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Rega v. Beard

March 24, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Bissoon

Judge McVerry


Robert Gene Rega is a state prisoner currently incarcerated in the State Correctional Institution at Green ("SCI-Greene"), located in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, who has filed a prisoner civil rights case. Defendants are various employees of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("DOC") and medical personnel employed at SCI-Greene.

Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Thomas Armstrong, a Corrections Officer, opened Plaintiff's cell door by electronic means on March 31, 2007, allowing inmate Lamont Overby to enter Plaintiff's cell and assault him (Doc., ¶ 18). Overby is alleged to have acted on an offer of $500 from another inmate, Mark Spotz, who had been involved in a dispute with Plaintiff over art supplies in 2006. Plaintiff seeks relief pursuant to the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants Armstrong, B. Henderson, Todd Barclay, Jody Leach, Brenda Martin and Jeffrey Martin, who he alleges failed to protect him from Overby's assault (Count I). Defendants Armstrong and Henderson are also alleged to have "bystander liability" under § 1983 for failing to intervene in the assault (Count II). Armstrong, Henderson, Barclay and Leach are alleged to have conspired to violate Plaintiff's constitutional rights (Count III) and Defendants Armstrong, Henderson, Barclay, Leach, Jeffrey Beard, Louis Folino, Patrick Oddo, Michael Muccino and David Grainey are alleged to have "adopted and maintained" a custom and practice of not sufficiently protecting inmates in the Capital Case Unit at SCI- Greene (Count IV).

Plaintiff also alleges that Defendants Michelle Lukas, Edward Driskill and John McAnany denied him necessary medical care following the assault, and that this is a violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment (Count V). Defendants Dr. James Caramanna, Lukas, McAnany and Driskill are alleged to have denied Plaintiff prescription drugs for a stomach condition on various dates (Count VI). Plaintiff also asserts that the denial of his medication was in retaliation for his use of the prison grievance system (Count VII).

Plaintiff has filed a Motion to Compel Disclosure of Discovery (Docs. 233) seeking to compel the production of documents. Defendants have responded (Docs. 244, 251). Plaintiff filed replies (Docs. 255, 261 and 262) and also a supplement to his motion (Doc. 285).

A. Legal Standard

Generally, courts afford considerable latitude in discovery in order to ensure that litigation proceeds with "the fullest possible knowledge of the issues and facts before trial." Hickman v. Taylor, 329 U.S. 495, 501 (1947). The polestar of discovery is relevance. Relevance for discovery purposes is defined broadly.

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permit discovery "regarding any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense.... Relevant information need not be admissible at the trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). "[A]ll relevant material is discoverable unless an applicable evidentiary privilege is asserted. The presumption that such matter is discoverable, however, is defeasible." Pearson v. Miller, 211 F.3d 57, 65 (3d Cir. 2000). Discovery may properly be limited where:

(i) the discovery sought is unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or is obtainable from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive; (ii) the party seeking discovery has had ample opportunity to obtain the information sought by discovery in the action; or (iii) the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit, considering the needs of the case, the amount in controversy, the parties' resources, the importance of the issues at stake in the action, and the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues.

Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(2). However, when there is no doubt about relevance, a court should tend toward permitting discovery. Stabilus v. Haynsworth, Baldwin, Johnson & Greaves, P.A., 144 F.R.D. 258, 265-66 (E.D.Pa.1992).

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37 allows a party who has received evasive or incomplete discovery responses to seek a court order compelling additional disclosure or discovery. "The party seeking the order to compel must demonstrate the relevance of the information sought. The burden then shifts to the opposing party, who must demonstrate in specific terms why a discovery request does not fall within the broad scope of discovery or is otherwise privileged or improper." Option One Mortgage Corp. v. Fitzgerald, 2009 WL 648986 at *2 (M.D. Pa. Mar. 11, 2009).

B. Analysis

The only point of contention between Plaintiff and Defendants Lukas and Caramanna is whether these Defendants possess a document responsive to Plaintiff's request for any policies and procedures governing the provision of medical care to inmates at SCI-Greene. Defendants Lukas and Caramanna assert that the only such policies are issued by the DOC (Doc. 244). Plaintiff disagrees, and argues that the company that these Defendants work for, Prison Health Services, Inc., "must" have a protocol for supplying medications separate from any DOC policy or procedure and that any assertion to the contrary is "outrageous" (Doc. 255, p. 3). Plaintiff cites to Joe v. Prison Health System, Inc., 782 A.2d 24, 29 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2001) and notes that a request in that case for a "policy and procedure manual" from Prison Health Services, Inc. ("PHS") was objected to on the basis of privilege. Plaintiff believes that this establishes the existence of such a manual and he seeks to compel its production.

