate indifference to serious medical need, as illustrated by the representative plaintiffs and [others] who were not promptly treated after seeking medical treatment for dental pain." ( Id. at 5.)

The Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(b)(2) class consists of "[a]ll persons presently confined at the Cook County Jail who are experiencing dental pain and who have waited more than seven days after making a written request for treatment of that pain without having been examined by a dentist." (Mem. Op. and Order, Nov. 18, 2010 at 15.) [Dkt 68.] The Rule 23(b)(3) class is defined as "all inmates housed at Cook County Department of Corrections on or after January 1, 2007, who made a written request for dental care because of acute pain and who suffered prolonged and unnecessary pain because of lack of treatment." (Mem. Op. and Order, Aug. 17, 2011 at 11.) [Dkt 93.] When certifying the plaintiff classes, the District Judge stated that "[d]amages issues can be addressed on an individualized basis if the case is resolved in favor of the plaintiff class and if damages cannot be resolved for the class as a whole, as is typical in cases of this sort." ( Id. )

Discovery deadlines

Because plaintiffs are requesting a further extension of fact discovery, it is necessary to review the number of times fact discovery has been extended in this case. On July 30, 2012, the District Judge ordered fact discovery to close on April 12, 2013. [Dkt 119.] The District Judge later referred the case to this court for discovery supervision and discovery motions [dkt 127], and on March 28, 2013, granted the plaintiffs' oral motion to extend fact discovery to June 28, 2013. [Dkt 141.] After the District Judge expanded the referral to allow this court to determine discovery cutoff dates [dkt 160], on June 13, 2013, this court struck the June 28, 2013 fact discovery cutoff and ordered the parties to propose a plan to complete discovery. [Dkt 164.] On July 17, 2013, this court ordered that "[a]ll fact discovery shall be noticed in time to be completed by 12/20/13. FIRM DATE." [Dkt 170.]

The additional dental and medical records

When the current discovery cutoff was set, the Sheriff was in the process of producing additional inmate grievances relating to dental care. Counsel for the Sheriff advised the court that 2000 grievances had been produced and that the Sheriff expected to produce an additional 500 grievances by July 31, 2013. ( Id. ) Plaintiffs were ordered to request any additional medical records relating to the dental grievances by August 30, 2013. ( Id. ) Plaintiffs requested dental treatment records for an additional 195 inmates. (Mem. Opinion and Order, October 30, 2013 at 3.) [Dkt 202.] After discussions with defendants, plaintiffs reduced this request to dental records for 167 of those inmates, but this court ordered the defendants to produce both medical and dental records for an additional 34 inmates. ( Id. at 3, 6-7.)[2] Plaintiffs have appealed that ruling to the District Judge whose decision on that is currently pending.

During a status hearing the following day, defendants' counsel discussed the upcoming "end of the year cutoff for the fact discovery." (Oct. 31, 2013, Tr. at 3.) Defendants' counsel reported that plaintiffs had noticed seven depositions and that dates had been set for five of them but there would not be a problem with completing the last two before the cutoff. ( Id. ) Plaintiffs' counsel voiced a concern that he needed the medical records the court had ordered defendants to produce in order to complete those depositions. ( Id. at 4-5.) Notably, plaintiffs' counsel did not suggest that any further discovery was going to be served. The court said that it would entertain requests to adjust the schedule into January if necessary but rejected an open-ended discovery extension, explaining:

If for reasons outside anybody's control that some discovery previously noticed can't be completed by [the end of the year] deadline, then a motion to extend the time for specific discovery is certainly appropriate, but what I will not do is I will not allow people to start renoticing things and serving new discovery after the cutoff date. This is to conclude previously noticed discovery that for good reasons could not be completed during the discovery cutoff. That's what it's for. And then that puts a fence around it.

( Id. at 5-6, 8.) According to the plaintiffs, 33 of the 34 medical and dental records were produced on December 3, 2013. (Pls.' Reply at 3.) [Dkt. 223.] ...

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