United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Eastern Division
ESTATE OF JEFFREY K. RUSSELL, Plaintiff,
WILLIAM WORTHAM, RANDY GARNER, and JAMES CAMPBELL, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment
(Doc. 49) and Plaintiff's Rule 56(d) Motion (Doc. 52).
For the reasons herein stated, the Rule 56(d) Motion is
GRANTED in part. The Court will grant
Plaintiff 21 days to substantively respond to the Motion for
Summary Judgment. Defendants have 14 days to reply
thereafter. The Court will take the Motion for Summary
Judgment under submission at that time.
originally filed his Complaint in the Northern District of
Alabama on June 26, 2015. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff filed his
Amended Complaint on February 29, 2016. (Doc. 14). The events
of the Amended Complaint stem from a tragic suicide while Mr.
Russell was in the City of Anniston municipal jail. (See
Id. at 6). Mr. Russell was booked into jail on February
20, 2014, and found unresponsive in his cell the next day.
Rule 56(d) Standard
Steele in Vision Bank v. Merritt ably states the
That rule provides that “[i]f a nonmovant shows by
affidavit or declaration that, for specified reasons, it
cannot present facts essential to justify its opposition, the
court may: (1) defer considering the motion or deny it; (2)
allow time to obtain affidavits or declarations or to take
discovery; or (3) issue any other appropriate order.”
Id. This rule is “infused with a spirit of
liberality.” Reflectone, Inc. v. Farrand Optical
Co., 862 F.2d 841, 844 (11th Cir.1989). The grant or
denial of relief under Rule 56(d) lies within the sound
discretion of the trial court. See Barfield v.
Brierton, 883 F.2d 923, 931 (11th Cir.1989).
Notwithstanding the discretionary nature of Rule 56(d), there
are black-letter limits to the exercise of that discretion.
The law of this Circuit provides that, as a general
proposition, “the party opposing a motion for summary
judgment should be permitted an adequate opportunity to
complete discovery prior to consideration of the
motion.” Jones v. City of Columbus, Ga., 120
F.3d 248, 253 (11th Cir.1997) (citations omitted); see
also Dean v. Barber, 951 F.2d 1210, 1214 (11th Cir.1992)
(“A party opposing summary judgment should be given the
opportunity to discover information relevant to the summary
judgment motion.”); Snook v. Trust Co. of Georgia
Bank of Savannah, N.A., 859 F.2d 865, 870 (11th
Cir.1988) (“summary judgment should not be granted
until the party opposing the motion has had an adequate
opportunity for discovery”); Baucom v. Sisco
Stevedoring, LLC, 506 F.Supp.2d 1064, 1067 n. 1
(S.D.Ala.2007) (reciting general rule). Thus, “[i]f the
documents or other discovery sought would be relevant to the
issues presented by the motion for summary judgment, the
opposing party should be allowed the opportunity to utilize
the discovery process to gain access to the requested
materials.” Snook, 859 F.2d at 870. Where
district courts fail to honor these principles, appellate
courts have found error. See, e.g., Jones, 120 F.3d
at 253 (district court abused its discretion in deciding
summary judgment motion where plaintiffs never had
opportunity to examine requested documents or to depose
defendant's witnesses); Dean, 951 F.2d at
1213-14 (district court abused discretion by granting summary
judgment for defendant without ruling on plaintiff's
motion to compel, such that summary judgment was entered on
potentially inadequate record).
That said, something more than a casual citation to Rule
56(d) is needed before a nonmovant may be granted relief from
a precipitous summary judgment motion. In particular, the
party seeking to delay adjudication of the motion “may
not simply rely on vague assertions that additional discovery
will produce needed, but unspecified, facts, but rather he
must specifically demonstrate how postponement of a ruling on
the motion will enable him, by discovery or other means, to
rebut the movant's showing of the absence of a genuine
issue of fact.” Reflectone, 862 F.2d at 843
(citations and internal quotations omitted).
Vision Bank v. Merritt, No. 10-0301-WS-C, 2010 WL
5474161, *2 (S.D. Ala. Dec. 8, 2010) (Steele, J.) (internal
footnotes omitted). The case goes on to state that:
A party cannot use Rule 56(d) as a springboard for a fishing
expedition or a delay tactic, but must instead specify what
documents or discovery are needed, and why those materials
are relevant to the issues raised on summary judgment.
Id. at *3.
those principles in mind, the Court turns to the motions at
hand. These motions are really the second act of the
Defendants' attempts to show the Court that the
Plaintiff's claims are barred by the statute of
limitations. The Court has previously discussed this issue,
in its opinion from last August:
In Counts I and II, Plaintiff alleges Section 1983
constitutional violations. In Count III, Plaintiff alleges
violations of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
(the “RA”) and the Americans with Disabilities
Act (the “ADA”).
All constitutional claims brought pursuant to Section 1983
are “tort actions, subject to the statute of
limitations governing personal injury actions in the state
where the § 1983 action has been brought.”
Powell v. Thomas, 643 F.3d 1300, 1303 (11th Cir.
2011) (internal citation omitted). In Alabama, that
limitations period is two years. Id. (citing
Jones v. Preuit & Mauldin, 876 F.2d 1480, 1483
(11th Cir. 1989)) (“[T]he two year limitations period .
. . applies to section 1983 actions in Alabama.”).
Similarly, for discrimination claims under the ADA and the
RA, “the applicable limitations period is governed by
the most analogous state statute of limitations . . . in
Alabama, where this action was brought, the applicable
limitations period is two ...