United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
ROOSEVELT M. WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
JUDY SMITH, JEFFREY L. FREUNA, CAREY A. HALVERSON, CHRISTOPHER MUSHA, KEITH E. POND, RUSSELL J. POTRATZ, ERIC D. SCHROEDER, JAMES A. ZANON, SANDY HABECK, and DESIGN SPECIALTIES, INC., Defendants.
D. PETERSON, DISTRICT JUDGE.
Roosevelt M. Williams, a prisoner at the Columbia
Correctional Institution, is proceeding on Eighth Amendment
and state-law claims that defendant prison officials allowed
him to eat a meal off of a food tray that was damaged,
resulting in him ingesting particles from the tray and
becoming seriously ill. He is also proceeding on a state-law
products liability claim against defendant Design
Specialties, Inc. Williams has filed several motions
regarding discovery, and he also seeks an extension or stay
of his deadline to respond to Design Specialties' motion
for summary judgment.
Williams has filed two motions for sanctions against
non-defendant prison officials for failing to timely provide
him with materials he requested. Dkt. 59 and Dkt. 85. In his
first motion, he says that officials dawdled in allowing him
access to review his medical records. The parties'
submissions appear to show that Williams first requested to
review his records in mid-March 2017, but the parties dispute
whether he was able to view his records on April 20. In any
event, defendants argue that delays were caused by
Williams's movement between segregation and general
population, his unavailability for a scheduled review
session, and his failure to explain that a review should be
expedited because he had court deadlines to meet.
time of Williams's reply brief, he admits that he was
allowed to view his records on June 15, but I take him to be
saying that this review session was unreasonably late to meet
a June 16 court deadline. It is unclear what he means by
this-the only deadline set for this day was the original
objections-to-motions-in-limine deadline, which was pushed
back after I allowed him to add Design Specialties as a
defendant. Perhaps he means a deadline to respond to
defendants' discovery requests, but there has been no
follow-up motion to compel filed by defendants, and I would
not grant such a motion given the circumstances.
because Williams was in fact allowed to review his records,
he shifts the focus of his reply brief to prison
officials' failure to allow him to use a legal loan to
make copies of certain medical records needed to respond to
Design Specialties' discovery requests. He followed up
with a second motion for sanctions in which he explains this
denial further. Defendants state that prison policy requires
a prisoner to justify his loan request by including
documentation showing what the copies are needed for. They
state that Williams's early requests did not include this
justification but that in late July he submitted a proper
request, and that the state would approve his loan request.
In his reply, Williams says that the delay was the product of
retribution by prison officials for him filing lawsuits
against prison employees.
deny both motions for sanctions. Williams indeed received
access to his materials in June and copies of the materials
in August, so he does not appear to have been prejudiced by
the delays, even if they were the result of malicious
behavior on the part of the non-defendants he discusses.
There is no need to consider forcing non-defendants to give
Williams materials they have already turned over. Williams
seeks monetary sanctions as well, but the non-defendants have
not violated a court order, and his claims of retaliation do
not belong in this lawsuit. So there is no reason to consider
the relatively drastic step of imposing a fine on a
raises a more serious problem with his ability to litigate
this action in a motion to extend his deadline to respond to
Design Specialties' motion for summary judgment. Dkt. 73.
In that motion he states that prison staff confiscated his
legal materials from his jailhouse lawyer, Oscar McMillian,
and he seeks a temporary restraining order forcing CCI staff
to return him his materials. I would not consider doing so
without hearing from the state, so his motion is denied as
far as a request for a TRO is concerned.
motion in part focuses on the process McMillian received in
disciplinary proceedings after being charged with violating
prison rules on the amount of legal materials allowed in his
cell. But McMillian's concerns about due process in his
disciplinary proceedings belong in a separate lawsuit.
Williams has a right to access the courts, and he will not
realistically be able to do so without his legal materials.
In their response, defendants say that they do not know
whether the documents that have been seized from McMillian
include Williams's documents, but-contrary to
Williams's assertion that the documents would be
destroyed- those documents are in storage, and "[i]f
Williams would like to determine the status of the documents
seized from McMillian and request any of his own legal
documents, he should contact Housing Unit Manager Fink."
