HARCUM v. LEBLANC

Filing 52

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER, FILED. SIGNED BY MAGISTRATE JUDGE ELIZABETH T. HEY ON 7/15/10. 7/16/10 ENTERED AND COPIES MAILED TO PRO SE AND E-MAILED.(fb)

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HARCUM v. LEBLANC Doc. 52 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT F O R THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA D A R R E N HARCUM v. M A R C E L LEBLANC : : : : : : C IV IL ACTION N O . 09-2512 M E M O R A N D U M AND ORDER E L IZ A B E T H T. HEY U N IT E D STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE In this action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983, pro se Plaintiff Darren H a rc u m ("Plaintiff") seeks damages against Defendant Marcel LeBlanc ("Defendant") for in ju rie s allegedly sustained on November 16, 2008, in the State Correctional Institution in G ra te rf o rd , Pennsylvania ("Graterford"), where Plaintiff resided as an inmate and D e f e n d a n t worked as a corrections officer.1 Presently before the court are Plaintiff's first a n d second motions to compel discovery (Docs. 41 & 43).2 For the following reasons, P la in tif f 's first motion to compel discovery will be denied without prejudice, and P la in tif f 's second motion to compel discovery will be granted in part and denied in part. This case was originally assigned to the Honorable William H. Yohn. Judge Y o h n referred the matter to me for all proceedings upon the consent of the parties. See D o c s . 20 & 22. P la in tif f also filed a motion to compel signatures (Doc. 46), seeking to have d e p o n e n ts sign their answers to Plaintiff's written questions. On July14, 2010, Plaintiff w ith d re w the motion because "the problem has been remedied." Doc. 51. 2 1 Dockets.Justia.com I. R E L E V A N T FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY P la in tif f was an inmate at Graterford at the time relevant to his allegations, and he re m a in s so at present. See Amended Complaint ("Doc. 18") at 1. On December 28, 2 0 0 9 , Plaintiff filed an amended complaint asserting Eighth Amendment violations for e x c e s s iv e force arising from an incident during which Plaintiff reached through a slot of h is cell door and grabbed a chair. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant stabbed P la in tif f 's arm with keys until he released the chair, and kicked him, and that medical tre a tm e n t was delayed. See Doc. 18. By Memorandum and Order dated May 6, 2010, I d is m is s e d the excessive force claim as it relates to Defendant's use of keys, as well as P la in tif f 's claim for delayed medical treatment.3 See Doc. 36. M e a n w h ile , on March 15, 2010, Plaintiff filed a motion for leave of court to c o n d u c t depositions by written questions, and submitted proposed questions (referred to a s "interrogatories") for Officer Robinson, Lieutenant Radle and Officer Singleton. See D o c . 26. Counsel for Defendant did not file a timely response to the motion and informed m y chambers that he did not oppose the motion or any of the specific questions Plaintiff h a d drafted for any of the deponents. I granted Plaintiff's motion by Order dated April 2 3 , 2010. See Doc. 30. Thereafter, counsel for Defendant provided answers from B y Order dated July 12, 2010, I denied Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration of th e May 6, 2010, memorandum and order. See Doc. 50. 2 3 Defendant LeBlanc and Lieutenant Radle, but did not provide answers from Officers S in g le to n or Robinson. See Exs. attached to Doc. 46. S e p a ra te ly, on or about April 9, 2010, Plaintiff sent Defendant a first request for p ro d u c tio n of documents. See Doc. 47 at Ex. 1. On May 7, 2010, Defendant served a re s p o n s e to the first request for production of documents, providing certain responsive d o c u m e n ts and objecting to the production of others. See id. at Ex. 2. On June 11, 2010, Plaintiff filed his first motion to compel discovery, seeking a n s w e rs to the interrogatories he previously directed at Officers Singleton and Robinson. See Doc. 41. On June 14, 2010, Plaintiff filed his second motion to compel discovery, a rg u in g that Defendant provided insufficient responses to his first request for production o f documents. See Doc. 43. Defendant has responded to both motions. See Docs. 45 & 4 7 . Plaintiff filed a reply to the response to the second motion to compel discovery, as w e ll as exhibits consisting of inmate requests to staff at Graterford. See Docs. 48 & 