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Lombardi v. Pugh

June 9, 2009

LAWRENCE LOMBARDI, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL PUGH, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge McClure

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is Plaintiff Lawrence Lombardi ("Plaintiff" or "Lombardi")'s "Motion to Determine Sufficiency of Defendants' Responses and Objections to Plaintiff's Request for Admissions." (Rec. Doc. No. 120.) For the reasons set forth below, the Motion will be denied.

BACKGROUND

This pro se civil rights action was filed on February 10, 2005 by Lombardi, an inmate presently confined at the United States Penitentiary at Tuscon ("USP Tuscon") in Tuscon, Arizona. His original Complaint raised Bivens*fn1 claims against four (4) Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") employees employed at the Allenwood United States Penitentiary ("USP Allenwood") in White Deer, Pennsylvania, where Lombardi previously was incarcerated. The sole remaining claim of Lombardi's Second Amended Complaint (Rec. Doc. No. 53) is that Defendants Ron Laino, Health Services Administrator, and Angel Levi, Unit Manager, engaged in retaliatory misconduct which resulted in Lombardi becoming a target of abuse from fellow inmates and ultimately led to his SHU placement and transfer to another institution. (See Rec. Doc. No. 88 at 31-32.)

While discovery was set to conclude in this case on March 21, 2008 (see Rec. Doc. No. 114), by Order dated April 3, 2008, Defendants request for an extension of time to file responses to Plaintiff's request for admissions was granted, and the responses were due on April 4, 2008. (See Rec. Doc. No. 118.) However, Defendants actually served their responses on March 24, 2008. (See Rec. Doc. No. 124-2 at 15.) On April 11, 2008, a motion for summary judgment was filed on behalf of Defendants Laino and Levi on the sole remaining claim in this action. (See Rec. Doc. No. 119.)

Lombardi filed the instant motion on April 14, 2008. (See Rec. Doc. No. 120.) Because the instant motion pertains to discovery issues, the Court will dispose of it before turning to Defendants' motion for summary judgment.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Rule 26(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that "[p]arties may obtain discovery of any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense." The rule further states that "[r]elevant information need not be admissible at the trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." It is well-settled that Rule 26 establishes a liberal discovery policy. Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 351 (1978); Hickman v. Taylor, 329 U.S. 495, 507-08 (1947); Great West Life Assurance Co. v. Levithan, 152 F.R.D. 494, 497 (E.D. Pa. 1994). As a general rule, therefore, discovery is permitted of any items that are relevant or may lead to the discovery of relevant information. Hicks v. Big Bros./Big Sisters of Am., 168 F.R.D. 528, 529 (E.D. Pa. 1996).

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 36(a) addresses requests for admissions and provides in pertinent part:

A party may serve on any other party a written request to admit, for purposes of the pending action only, the truth of any matters within the scope of Rule 26(b)(1) relating to facts, the application of law to fact, or opinions about either; and the genuineness of any described documents....

Each matter must be separately stated....

If a matter is not admitted, the answer must specifically deny it or state in detail why the answering party cannot truthfully admit or deny it. A denial must fairly respond to the substance of the matter; and when good faith requires that a party qualify an answer or deny only a part of a matter, the answer must specify the part admitted and qualify or deny the rest. The answering party may assert lack of knowledge or information as a reason for failing to admit or deny only if the party states that it has made reasonable inquiry and that the information it knows or can readily obtain is insufficient to enable it to admit or deny....

The requesting party may move to determine the sufficiency of an answer or objection. Unless the court finds an objection justified, it must order that an answer be served. On finding that an answer does not comply with this rule, the court may order either that the matter is admitted or that an amended answer be served.

Fed. R Civ. P. 36(a). "Regardless of the subject matter of the Rule 36 request, the statement of fact itself should be in simple and concise terms in order that it can be denied or admitted with an absolute minimum of explanation or qualification." United Coal Companies v. Powell Const. Co., 839 F.2d 958, 967-68 (3d Cir. 1988) (citing Havenfield Corp. v. H & R Block, Inc.,, 67 F.R.D. 93, 96 (W.D. Mo. 1973)). "[W]hen good faith requires that a party deny only a part or qualify ...


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