Dkt. 79, at 2. I take this to mean that the state would
return Williams's documents to him if he asked. But in a
document he calls a supplement to his reply,  Williams states
that he has already been in contact with Fink. He submits an
interview request form addressed to the warden complaining
about his materials being confiscated and stating that his
litigation was "interrupted" by it. Dkt. 83-1, at
3. Fink responded for the warden, stating that McMillian was
given a conduct report for possessing excessive legal
materials, and that inmates are required to share materials
between themselves through the U.S. Mail, rather than
internal prison routing. Id. Although Williams did
not explicitly ask Fink for the materials in his interview
request form, it was clearly implied, and he has reiterated
that desire through his motion here. The state seems to agree
that it would return the materials to Williams if he asked,
and at this point, I consider him to have done so. The
parties should be able to resolve this issue without further
court intervention. I will give the state a short period of
time to work with Williams to comply with his request, or
show cause why I should not issue an injunction ordering the
return of those documents.
has filed a motion to compel Design Specialties to produce
previous complaints about "delamination" of the
types of food trays at issue here, any lawsuits filed about
the trays being defective, and "product design safety
consult approval review" records. Dkt. 67. He also wants
Design Specialties to pay a $350 sanction for withholding
this information. Design Specialties responded to
Williams's request by stating that it did not manufacture
the trays (its position at summary judgment is that it merely
sold the trays and that Williams failed to sue the correct
defendant for the products liability claim, a company named
Rogers Manufacturing), that it simply is unaware of other
lawsuits regarding the trays, and that it does not have the
documents he seeks.
is entitled to discover documents in Design Specialties'
"possession, custody, or control." Fed R. Civ. P.
34(a)(1). Between his motion to compel and his motions for an
extension or stay of his summary judgment response deadline,
Dkt. 73 and Dkt. 92, Williams theorizes that Design
Specialties "controls" this information and should
be able to obtain it because it is a subsidiary of Rogers
Manufacturing. It is possible that a close relationship
between Rogers and Design Specialties could lead to Design
Specialties having control over information in Rogers's
possession. See Wachovia Sec., LLC v. Loop Corp.,
No. 05-cv-3788, 2008 WL 2625907, at *2 (N.D. 111. June 27,
2008) ("A party's control over documents in the
possession of a corporate affiliate 'rests on a
determination of whether the defendant has practical and
actual managerial control over, or shares such control with,
its affiliate, regardless of the formalities of corporate
organization.'" (quoting Westinghouse Elec.
Corp. v. Rio Algom Ltd., 480 F.Supp. 1138, 1145 (N.D.
111. 1979)). Williams says that he needs more time to conduct
discovery into this relationship. There is already evidence
suggesting that the two entities are closely linked. A Rogers
"Product Evaluation Form" regarding the trays
includes a notation "Bus Div: Design Sp, " which
Williams takes to mean that Design Specialties is a division
of Rogers. Dkt. 54-2. An email from the president of Design
Specialties to the state asks pointed questions about how the
DOC handles trays, stating that "Our factory
has information about your order and checking to see the
batch of material and the operator who ran the order."
Dkt. 54-3 (emphasis added). I also note that Design
Specialties' website states that it "is a
manufacturer of reusable plastic tableware items
such as flatware, tumblers compartment trays and
dishes." Design Specialties, Inc., Products,
www.designspecialties.org/products.html (emphasis added).
None of this decisively shows that Design Specialties is in
control of the types of information Williams seeks, so I will
deny his motion to compel for now. But he is still free to
file new discovery requests aimed at understanding this
issue. From the discovery documents Williams has placed on
the docket, it looks like he has already made those requests.
If it turns out that Design Specialties' prior discovery
responses were made in bad faith, Roosevelt can seek an
precise nature of the relationship between Design Specialties
and Rogers may also affect whether Williams can meet specific
elements of the Wisconsin product liability statute.
Wis.Stat. § 895.047 (stating elements for claims against
either manufacturer or distributor). I will grant
Williams's motion for an extension of time to file his
response for two reasons: he would benefit from the return of
his legal documents, and it is appropriate to give him more
time to conduct discovery about the Design Specialties-Rogers