49. II. D ISC U S S IO N A. P la in tiff's First Motion to Compel Discovery (Doc. 41) P la in tif f first seeks to compel Officers Singleton and Robinson to provide answers to the interrogatories previously directed to them. See Doc. 41. Defendant responds that P la in tif f has not complied with various requirements for obtaining the depositions of nonp a rty witnesses. See Doc. 45 at 1-4. However, it is not necessary to address these legal a rg u m e n ts in light of Defendant's representation that Officer Robinson would provide 3 answers to Plaintiff's interrogatories, and that "Officer Singleton" could not be identified. See id. at 4. By letter dated May 7, 2010, which Defendant attached to his response to P la in tif f 's motion, defense counsel notified Plaintiff that Officer Robinson was "finishing [ h e r] answers now" and that the answers would be forwarded "immediately upon their c o m p le tio n ." See 05/07/10 letter, attached to Doc. 45 at Ex. 1. Defense counsel informed m y chambers on July 15, 2010, that he has since had difficulty contacting Officer R o b in so n , who is on leave from Graterford, but again represented that Officer Robinson w o u ld provide answers to Plaintiff's questions. In light of these representations, I will d e n y the motion without prejudice as to Officer Robinson. In the same May 7, 2010, letter, defense counsel stated that "we are unable to id e n tif y [Officer Singleton] and would request that you give us a first name or otherwise p ro p e rly identify this person so we can supply the information you requested." 05/07/10 le tte r. However, defense counsel informed my chambers on July 15, 2010, that the parties h a v e since identified the correct Officer Singleton, and that the officer will answer P la in tif f 's questions. Therefore, the motion will also be denied without prejudice as to O f f ic e r Singleton. B. P la in tiff's Second Motion to Compel Discovery (Doc. 43) In his second motion to compel discovery, Plaintiff seeks additional documents re s p o n s iv e to his first request for production of documents, specifically records of prior 4 allegations of abuse or assault directed at Defendant, a complete copy of Plaintiff's m e d ic a l records, and logbooks from the prison unit where the alleged incident occurred. See Doc. 43. Defendant counters that Plaintiff is not entitled to the documents sought. See Doc. 47. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure are construed liberally with respect to d is c o v e ry, as the requesting party is permitted to obtain even inadmissible material, so lo n g as it is relevant to the claim or defense of any party, unprivileged, and reasonably c a lc u la te d to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). Rule 3 4 requires that a party served with a document request either produce the requested d o c u m e n ts or state a specific objection for each item or category objected to. If the party s e rv e d fails to respond adequately to a document request, the serving party may file a m o tio n to compel under Rule 37(a). Fed. R. Civ. P. 34(b), 37(a)(1)(B). T h e onus is on the party objecting to discovery to state the grounds for the o b je c tio n with specificity. Fed. R. Civ. P. 33(b)(4); Momah v. Albert Einstein Medical C e n te r, 164 F.R.D. 412, 417 (E.D. Pa. 1996). "Mere recitation of the familiar litany that a n interrogatory or a document production request is `overly broad, burdensome, o p p re s s iv e and irrelevant' will not suffice." Id. (quoting Josephs v. Harris Corp., 677 F .2 d 985, 992 (3d Cir. 1982)). However, once the objection has been properly a rtic u la te d , the burden rests with the party seeking discovery to show that a discovery re q u e s t lies within the bounds of Rule 26. Momah, 164 F.R.D. at 417. Then, the party 5 opposing discovery must convince the court why discovery should not be had. Id. (citing A m c a st Indus. Corp. v. Detrex Corp., 138 F.R.D. 115, 118-19 (N.D. Ind. 1991)). 1. C o p ie s of prior reports filed against Defendant (Request No. 1) In his first request, Plaintiff seeks "[a]ny prior reports filed against [Defendant] c o n c e rn in g prior allegations of abuse or assault." Doc. 47 at Ex. 1 (No. 1). Defendant o rig in a lly objected to this request on grounds that it is overbroad, irrelevant and not re a s o n a b ly calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. See Resp. attached to Doc. 47 at Ex. 2 (No. 1). In his response, however, Defendant withdraws the o b je c tio n s and instead states that Defendant has never been accused of abuse or assault w h ile working for the Department of Corrections. See Doc. 47 at 1. Because no re s p o n s iv e documents exist, this aspect of the motion will be denied. 