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Houser v. Pennsylvania Department of Corrections

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

February 23, 2015

DARIEN HOUSER, Plaintiff,
v.
PENNSYLVANIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM ORDER RE: PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR DISCOVERY, MOTION FOR REDUCTION OF COPIES (ECF NO. 84); PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR PRE-DISCOVERY (ECF NO. 94)

CYNTHIA REED EDDY, Magistrate Judge.

Introduction.

On May 19, 2014, Plaintiff Darien Houser, an inmate incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Greene (SCI-Greene) in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, filed his Second Amended Complaint (ECF No. 69), with leave of court, against the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, DOC's Secretary, John Wetzel, numerous DOC correctional officers and other employees, including John and Jane Does, and various medical staff with DOC and Wexford Medical Inc., the third party health care provider at SCI-Greene.[1] Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint raises federal and state claims arising from numerous allegedly unconstitutional and intolerable conditions of confinement and denial of necessary medical treatment in 2011-2013, including: continuing confinement in a non-handicapped cell (Plaintiff uses a wheelchair) on G-block in the RHU complex, which featured metal stripping across the threshold of the cell door which hindered his access and caused him injuries when exiting and entering his cell, including tearing of his left bicep; inadequate treatment of his left bicep injury; over Plaintiff's objection and explanation of the danger, use of security restraints and a "black box" used to secure locks for handcuffs and leg chains while transporting Plaintiff on November 16, 2011 for outside medical evaluation and treatment, which restraints triggered Plaintiff's angioedema (as diagnosed by an outside doctor, Dr. Gorby, in September, 2011), causing rapid and painful swelling of face, tongue, lips, groin, and extremities and presenting the danger of swelling of his throat and eyes, inter alia, potentially life threatening conditions of which DOC officials and medical staff were aware; denial of treatment or evaluation for broken fingers caused when DOC corrections officers "smashed" his fingers in a gate on July 31, 2011; retaliation by prison officials for being a frequent grievance filer, including confinement in solitary and inadequate food, clothing and blankets during winter months; denial of adequate medical treatment of his angioedema on September 11-12, 2011, and again on January 1, 2012, which caused Plaintiff unnecessary pain and suffering when medical staff and corrections officers refused to act on Plaintiff's complaints that he was experiencing flare-ups even though his swelling was apparent; exposure to second hand smoke and denial of necessary hygiene materials.

Although this Court had not issued any discovery orders, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Discovery, Motion for Reduction of Copies (ECF No. 84), and the DOC Defendants and the Medical Defendants filed Notices and Objections to many of the requests for discovery. (ECF Nos. 86-89). Plaintiff also filed a reply (ECF No. 90) to the Defendants' Notices and Objections, agreeing that Defendants had provided some of the discovery requested.[2] The Court notes that the DOC Defendants produced a fair amount of grievances as exhibits in the Appendix to their eventually mooted motion for judgment on the pleadings, and a great deal of grievance related and other documents in the earlier Houser case at Civil Action No. 10-416 as exhibits to the Appendix on summary judgment.[3]

On December 31, 2014, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Pre-Discovery (ECF No. 94) related to his pending motion for preliminary injunction (ECF No. 91).[4]

Discovery Standards Generally

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 nonprivileged 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)(C).

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). In prisoner pro se cases, a court should consider a prisoner-litigant's inability to gather facts relevant to the proof of his claim and should be sensitive to his discovery difficulties. M ontgomery v. Pinchak, 294 F.3d 492, 501 (3d Cir. 2002) (citing Tabron v. Grace, 6 F.3d 147, 155 (3d Cir. 1993)).

Fed.R.Civ.P. 34 requires that a party served with a document request either produce the requested documents or state a specific objection for each item or category objected to. The burden is upon the party objecting to discovery to state the grounds for the objection with specificity. Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(b)(4); Momah v. Albert Einstein Med. Cntr., 164 F.R.D. 412, 417 (E.D.Pa. 1996). "Mere recitation of the familiar litany that an interrogatory or a document production request is overly broad, burdensome, oppressive and irrelevant will not suffice." Id . (quoting Josephs v. Harris Corp ., 677 F.2d 985, 992 (3d Cir. 1982)). The objecting party must demonstrate in specific terms why a particular discovery request does not fall within the broad scope of discovery or is otherwise privileged or improper. Goodman v. Wagner, 553 F.Supp. 255, 258 (E.D.Pa. 1982). The party attempting to withhold the release of relevant material on the grounds of privilege must also "describe the nature of the documents, communications, or other tangible things not produced or disclosed in a manner that will enable other parties to assess the claim." Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(5)(A)(ii). Once an objection has been properly articulated, the burden rests with the party seeking discovery to show that a discovery request lies within the bounds of Rule 26. Momah, 164 F.R.D. at 417. Then, the party opposing discovery must convince the court why discovery should not be had. Id . (citing Amcast Indus. Corp. v. Detrex Corp ., 138 F.R.D. 115, 118-19 (N.D.Ind. 1991)).

Plaintiff's Motion For Discovery, Motion For Reduction Of Copies (ECF No. 84)

With those standards in mind, the Court will make the following rulings on Plaintiff's requests (ECF No. 84) and ...


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