Aus et al v. Salt Lake County et al
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER denying 59 Motion to Compel Discovery. The Court FURTHER ORDERS the production of the pharmacy records within fourteen (14) days from the date of this order. Signed by Magistrate Judge Brooke C. Wells on 4/11/2018. (jds)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF UTAH, CENTRAL DIVISION
JASON AUS, JANIS AUS, and the ESTATE
of JEREMY AUS,
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
DENYING MOTION TO COMPEL
Case No. 2:16-cv-266 JP
SALT LAKE COUNTY, JAMES WINDER,
and John and Jane Does 1-10, et al.,
District Judge Jill Parrish
Magistrate Judge Brooke Wells
Pending before the Court is Plaintiffs’ Motion to Compel. 1 Plaintiffs seek “information
regarding a practice that denies inmates access to verified medical prescriptions” while at the
Salt Lake County Jail. 2 Plaintiffs also seek costs associated with bringing the motion. The Court
heard argument regarding Plaintiffs’ motion on March 28, 2018. Daniel Baczynski appeared for
Plaintiffs and Ruby Redshaw and Valerie Wilde appeared for Defendants. Having considered
the parties’ arguments, memoranda and relevant case law, the court finds the requests are
irrelevant and not proportional to the needs of the case. Therefore the motion will be denied.
The court, however, will order the production of pharmacy records as discussed during oral
argument within fourteen (14) days from the date of this order.
Jeremy Aus was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail on approximately November 6,
2013. 3 Mr. Aus had been on a daily Clonazepam prescription for anxiety. 4 Clonazepam is a
ECF No. 59.
Mtn. p. 1.
Complaint ¶14, docket no. 2.
benzodiazepine. The Salt Lake County Jail “does not usually dispense benzodiazepines” and
declined to continue providing Mr. Aus Clonazepam. 5 Plaintiffs allege this detoxification
created withdrawal symptoms and led to Jeremy’s eventual death on November 16, 2014. 6
Plaintiffs claim municipal liability against Defendants for its prescription practices regarding
benzodiazepines. 7 Currently at issue are Plaintiffs discovery requests seeking statistics on
individuals who present at the jail with verified prescriptions and whether the Jail denies those
Plaintiffs argue that to establish municipal liability they need information “about the
number of individuals who preset at the jail with verified benzodiazepine prescriptions and
whether SLC denied these individuals access to their medication.” 8 The Interrogatories at issue
are numbers 4, 5, 6, and 15 and document requests 6 and 9. During oral argument Plaintiffs’
council noted the key Interrogatory is number 6 and if Defendants are compelled to answer that
Interrogatory then the others at issue are unnecessary. Interrogatory No. 6 states:
Identify the number of inmates admitted to Salt Lake County Jail in 2013 with
current benzodiazepine prescriptions and from that number, identify by number,
inmates who were allowed to continue their prescription, inmates allowed to
continue their benzodiazepine use on a taper, and inmates who were completely
denied access to benzodiazepines. 9
The court notes the standards used by jails in Utah for such things as providing medication, have been the subject
of public scrutiny lately. For example, on March 29, 2018, the day after the Court’s hearing, the Salt Lake Tribune
posted an editorial opinion about the need to make jail standards public rather than private as they have been for
years. See Behind locked doors, Salt Lake Tribune p. A12, March 29, 2018.
Mtn. p. 2.
ECF No. 59-1.
Defendants contest the relevance of the information sought by Plaintiffs. The cause of
death by the medical examiner did not attribute it to the withdrawal of benzodiazepine. Rather, it
was due to acute onset encephalitis. In addition, the information sought by Plaintiffs would
require a manual review of numerous individuals’ private medical records, which would
implicate HIPAA, and be unduly burdensome because there are approximately 35,000 charts in
2013 that would need review. Finally, Defendants argue much of the information sought by
Plaintiffs may be found in pharmacy records.
Federal Rule 26 sets forth the scope and limits of discovery available to parties. It
provides that parties
may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any
party’s claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case, considering the
importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the
resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the
burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit. 10
Thus a party must demonstrate that requested discovery is not only relevant but also proportional
to the needs of the case.
Admittedly relevance is broadly construed at the discovery stage of a case, but it is not
without limits. 11 Here, the relevance of the discovery is questionable given the medical
examiners findings. Further, in weighing the proportionality requirement, the Court finds the
burden of producing the requested discovery outweighs its benefit. At oral argument Plaintiffs’
counsel narrowed the scope of the requested discovery to 3 months’ worth of data, which would
be around 9,000 records. Even with those limits, the Court still finds it is not proportional to the
Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b).
See Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 351, 98 S. Ct. 2380, 2389, 57 L. Ed. 2d 253, (1978)
(“discovery, like all matters of procedure, has ultimate and necessary boundaries.”); Kannaday v. Ball, 292 F.R.D.
640, 650 (D. Kan. 2013) (noting the standards of discovery).
needs of the case especially given its questionable relevance and the high likelihood that the
pharmaceutical records will provide similar information.
At oral argument Defendants’ counsel represented that much of the information sought
by Plaintiffs may be found in the pharmacy records that have yet to be produced due to some
problems with the record keeping system. Defense counsel agreed to produce those records. As
noted during oral argument the Court will require their production.
Finally, the Court has considered the other discovery requests at issue and finds them
similar to Interrogatory No. 6 in that they are overbroad and not proportional to the needs of this
case. 12 Accordingly, the Court will not order further answers to them.
For the reasons set forth above the Court DENIES Plaintiffs’ Motion to Compel. The
Court FURTHER ORDERS the production of the pharmacy records within fourteen (14) days
from the date of this order.
DATED this 11 April 2018.
Brooke C. Wells
United States Magistrate Judge
For example Interrogatory No. 4 seeks “all complaints, warnings (written or verbal), and other written
documentation form 2008-2013.” And Interrogatory No. 5 requests Defendants to “identify all complaints,
warnings (written or verbal), and other written documentation from 2008-2013 regarding the Jail personnel placing
individuals with benzodiazepines prescription tapers.” These requests are not sufficiently limited as to time or
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?