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Harrington v. City of Chicago

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

November 14, 2016

MARCUS HARRINGTON, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, and CHICAGO POLICE OFFICERS DEREK DUSZAK, Star # 10658, and JAIME WEBER, Star # 19588, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          John Z. Lee United States District Judge

         On November 18, 2013, Plaintiff Marcus Harrington sued Defendants, Chicago Police Officers Derek Duszak and Jaime Weber, for violating his constitutional rights and maliciously prosecuting him in violation of state law. Ultimately, the case proceeded to a jury trial on claims of excessive force as to both officers and failure to intervene as against Officer Duszak. On April 15, 2016, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Officers Duszak and Weber.

         Plaintiff now moves for post-trial discovery and a new trial based on alleged discovery misconduct by Defendants and evidentiary decisions of this Court that Plaintiff considers erroneous. For the reasons provided below, Plaintiff's motions for post-trial discovery [157] and a new trial [160] are denied.

         Background

         Plaintiff identifies six problems that he believes, both independently and cumulatively, necessitate a new trial. The first problem pertains to Injury-on-Duty Reports detailing injuries Officers Duszak and Weber suffered in the incident giving rise to this case. See Pls.' Am. Mem. Supp. Mot. New Trial 2-4. Plaintiff explains that, despite requesting these reports in discovery, they were not produced. Id. at 2-3. When their existence came to light at trial, the Court ordered Defendants to produce the reports and presented Plaintiff with various options to utilize them. Id. at 3-4. Plaintiff declined. Id. at 4. In Plaintiff's view, Defendants' delayed production violated the discovery rules and prejudiced his presentation at trial. Plaintiff seeks post-trial discovery to determine why the reports were not produced.

         The second problem that Plaintiff identifies also involves Defendants' purported failure to satisfy their duty to disclose material in discovery. At issue in this instance, however, are Complaint Register files pertaining to Officer Duszak that Plaintiff believes were fairly requested but not produced. Id. at 4.

         The final four problems Plaintiff identifies relate to evidentiary decisions the Court made at or before trial. These decisions were: (1) to permit evidence of the firearm that Plaintiff was carrying when the altercation at issue in this case occurred; (2) to permit evidence of Plaintiff's 2012 conviction for unlawful aggravated use of a firearm; (3) to order and permit Defendants to show a videotaped deposition of Lieutenant Roche, a witness for Defendants who could not attend the trial; and (4) to prohibit Plaintiff from suggesting in closing argument that Defendants' actions were motivated by Plaintiff's race. Id. at 4-6, 21. Plaintiff believes each of these decisions was erroneous and prejudicial.

         Legal Standard

         Plaintiff has moved for a new trial on the basis of Federal Rules of Procedure 59(a), 60(b)(1), and 60(b)(3). Following a jury trial, a court may grant a new trial “for any reason for which a new trial has heretofore been granted in an action at law in federal court.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(a). Reason to grant a new trial arises “if the verdict is against the clear weight of the evidence or the trial was unfair to the moving party.” David v. Caterpillar, Inc., 324 F.3d 851, 863 (7th Cir. 2003). The movant faces a heavy burden and must demonstrate that “‘no rational jury' could have rendered the verdict.” Moore ex rel. Estate of Grady v. Tuelja, 546 F.3d 423, 427 (7th Cir. 2008) (quoting King v. Harrington, 447 F.3d 531, 534 (7th Cir. 2006)).[1]

         Analysis

         I. Injury-on-Duty Reports

         Plaintiff first argues that Defendants' failure to disclose the Injury-on Duty (IOD) Reports at issue violated Rules 26(e) and 26(g), and a new trial is therefore warranted. Under Rule 26(e), “A party who has made a disclosure under Rule 26(a) . . . must supplement or correct its disclosure or response . . . in a timely manner if the party learns that in some material respect the disclosure or response is incomplete or incorrect, and if the additional or corrective information has not otherwise been made known to the other parties . . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(e). Additionally, under Rule 26(g), every discovery response must be signed by an attorney of record, thereby certifying-to the best of the attorney's “knowledge, information, and belief formed after reasonable inquiry”-that the response is rule-compliant. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(g). Attorney misconduct in the discovery process, including violations of Rule 26, can warrant a new trial. See Brandt v. Vulcan, Inc., 30 F.3d 752, 758 (7th Cir. 1994). A new trial is “dramatic relief, ” however, and is not warranted unless the movant demonstrates (1) attorney misconduct occurred and (2) prejudice resulted that necessitates a new trial. Id.

         As a preliminary matter, the Court will assume for the purposes of deciding this motion that attorney misconduct occurred in violation of Rules 26(e) and 26(g). Defendants have conceded that the IOD Reports fell within the scope of Plaintiff's initial production requests, Defs.' Resp. Pl.'s Mot. New Trial 4, and gone as far as to admit, “There is no question the City should have produced the IOD Reports prior to trial.” Defs.' Resp. Pl.'s Mot. Post-Trial Discov. 5. While some courts have held that a party cannot violate Rule 26(e) unless it actually learns of new information, e.g., Jones v. Walters, No. 12-CV-5283, 2016 WL 1756908, at *9 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 29, 2016), the better view is that Rule 26 requires a party to disclose not only known information, but also information “he or she should have been aware of.” 6 James Wm. Moore, et al., Moore's Federal Practice § 26.131[3] (3d ed. 2015); see also 8A Charles Alan Wright, et al., Federal Practice and Procedure § 2049.1 & n.4 (3d ed. 2010) (stating that “[a]lthough it is important to avoid traps for the unwary or innocently ignorant, courts look with disfavor on claims that counsel did not recognize that important new items of information should be disclosed, ” and collecting cases).

         Defendants seem to accept this view, admitting that “with the benefit of hindsight, a better practice would have been [for Defendants] to re-check their production responses, shortly before trial, to see if the reports existed and had been produced.” Defs.' Resp. Pl.'s Mot. New Trial 5. The Court agrees. Rule 26(e) does not permit Defendants to hide behind the efforts of past counsel, id. at 4, nor to pass blame to Plaintiff by demanding more than the rules of discovery require. Id. at 5- 6; see Moore's Federal Practice, supra, at § 26.131[3] (“The duty to supplement does not depend on repeated requests by ...


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