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King v. Mansfield University of Pennsylvania

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

February 11, 2014

PATRICK KING, Plaintiff,


SYLVIA H. RAMBO, District Judge.

On February 10, 2013, a conference call was held between counsel and the court concerning another discovery dispute in the captioned case. Specifically, Plaintiff is resisting Defendants' request for a mental examination of Plaintiff. In support of his position, Plaintiff argues that Defendants have: (1) failed to file a motion pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 35(a)(2); and (2) failed to demonstrate good cause for Plaintiff to submit to such an examination. Plaintiff also argues that Defendants' request is untimely. For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff's position is unconvincing, and Plaintiff will be directed to submit to a mental examination.

I. Background

Because the court writes primarily for the parties, it only need set forth the following details essential to explain its reasoning. Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on May 20, 2013, in which he alleged, inter alia, that he suffered mental and emotional distress due to Defendants' actions. (Doc. 33.) The period for fact discovery closed on December 17, 2013. (Doc. 48.) Defendants' expert report is due on February 13, 2014, and expert depositions are to be completed no later than February 28, 2014. (Doc. 52.) Based on the representation of counsel during the conference call, Plaintiff's expert, in his report disclosed to Defendants last month, opined that Plaintiff currently experiences psychological distress, despite there being no indication of continued mental or emotional distress in the medical records.

II. Legal Standard

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 35, the court may order a party to submit to a mental examination only if that party's mental condition is "in controversy" and the movant has shown "good cause" for the person to be examined. See generally Fed.R.Civ.P. 35(a). District courts in the Third Circuit have articulated several purposes behind Rule 35(a):

One of the purposes behind Rule 35 is to level the playing field between the two parties in cases where a party's physical or mental condition has become an issue. Granting a request for a psychiatric examination pursuant to Rule 35 is to preserve [ ] the equal footing of the parties to evaluate the plaintiff's mental state.

Womack v. Stevens Transp., Inc., 205 F.R.D. 445, 446 (E.D. Pa. 2001) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). Under the plain language of the rule, an order compelling a mental examination under Rule 35 may be issued only where the mental condition of the party is "in controversy" and there is "good cause" for the order. Fed.R.Civ.P. 35(a)(1) & (2); accord Schlagenhauf v. Holder, 379 U.S. 104, 118 (1964). Nevertheless, even when good cause is shown, whether to order a proposed examination is committed to the discretion of the court. Shirsat v. Mutual Pharm. Co., 169 F.R.D. 68, 69-70 (E.D. Pa. 1996). This is consistent with the principle that the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure be construed liberally in favor of granting discovery.

III. Discussion

A. In Controversy

During the conference call, Plaintiff conceded that his mental condition is "in controversy" within the meaning of Rule 35. See Bowen v. Parking Auth. of Camden, 214 F.R.D. 188, 193 (D.N.J. 2003) (noting that a plaintiff will be required to undergo a mental examination when he or she concedes that his or her mental condition is in controversy within the meaning of Rule 35). Moreover, the court independently concludes that, based on the averments set forth in the amended complaint, Plaintiff has placed his mental condition in controversy.

B. Good Cause

Having no trouble determining that Plaintiff's mental condition is in controversy, the second issue the court must consider is whether Defendants have established good cause for the requested examination, a consideration that turns on the relevancy and need for the psychiatric mental health examination. See Womack, 205 F.R.D. at 447. Good cause requires a showing that the examination could adduce specific facts relevant to the cause of action and is necessary to the defendant's case. Id. (citing Ragge v. MCA/Universal, 165 F.R.D. 605, 608 (C.D. Cal. 1995)).

A mental examination is relevant in this case because, without it, the defense would be limited to the mere cross examination of evaluations offered by Plaintiff's expert, which is an "insufficient test of truth, " especially in light of the independent examinations prescribed by Rule 35. Id. (citing Tomlin v. Holeck, 150 F.R.D. 628, 632 (D. Minn. 1993)). Accordingly, the relevance requirement is satisfied in the present case because Defendants should be afforded the opportunity to examine Plaintiff ...

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