Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Hale v. Denton County

United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Sherman Division

November 4, 2019

SUSAN HALE; THE ESTATE OF STEPHEN McCORMACK
v.
DENTON COUNTY

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          AMOS L. MAZZANT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court are: (1) Plaintiffs Susan Hale and The Estate of Stephen McCormack's First Motion for Leave to File Amended Complaint Pursuant to Rule 15 (Dkt. #19); (2) Defendant Denton County's Motion to Stay Discovery, Motion to Quash Propounded Discovery, and Motion for Abatement of Any Order for Rule 26 Conference Pending Determination of Defendants' Motions for Judgment on the Pleadings and Asserted Immunities (Dkt. #9); (3) Defendant's Expedited Motion to Reconsider and Rescind Order Governing Proceedings (Dkt. #18); and (4) Defendant's Supplemental Motion to Stay Regarding its Expedited Motion to Reconsider and Rescind Order Governing Proceedings (Dkt. #21).

         Having considered the motions and the relevant pleadings, the Court finds that: (1) Plaintiffs' First Motion for Leave to File Amended Complaint Pursuant to Rule 15 (Dkt. #19) should be denied; (2) Defendant Denton County's Motion to Stay Discovery, Motion to Quash Propounded Discovery, and Motion for Abatement of Any Order for Rule 26 Conference Pending Determination of Defendants' Motions for Judgment on the Pleadings and Asserted Immunities (Dkt. #9) should be denied as moot; (3) Defendant's Expedited Motion to Reconsider and Rescind Order Governing Proceedings (Dkt. #18) should be denied as moot; and (4) Defendant's Supplemental Motion to Stay Regarding its Expedited Motion to Reconsider and Rescind Order Governing Proceedings (Dkt. #21) should be denied.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs allege that on August 29, 2017, officers of the Lewisville, Texas Police Department were dispatched after a complaint that Stephen McCormack was consuming illicit drugs in a public bathroom (Dkt. #1 ¶ 12). After the officers arrived and identified Mr. McCormack, Mr. McCormack was arrested and transported to the Lewisville Police Department Jail (Dkt. #1 ¶¶ 13-14). He was then transferred to the Denton County Jail at approximately 10:00 a.m. on August 31, 2017 (Dkt. #1 ¶¶ 14-15).

         After arriving at the Denton County Jail, Mr. McCormack initially denied that he used drugs, but he later admitted to GHB use (Dkt. #1 ¶ 17). However, Plaintiffs allege that Mr. McCormack exhibited clear and obvious signs of “drug intoxication and overdose” (Dkt. #1 ¶ 15). Plaintiffs assert that despite several evaluations by prison personnel and a suggestion that Mr. McCormack be taken to the hospital, nothing was done to address Mr. McCormack's quickly deteriorating medical condition (Dkt. #1 ¶¶ 16-20).

         Mr. McCormack was found unresponsive and not breathing, presumably in his cell (Dkt. #1 ¶ 21). Mr. McCormack was then transported to Medical City hospital in Denton, Texas, where he spent five days (Dkt. #1 ¶¶ 22- 23). Resuscitation efforts were unsuccessful, and Mr. McCormack was pronounced dead on September 5, 2017, due to the effects of a methamphetamine overdose (Dkt. #1 ¶¶ 23-24).

         On May 8, 2019, Plaintiff Susan Hale, both in her personal capacity and in her capacity as the personal representative of Mr. McCormack's estate, filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action for alleged violations of Mr. McCormack and Ms. Hale's constitutional rights, wrongful death, and negligence (Dkt. #1). Plaintiffs named as defendants Denton County, Sheriff Tracy Murphree, and “Does 1-50” (Dkt. #1). Plaintiffs moved for voluntary dismissal of all claims against Sheriff Murphree on September 9, 2019 (Dkt. #13). Defendants did not oppose the voluntary dismissal (Dkt. #15). The Court entered an order on October 1, 2019, dismissing Sheriff Murphree with prejudice (Dkt. #22).

         Prior to Plaintiffs' voluntary dismissal of all claims against Sheriff Murphree, Defendant filed its Motion to Stay Discovery (Dkt. #9). Defendant argued that discovery should be stayed until the Court ruled on Sheriff Murphree's entitlement to qualified or official immunity (Dkt. #9). Even after Plaintiffs asked for voluntary dismissal of all claims against Sheriff Murphree, Defendant filed its Expedited Motion to Reconsider and Rescind Order Governing Proceedings, arguing that discovery should be stayed to avoid “imping[ing] upon the County's, and indirectly, Sheriff Murphree's, entitlement to a stay of discovery until threshold immunity issues and dispositive motions have been determined” (Dkt. #18).

         On September 23, 2019, Plaintiffs filed its First Motion for Leave to File Amended Complaint Pursuant to Rule 15 (Dkt. #19). Plaintiffs' proposed First Amended Complaint removed the “Doe” defendants and replaced them with named, putative defendants who, “within the Original Complaint, were named throughout as having interacted with Stephen McCormack” (Dkt. #19 ¶ 2). Defendant responded on October 1, 2019 (Dkt. #23). Defendant also reurged its request to stay discovery, arguing that the Court should “‘stand down' on the Order Governing Proceedings” so that the Court can “clearly evaluate the best way to move forward in an orderly fashion” with regard to Defendant's “rights to immunity and dismissal” (Dkt. #21 at p. 2).

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows a party to amend its pleading once at any time before a responsive pleading is served without seeking leave of court or the consent of the adverse party. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a). After a responsive pleading is served, “a party may amend only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave.” Id. Rule 15(a) instructs the Court to “freely give leave when justice so requires.” Id. The rule “evinces a bias in favor of granting leave to amend.” Jones v. Robinson Prop. Grp., L.P., 427 F.3d 987, 994 (5th Cir. 2005) (quoting Lyn-Lea Travel Corp. v. Am. Airlines, Inc., 283 F.3d 282, 286 (5th Cir. 2002)).

         But leave to amend “is not automatic.” Matagorda Ventures, Inc. v. Travelers Lloyds Ins. Co., 203 F.Supp.2d 704, 718 (S.D. Tex. 2000) (citing Dussouy v. Gulf Coast Inv. Corp., 660 F.2d 594, 598 (5th Cir. 1981)). Whether to allow amendment “lies within the sound discretion of the district court.” Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 952 F.2d 841, 845-46 (5th Cir. 1992). A district court reviewing a motion to amend pleadings under Rule 15(a) may consider “whether there has been ‘undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive, . . . undue prejudice to the opposing party, and futility of amendment.'” Jacobsen v. Osborne, 133 F.3d 315, 318 (5th Cir. 1998) (quoting In re Southmark Corp., 88 F.3d 311, 314-15 (5th Cir. 1996)).

         The Court has discretion to deny a request to amend if amendment would be futile. Stripling v. Jordan Prod. Co., 234 F.3d 863, 872-73 (5th Cir. 2000) (citation omitted). Futility in the Rule 15(a) context means that the complaint, once amended, would still fail to state a claim upon ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.