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Santos v. Vallante

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

October 28, 2014

DAISY SANTOS, Plaintiff.
v.
WILLIAM VALLANTE, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

MARTIN C. CARLSON, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

The is a diversity action that arises out of a traffic accident that occurred in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on June 8, 2012. The plaintiff, Daisy Santos, sued William Vallante, alleging that he was negligent and reckless in operating his vehicle "while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs, " thereby causing the accident. Vallante has admitted that he was negligent in causing the accident, but has firmly denied that he was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time.

The matter now comes before the Court on Defendant Vallante's motion for a protective order. In the motion, Defendant Vallante seeks to preclude the plaintiff from obtaining discovery seeking information regarding the following:

• Defendant Vallante's medical conditions, injuries, and diseases;
• identification of the medical professionals who have treated Vallante over the years, and the location of the facilities where Vallante has obtained medical care;
• all medications that were prescribed to Vallante as of the date of the traffic accident that gave rise to this litigation; and
• whether or not Vallante has ever treated for alcoholism or drug use, or for another mental health disorder.

Defendant Vallante has resisted responding to five interrogatories seeking this information, positing that the police officer who investigated the traffic accident attested during his deposition that Vallante showed no signs of impairment during the investigation, and for that reason he did not administer field sobriety tests at the time. Additionally, Defendant Vallante has tendered an affidavit in which he attests that he had consumed no alcohol, non-prescription medication, or other illicit substances in the 48 hours that preceded the accident. This affidavit also outlines the prescription medications that Vallante took on the morning of the accident, and underscored that he had been taking these medications without incident for nearly three years before the accident, and had never been advised to refrain from driving a car. Because he contends the information sought is sensitive and personal, and because there is allegedly no evidence that would show that Vallante was impaired at the time of the accident, he seeks entry of a protective order to safeguard information that he maintains is private and sensitive.

The plaintiff opposes the motion, arguing that Vallante is improperly arguing about the potential admissibility of evidence at trial, and not about the potential relevance of the information sought, which is what actually matters at this stage. Moreover, the plaintiff argues that the information sought regarding medical treatment, medication regimens, and treatment for drugs or alcohol use may be relevant to this case and the claims alleged, and the interrogatories do not seek the production of documents or other information that might be subject to other laws governing the privacy of medical information. Lastly, aside from issues relating to relevance, the plaintiff maintains that the information sought is not burdensome, and that Vallante has not demonstrated good cause for the issuance of a protective order.

On October 27, 2014, the Court convened a telephone conference with the parties to address this discovery dispute, and a related dispute over the scheduling of certain depositions that have been delayed due to the pending motion. Upon consideration of the parties' briefs, and the discussion held with the parties regarding this matter, we find that the plaintiff's motion for a protective order should be denied to the extent that it seeks to totally preclude inquiry into these matters, but granted, in part, in that the scope of the interrogatories should be subject to significant temporal limitations.[1]

II. DISCUSSION

A. Rules 26(b)(1) and 26(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, in general, permit parties to engage in a broad range of discovery as part of the litigation process. Rule ...


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