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Munter v. Schmidt

United States District Court, D. Montana, Butte Division

October 3, 2018

JENNIFER MUNTER a/k/a JENNY MUNTER, Plaintiff,
v.
MEAGAN SCHMIDT, Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          BRIAN MORRIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         Defendant Meagan Schmidt filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on April 6, 2018. (Doc. 14.) Plaintiff Jennifer Munter filed her response on April 27, 2018. (Doc. 27.) The Court held a motion hearing on June 7, 2018. (Doc. 43.) Trial is presently scheduled for October 15, 2018, at the Mike Mansfield Courthouse in Butte, Montana.

         BACKGROUND

         Schmidt and Munter were involved in a traffic accident on March 2, 2014. (Doc. 15 at 6.) Schmidt rear-ended Munter while Munter was stopped at a stop light on Huffine Lane in Bozeman, Montana. (Doc. 15 at 6); (Doc. 27 at 1-2.) Schmidt has accepted full responsibility for the accident. (Doc. 15 at 6.) Munter alleges that she “suffered a neck injury in the collision.” (Doc. 27 at 2.) Munter claims that she has had to undergo “medical treatment, chiropractic treatment, physical therapy, and acupuncture.” (Doc. 27 at 2.) Schmidt disagrees that the collision caused Munter's alleged neck injury. (Doc. 15 at 6.) As a result, the parties dispute causation and damages. (Doc. 15 at 6.)

         The Court set a Scheduling Order on July 12, 2017. (Doc. 12.) Munter and Schmidt subsequently exchanged Rule 26(a) initial disclosures. (Doc. 15 at 6.) Munter's initial disclosure stated that she may seek future medical damages in an amount “[t]o be determined.” (Doc. 15 at 6-7.) Munter and Schmidt exchanged expert witness disclosures on December 8, 2017. (Doc. 15 at 8.) Munter listed her treating physicians. (Doc. 15 at 8.) Munter did not provide any separate expert reports. (Doc. 15 at 8.)

         Dr. Katharine Athans, a chiropractor in Belgrade, Montana, serves as one of Munter's treating doctors. (Doc. 27 at 2.) Dr. Athans has stated in her chart notes that Munter “is considered chronic with high probability of no full recovery- but has shown improvement since changing her lifestyle and trying new modalities in the last year.” (Doc. 29-3 at 6.) Dr. Althans recently authored a report on April 26, 2018. (Doc. 29-3 at 14.)

         Dr. Althans's report consequently was disclosed to Schmidt one day before Munter's response to Schmidt's motion for partial summary judgment was due. (Doc. 34 at 2.) Dr. Althans's April 26, 2018, report states that Munter's “symptoms and reactions to treatment correlate to a complex whiplash which is not chronic condition, it is likely she will need Chiropractic treatment on an average of once every 3 weeks indefinitely.” (Doc. 29-3 at 15.)

         Munter currently receives chiropractic treatment approximately once a month. (Doc. 27 at 3.) Munter is expected to need chiropractic treatments every three to four weeks indefinitely. (Doc. 27 at 3.) Munter currently pays $61.00 per chiropractic treatment. (Doc. 27 at 3.) Dr. Gene Slocum and other medical practitioners at Bridger Orthopedic and Sports Medicine in Bozeman, Montana, also treat Munter. (Doc. 27 at 3-4.) Munter has received multiple injection therapies at Bridger Orthopedic. (Doc. 27 at 4.) Munter has provided her medical records and bills to Schmidt. (Doc. 27 at 4.)

         Schmidt moved the Court for partial summary judgment in her favor against Munter on her claim for future medical damages pursuant to Celotex Corporation v. Catrett. (Doc. 15 at 5.) Schmidt contends that Munter “lacks the required, properly disclosed supporting medical opinion to create a triable fact question” on Munter's future medical damages claim. (Doc. 15 at 5.) Schmidt contends that Munter's initial Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26 disclosure was inadequate. (Doc. 15 at 16.) Schmidt further contends that Munter needed to disclose a separate expert report because Munter's medical records do not mention future medical treatment and/or damages. (Doc. 15 at 10.) Schmidt finally contends that the medical report filed on April 26, 2018, even if it is considered an expert report, proves untimely because she filed it two months after the close of discovery. (Doc. 34 at 2.)

         Munter disputes Schmidt's claims. Munter argues that the opinions of her treating physicians made these opinions during Munter's treatment. (Doc. 27 at 6.) In support, Munter claims that future medical damages were discussed in those reports authored while Munter was being treated for her alleged neck injury. (Doc.27 at 7-8.) Munter further contends that her Rule 26(a)(2)(C) disclosures were adequate. (Doc. 27 at 10.) Specifically, Munter states that she “provided the (1) subject matter of the treating physician's testimony and evidence and (2) a summary of the facts and opinions to which her providers are expected to testify.” (Doc. 27 at 10.) Munter argues, however, that even if her disclosures under Rule 26 were inadequate, those inadequate disclosures are substantially justified or harmless to Schmidt pursuant to Rule 37(c)(1). (Doc. 27 at 15.)

         LEGAL STANDARDS

         A party may move for summary judgment on all or part of a claim. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). If no genuine dispute of material fact exists, then summary judgment is proper, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The Court will grant summary judgment where the documentary evidence produced by the parties only permits one conclusion. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986).

         A moving party, who does not carry the burden of proof at trial, carries the “initial burden of production” on a summary judgment motion. Nissan Fire & Marine Insurance Company, LTD v. Fritz Companies, Inc., 210 F.3d 1099, 1102 (2000). The movant may fulfill her initial burden of production in one of two ways. Id., at 1106. The movant may produce “affirmative evidence negating an essential element of the nonmoving party's claim.” Id., at 1103. The movant alternatively may show that the “nonmoving party did not have enough evidence to carry” her burden of proof at trial. Id. If the movant meets her burden of production, the nonmovant must produce evidence to support her claim. Id. Rule 56 mandates summary judgment where the nonmovant's production of evidence does not create a genuine issue of material fact. Id. If the movant fails to meet her initial burden of production, then the nonmovant may defeat the motion for summary judgment without producing any evidence. Id.

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26 governs disclosure of computations of damages. A party, before a discovery request, must provide the other party with “a computation of each category of damages claimed by the disclosing party.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(a)(1)(A)(iii). The party must “also make available for inspection and copying . . . the documents or other evidentiary material” on which the computation is based. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(a)(1)(A)(iii). Disclosing parties must “supplement their prior disclosures in a ‘timely manner' when the prior response is ...


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