Weiland v. City of Concord et al

Filing 24

ORDER RE: DISCOVERY LETTER BRIEF 23 . Signed by Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley on August 7, 2014. (jsclc2, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 8/7/2014)

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1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 6 7 8 9 10 WALTHER WEILAND, Case No. 13-cv-05570-JSC Plaintiff, v. CITY OF CONCORD, et al., Defendants. ORDER RE: DISCOVERY LETTER BRIEF Re: Dkt. No. 23 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 12 13 Plaintiff Walther Weiland alleges that Defendants violated his civil rights during an 14 incident wherein he was arrested by an off-duty police officer for Defendant City of Concord 15 following a traffic accident. Now pending before the Court is Defendants’ request to compel 16 production of Plaintiff’s unredacted medical records for the five years preceding the incident 17 through the present. After carefully considering the arguments and briefing submitted, the Court 18 concludes that oral argument is unnecessary, see Civ. L.R. 7-1(b), and GRANTS the motion in 19 part. Balancing Plaintiff’s privacy rights against the relevance of this evidence to Plaintiff’s 20 damages claims, the Court orders Plaintiff to produce unredacted medical (not mental health) 21 records from 2008 to the present. 22 23 BACKGROUND On February 17, 2013, Plaintiff Walther Weiland was involved in a traffic accident with 24 Defendant Kevin Mansourian, an off-duty police officer for the City of Concord. The parties 25 dispute who caused the accident, but it is undisputed that after the accident the parties pulled over 26 to the side of the road. Plaintiff contends that Defendant Mansourian, who was not wearing a 27 uniform, thereafter approached Plaintiff screaming profanities, identifying himself as a police 28 officer, and stating that Plaintiff was under arrest. (Dkt. No. 1 ¶ 18.) When Plaintiff asked to see 1 Defendant Mansourian’s badge, Plaintiff alleges that Mansourian violently assaulted Plaintiff 2 slamming him to the ground face-first and placing Plaintiff in a control hold with his hands behind 3 his back and Defendant Mansourian on top of him with his knee in Plaintiff’s back. (Id. ¶ 18-19.) 4 Plaintiff asserts that he requested that Defendant Mansourian take his weight off him because he 5 has a stent in his heart. (Id. ¶ 20.) Defendant contends that Plaintiff resisted arrest so he took 6 Plaintiff to the ground and restrained him for about five minutes until the California Highway 7 Patrol arrived. (Dkt. No. 14 ¶ 5.) 8 9 Plaintiff alleges that he suffered severe physical injuries as a result of this incident, including but not limited to a radial head fracture of his right arm, bruised ribs, cuts, and lacerations. (Dkt. No. 1 ¶ 32.) He brings claims against Defendant Mansourian, the City of 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 Concord, and City of Concord Chief of Police Guy Swanger for violation of his civil rights under 12 state and federal law, as well as various state law claims. Plaintiff seeks compensatory and 13 punitive damages. 14 Although formal discovery has not yet begun, as part of Plaintiff’s initial disclosures he 15 produced redacted versions of his Kaiser medical records from February 17, 2013 to the present. 16 Defendants seek unredacted versions of his medical records from 2008 through the present. 17 DISCUSSION 18 Rule 26 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes discovery “regarding any 19 matter, not privileged, that is relevant to the claim or defense of any party.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 20 26(b)(1). A party who resists discovery has the burden of demonstrating that it should not be 21 allowed. Oakes v. Halvorseen Marine Ltd., 179 F.R.D. 281, 283 (C.D. Cal. 1998) (citation 22 omitted). As reflected by the language of Rule 26, a party may fulfill this burden by making a 23 proper assertion of privilege. See Oakes, 179 F.R.D. at 284 (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(5); Walt 24 Disney Co. v. DeFabiis, 168 F.R.D. 281, 283 (C.D. Cal. 1996)). 25 Defendants seek Plaintiff’s complete Kaiser medical records and bills from February 17, 26 2008 through the present. Plaintiff agrees that some of his medical records are relevant here, but 27 objects to producing his complete medical records on privacy and relevance grounds. Plaintiff 28 agrees that medical records relating to his right arm, right shoulder, hearing aid, and the existence 2 1 of his heart stent are relevant. Thus, on July 28, 2014, Plaintiff produced redacted medical records 2 from February 17, 2008 to the present that relate to Plaintiff’s right arm, right shoulder, hearing 3 air, ribs and cuts, lacerations and/or bruises. Defendants object to Plaintiff’s redactions and seek 4 all of Plaintiff’s medical and mental health records from February 2008 to the present. 5 A party enjoys privacy rights in his medical records generally. See Bertram v. Sizelove, 6 2012 WL 273083, at *2 (E.D. Cal. Jan. 30, 2012). A party may nonetheless waive these privacy 7 rights by putting the contents at issue in a case. Smith v. Solano Cnty., 2012 WL 3727332, at *1 8 (E.D. Cal. Aug. 24, 2012); Bertram, 2012 WL 273083, at *3. Any waiver, however, is “limited to 9 the private information that is relevant to the lawsuit.” Enwere v. Terman Associates, L.P., 2008 10 WL 5146617, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 4, 2008) (citation omitted). United States District Court Northern District of California 11 Plaintiff seeks compensation for physical and emotional damages that he allegedly suffered 12 because of Defendants’ actions. By bringing this lawsuit, Plaintiff has placed at issue the extent of 13 his injuries and therefore waived his privacy rights as to his medical records. Defendants are 14 entitled to reasonable discovery that will shed light on the nature of Plaintiff’s alleged injuries and 15 on the sources that proximately gave rise to those injuries. And, as Defendants argue, some of 16 those records may also be relevant to what happened that day and why. The problem with 17 Plaintiff’s position is that it leaves it entirely up to Plaintiff to decide what records are or are not 18 relevant. Defendants’ expert may have a different view from Plaintiff or Plaintiff’s expert as to 19 what is relevant. Defendants will be deprived of the opportunity to develop such evidence if 20 Plaintiff’s view of what is relevant automatically prevails. 21 The protective order properly balances Plaintiff’s privacy interests with Defendants’ right 22 to potentially relevant discovery. While there may be some medical records that are clearly not 23 relevant (such as OB Gyn records in some cases), Plaintiff has not identified any such records 24 here. Accordingly, subject to the protective order, Plaintiff must produce unredacted versions of 25 his medical records as requested. 26 Defendants, however, have not demonstrated that they are entitled to discovery of 27 Plaintiff’s mental health records given that he only seeks garden variety emotional distress 28 damages. See Valiavacharska v. Celaya, No. 10-4847, 2011 WL 4479341, at *3-4 (N.D. Cal. 3 1 Sept. 26, 2011) (granting a motion to quash where plaintiff only sought garden variety emotional 2 distress). CONCLUSION 3 4 5 For the reasons explained above, Defendants’ motion to compel is granted in part. Plaintiff shall produce unredacted medical records from 2008 through the present. 6 To the extent that future discovery disputes arise, the parties are reminded that under the 7 Court’s Standing Order discovery letter briefs are to be no more than 8 pages and the letter brief 8 and all attachments thereto shall be e-filed under the Civil Events category of “Motions and 9 Related Filings > Motions – General > Discovery Letter Brief.” This Order disposes of Docket No. 23. 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 IT IS SO ORDERED. 12 13 14 Dated: August 7, 2014 ______________________________________ JACQUELINE SCOTT CORLEY United States Magistrate Judge 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 4

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