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Breidenbach v. Lopez

March 26, 2010

ANTHONY J. BREIDENBACH, #305704, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NURSE VICKIE LOPEZ, SOPHIA TRIPLETT, DEPUTY ABBUHL, DEPUTY SANFORD, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stephen J. Murphy, III United States District Judge

HONORABLE STEPHEN J. MURPHY, III

ORDER ACCEPTING AND ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION (docket 135)

This is a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in which plaintiff, Anthony Breidenbach, has named Nurse Vickie Lopez, Sophia Triplett, Deputy Abbuhl and Deputy Sanford as Defendants. Before the Court are defendants' motion for summary judgment (docket no. 126), filed August 26, 2009, plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment (docket no. 128), also filed on August 26, 2009, and the Report and Recommendation of Magistrate Judge R. Steven Whalen (docket no. 135), filed on February 9, 2010. The magistrate judge's Report and Recommendation recommended that plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment be denied, and that defendants' motion for summary judgment be granted as to defendants Lopez, Abbuhl and Sanford, but be denied as to defendant Triplett. The Magistrate Judge also notified the parties that any objections must be filed within fourteen days of service, and the filing of objections that raise some issues but fail to raise others with specificity will not preserve all objections a party might have to the Report and Recommendation.

A District Court's standard of review for a magistrate judge's report and recommendation depends upon whether a party files objections. With respect to portions of a report and recommendation that no party objects to, the Court need not undertake any review at all. Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 150 (1985). On the other hand, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a district court "must determine de novo any part of the magistrate judge's disposition that has been properly objected to. The district judge may accept, reject, or modify the recommended disposition; receive further evidence; or return the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions." Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(3); see also 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) ("A judge of the court shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made."). Thus, the Court will conduct de novo review of the portions of the Report and Recommendation to which the parties have made specific objection to the extent necessary to resolve the motions.

De novo review in these circumstances requires at least a review of the evidence before the Magistrate Judge; the Court may not act solely on the basis of a Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation. See 12 Wright, Miller & Marcus, Federal Practice and Procedure: Civil 2d § 3070.2 (1997); see also Hill v. Duriron Co., 656 F.2d 1208, 1215 (6th Cir. 1981). The Court may supplement the record by entertaining additional evidence, but is not required to do so. 12 Wright, Federal Practice § 3070.2. After reviewing the evidence, the Court is free to accept, reject, or modify the findings or recommendations of the Magistrate Judge. Lardie v. Birkett, 221 F. Supp. 2d 806, 807 (E..D. Mich. 2002). If the Court accepts a Report and Recommendation, the Court is not required to state with specificity what it reviewed; it is sufficient for the Court to state that it engaged in a de novo review of the record and adopts the Report and Recommendation. See id.; 12 Wright, Federal Practice § 3070.2.

ANALYSIS

A. Defendants T. Sanford and Deputy Abbuhl

The plaintiff did not contest the motion for summary judgment as to defendants Abbuhl and Sanford, and on this basis the magistrate judge recommended that defendants' motion for summary judgment be granted as to Abbuhl and Sanford. No party has objected to this portion of the Report and Recommendation, and therefore the Court will adopt this portion of the Report and Recommendation, and will grant defendants' motion for summary judgment as to Abbuhl and Sanford, and dismiss all claims against defendants Abbuhl and Sanford with prejudice.

B. Defendant Sofia Triplett

Sophia Triplett was Program Services Inmate Caseworker with the Oakland County Sheriff's Office in 1999 at the time when Breidenbach attempted suicide. The plaintiff has filed a motion for summary judgment against Triplett, arguing that there no genuine issue of material fact to dispute the contention that her deliberate indifference to his mental state was responsible for his suicide attempt. (docket no. 128). Triplett's cross-motion for summary judgment (docket no. 126) argues that, as a matter of law her conduct did not amount to deliberate indifference or gross negligence and that she is entitled to dismissal on the basis of qualified immunity.

The magistrate judge recommended that the Court deny both plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment as to Triplett and Triplett's cross-motion for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, this part of the Report and Recommendation will be affirmed and adopted.

1. Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment as to Triplett

In his motion, Breidenbach argues that summary judgment in his favor should be found against defendant Sophia Triplett because there is no genuine issue of material fact that her deliberate indifference to plaintiff's mental state when he was in custody was responsible for his suicide attempt. The Magistrate Judge recommended that Breidenbach's summary judgment be denied on two separate grounds: first, because there was sufficient evidence to create a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Defendant Triplett's actions rose to the level of deliberate indifference, and, second, on the basis of the law of the case doctrine, because the Court had already determined, in its order dated March 30, 2007, that material issues of fact precluded summary judgment for the plaintiff on the grounds of qualified immunity. (docket nos. 100, 135). Breidenbach filed specific objections to the report and recommendation, arguing that the magistrate judge's report and recommendation misapplied the law on qualified immunity. (docket no. 137). Breidenbach did not, however, object to that portion of the Report and Recommendation that recommended denying summary judgment based on the law of the case.

"'Issues decided at an early stage of litigation, either explicitly or by necessary inference from the disposition, constitute the law of the case." Coal Resources, Inc. v. Gulf & Western Indus., Inc., 865 F.2d 761, 766 (6th Cir. 1989) (quoting Kori Corp. v. Wilco Marsh Buggies & Draglines, Inc., 761 F.2d 649, 657 (Fed Cir.), cert. denied, 474 U.S. 902 (1985)). The doctrine applies unless one of three "exceptional circumstances" exists: the evidence in a subsequent trial was substantially different, controlling authority has since made a contrary decision fo law applicable, or the earlier decision was clearly erroneous and would work a substantial injustice. Id. The magistrate judge recommended that the plaintiff's motion should be denied as to Triplett under the law of the case doctrine because the Court has already denied plaintiff's motion for summary judgment as to Triplett, finding that material issues of fact precluded summary judgment for the plaintiff against Triplett. See docket no. 95 (Report and Recommendation) and docket no. 100 (Order Accepting and Adopting Report and Recommendation and Denying Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment). Breidenbach does not specifically object to this portion of the Report and Recommendation and therefore has not preserved review of this recommendation by this Court. The law of the case doctrine applies here and is ...


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