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Eric Lyons v. Jeffrey Beard

June 17, 2011


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



In this civil action, Plaintiff Eric Lyons has brought claims against a number of employees of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, alleging that these defendants violated his right under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution to be free from cruel and unusual punishment when Defendants solicited other inmates to assault him while he was held in the Special Management Unit ("SMU") at the State Correctional Institution at Camp Hill ("SCI-Camp Hill"). Plaintiff also alleges that Defendants used excessive force in their efforts to break up a fight between Plaintiff and Anthony Boyking, another inmate in the SMU at SCI-Camp Hill, whom Plaintiff claims corrections staff induced to assault him on June 19, 2006.

Now pending before the Court are two motions, one filed by each of the parties, seeking differing types of relief in advance of trial in this case, which is currently scheduled to commence with jury selection on August 22, 2011. In the first motion, Plaintiff seeks leave of court to propound additional discovery upon Defendants long after the discovery period has closed. (Doc. 125.) In the second motion, Defendants seek leave of court to make a limited amendment to their answer to Plaintiff's complaint more than three years after their initial answer was filed. (Doc. 127.)

Defendants have opposed Plaintiff's request to conduct discovery after the cutoff of the discovery period, although in opposing the motion they have offered a number of compromises that they represent are intended to provide Plaintiff with relevant information, while avoiding the unfair burden of producing irrelevant and sensitive prison information out of time or unnecessarily. For his part, Plaintiff has opposed Defendants' request for leave to amend a four responses contained in their original answer to his complaint in this case, arguing that the request was not timely made, and that he will be prejudiced if the request is granted. The motions are fully briefed and are ripe for disposition.

We have considered both motions, and the briefs in support and opposition thereto. In consideration of the parties' respective arguments, the Court has endeavored to remain mindful of the need to narrow the issues in this dispute in advance of the August trial of this matter, while at the same time working to ensure that the issues in this case are fully and fairly resolved on their merits. Guided by these considerations, and for the reasons explained below, Plaintiff's motion to reopen discovery will be granted, in part, and Defendants' motion to amend their answer will be granted.


A. Management of Pre-Trial Discovery is Discretionary.

Lyons's motion to re-open discovery in this case, and Defendants' response in opposition, call upon the Court to exercise its authority to regulate discovery in this case. Issues relating to the scope and timing of discovery permitted under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure rest in the sound discretion of the Court. Wisniewski v. Johns-Manville Corp., 812 F.2d 81, 90 (3d Cir. 1987). A court's decisions regarding the conduct of discovery will be disturbed only upon a showing of an abuse of discretion. Marroquin-Manriquez v. I.N.S., 699 F.2d 129, 134 (3d Cir. 1983).

B. Plaintiff's Specific Discovery Requests.

During the course of discovery in this case, Plaintiff served a single request for production of documents to Defendants' prior counsel some time during 2008. It appears that Plaintiff did not receive timely response to this request, and, accordingly, filed a motion to compel Defendants to respond. (Doc. 36.) In that motion, Lyons did not articulate the substantive basis for the requested discovery, but argued only that he had not yet received a response. (Id.) After Plaintiff filed this motion, Defendants' prior counsel responded to Plaintiffs' initial discovery request, producing a number of responsive documents, and objecting to some of Plaintiffs' requests. (Doc. 136, Ex. A.) Plaintiff did not challenge the adequacy of Defendants' response.

The parties agree that during their pre-trial conference held on April 18, 2011, pursuant to Local Rule 16.3, Lyons requested that additional discovery be provided, notwithstanding the fact that the discovery period in the case had long since expired. Defendants responded by requesting that Lyons reduce his new discovery requests to writing. On April 20, 2011, Plaintiff sent Defendants' counsel a letter in which he requested that Defendants respond to 10 additional discovery requests. (Doc. 126, Ex. A.)

After reviewing Plaintiffs' letter, Defendants' counsel represents that she examined Defendants' 2008 discovery response, and found that some of the items that Lyons requested in 2011 had been previously requested and objected to by Defendants' prior counsel. (Doc. 136, at 3.) Following this review, Defendants' counsel contacted Plaintiff to advise him that Defendants were willing to provide copies of his requested radiology reports and a "Problem List" from his medical records. (Id.; Doc. 126, Ex. A, Item Nos. 9 and 10.) Additionally, Defendants agreed to, and did, provide copies of these documents to Plaintiff free of charge in consideration of the impending trial in this case. (Doc. 136, Ex. B, Letter Dated May 4, 2011.)In addition, counsel informed Plaintiff that with respect to his request for certain x-ray films, (Doc. 126, Ex. A, Item No. 5), Defendants would bring the films to trial to the extent they even were found to exist, although Defendants would not waive any objection they might have to Plaintiff attempting to introduce them at trial.

Having made these concessions, however, Defendants informed Plaintiff that because discovery had closed in May 2010, they would not agree to produce additional requested materials. Plaintiff's motion for leave to re-open or extend discovery in this case followed (Doc. 125), together with a brief in support (Doc. 126).

In responding to Plaintiff's motion (Doc. 136), Defendants initially argue that the request to re-open discovery should be denied simply because Plaintiff has not presented any reasonable explanation, or excusable neglect, for his failure to file a timely motion to compel discovery answers in this case. However, after making this procedural argument, Defendants proceed to argue that Plaintiffs' motion should be denied for more substantive reasons, while at the same time offering to make certain information available to Plaintiff in the interest of judicial economyand fairness. While we appreciate Defendants' procedural argument, we find that Plaintiff's motion should be resolved on its merits, with separate consideration of Plaintiff's remaining discovery requests. We consider these discovery requests seriatim below.

1. Inmate Boyking's Misconduct Documentation/Query Listing.

Plaintiff has requested that Defendants be required to produce all records relating to Inmate Anthony Boyking's misconduct between 2004 and 2011, as well as Inmate Boyking's "complete misconduct query listing" ...

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