2. C o m p le te copy of Plaintiff's medical records (Request No. 10) In Request No. 10, Plaintiff seeks production of a "complete copy" of his medical re c o rd s . Doc. 47 at Ex. 1 (No. 10). Defendant objected to the request on the grounds that th e records are confidential and that the request is overbroad and not reasonably c a lc u la te d to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. See Resp. attached to Doc. 47 a t Ex. 2 (No. 10). I disagree with Defendant. As the medical records requested by Plaintiff are his o w n records, they cannot be confidential as to him. Similarly, because the medical re c o rd s are limited to Plaintiff's time at the prison, it is hard to envision how the request 6 could be overbroad. On the other hand, it is easy to envision how Plaintiff's medical re c o rd s could lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. For example, despite D e f e n d a n t's statement that Plaintiff did not allege in his amended complaint that he re c e iv e d medical treatment, see Doc. 47 at 2, Plaintiff certainly averred that he sought and re c e iv e d medical attention, and various exhibits confirm that he did so. See Doc. 18. In a d d itio n , pre-existing conditions or similar injuries previously sustained in Graterford c o u ld conceivably strengthen or weaken either party's case. As a result, I will grant this a s p e c t of Plaintiff's motion to compel and will direct the prison to provide Defendant w ith a complete copy of his medical records. Defendant further argues that Plaintiff has failed to follow prison procedures for o b ta in in g his own medical records. See Doc. 47 at 2. However, as Plaintiff explains in h is reply brief, he has tried to obtain his medical records directly from prison personnel, b u t has been unable to do so. See Doc. 48. In support of his reply, Plaintiff has filed d o c u m e n ts showing that he submitted an "Inmate's Request to Staff Member" to review a n d make copies of his medical records on June 6, 2010, and that he was told on June 20, 2 0 1 0 , that an opportunity to "review" the records would be made "in the near future." Doc. 49. I sympathize with the difficulties inmates sometimes encounter in trying to a c c e s s prison records, and I agree with Plaintiff that time for discovery in this case is ru n n in g short. For this additional reason, I will grant this aspect of Plaintiff's motion to c o m p e l. 7 3. P ris o n logbooks for November 16, 2008 (Request No. 13) In Request No. 13, Plaintiff seeks copies of Graterford's Special Needs Unit lo g b o o k s for the 2200 hours shift on November 16, 2008. See Doc. 47 at Ex. 1 (No. 13). Defendant objected to the request on the bases that the information is irrelevant and not re a s o n a b ly calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence, and also that the in f o rm a tio n sought is confidential for security purposes. See Resp. attached to Doc. 47 at E x . 2 (No. 13). Plaintiff has not explained why the requested log book pages have any bearing on h is claims, except to suggest that it could resolve the identity of Officer Singleton. See D o c . 48 at 2. Although Officer Singleton has since been identified, it is conceivable that th e log book pages could reveal other prison personnel with knowledge of the chair in c id e n t. For this reason, I find that the requested log book pages is both relevant and re a s o n a b ly calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. However, I also a g re e with Defendant that actual copies of the log book could reveal confidential in f o rm a tio n related to prison security, such as the number of personnel on the cellblock at d if f e re n t times and when supervisors enter and leave the area. Therefore, I will grant the m o tio n , but only insofar as Defendant must provide the names of the corrections officers a n d any other prison personnel who are mentioned on Graterford's Special Needs Unit lo g b o o k s for the 2200 hours shift of November 16, 2008. 8 III. C O N C L U S IO N F o r the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff's first motion to compel discovery (Doc. 41) w ill be denied without prejudice, and Plaintiff's second motion to compel discovery (Doc. 4 3 ) will be granted in part and denied in part. An appropriate Order follows. 9

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