The Commonwealth Court was not asked, and made no ruling, on the existence of a policy and procedure manual in Joe, although Plaintiff is correct that the privilege objection made in that case certainly seems to imply the existence of such a document. It may be, however, that the policy manual referred to was, in fact, a DOC document that was used by PHS. It also may be that PHS had written policies and procedures in 2001, but now relies solely upon DOC policies. In any event, Defendants have responded to Plaintiff's Request for Production that the only written policies and procedures for provision of medical care are those issued by the DOC, and the Prison Health Services, Inc. does not have its own written policies and procedures, and the mention of such a document in the Joe case does not disprove that assertion. Defendants simply cannot produce what they do not possess. The Motion to Compel is DENIED with respect to the Defendant Lukas and Caramanna.

The remaining disputes involve the DOC Defendants and will be addressed seriatim.

Request 1

Plaintiff argues that he is entitled to view a "complete copy of the Sergeants daily log from March 25, 2007 to April 1, 2007," so that he can ascertain whether there are any entries concerning the assault by Inmate Overby on March 31, 2007, and also whether there are entries related to Inmate Overby's work assignment during that period. Plaintiff seeks to discover any inconsistencies between the reports of the assault that he has been provided and the daily logs, and he also believes that the daily logs may show that Overby was not actually on a work assignment when the assault occurred. Defendants object that all documents relating to the assault have already been produced, and that any mention in the daily log of the assault would be "duplicative of documents already provided." (Doc. 251, p. 3). Further, Defendants assert that daily logs contain privileged and confidential information relating to other inmates, and that disclosure of some information in the logs may jeopardize institutional security.

The Court agrees that Plaintiff is entitled to review entries in the daily log that mention the assault or that mention Inmate Overby's presence in the area for the requested time period. All other entries, however, should be redacted. If there is an entry during the relevant time period that specifically references the assault or Overby and Defendants believe that disclosure of the entry will jeopardize security, Defendants may redact that entry, but must note a redaction due to institutional security.

Request 2

Plaintiff requests "work schedules" of certain named Defendants for the date of the assault and for other, unspecified dates after the assault when other inmates allegedly overheard some Defendants "contriving a story in their defense" (Doc. 234, p. 6). Plaintiff has already been provided a duty roster for the date of the assault and, therefore, can establish the identity of Defendants who were working on that date without obtaining individual work schedules. Plaintiff asserts that he needs more general access to Defendants' work schedules to support his witnesses who allegedly overheard conversations between some of the Defendants after the assault, i.e., he needs to prove that certain Defendants were actually working on the dates when the alleged conversations occurred. Plaintiff has not, however, identified any instance where a Defendant has denied being on duty during a specific time period. In fact, the only example cited by Plaintiff is Defendant Driskill who, it is alleged, admits he was working at SCI-Greene on a particular date, but says he was "in another area" and did not see Plaintiff on that date. Plaintiff has not shown a need to review all Defendants' work schedules to determine when they were on duty, and the requested documents are not likely to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. The Motion to Compel is DENIED with respect to this Request.

Request 3

Plaintiff seeks all misconduct reports issued to Inmate Overby. Defendants have provided the misconduct report issued concerning the March 31, 2007, incident, but object that any other misconduct report is irrelevant. Plaintiff asserts that any prior misconducts involving violent behavior by Overby would be evidence that Defendants were indifferent to a substantial risk of harm. The Court agrees that Plaintiff is entitled to discover whether Defendants ignored a substantial risk of assault. Therefore, Plaintiff is entitled to any misconduct reports involving Inmate Overby, and predating the assault, that involve violence or the threat of violence toward other inmates. The Motion to Compel is GRANTED in this respect.

Request 4

Plaintiff seeks all communications between counsel for Defendants and any "non-defendant" DOC employee or agent. Plaintiff specifically references the fact that DOC employee (and non-Defendant) Michael Guyton has submitted two declarations in this matter. Plaintiff seeks the substance of any communications between counsel and Mr. Guyton regarding the declarations. Defendants assert that all documents they possess responsive to this request are non-discoverable attorney work product or are otherwise privileged. Defendants need not produce ...

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