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Hagan v. Dolphin

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

May 18, 2015

QUENTIN DOLPHIN, et al., Defendants



The plaintiff in this action, Damont Hagan, is an inmate in the custody of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC), currently housed at the State Correctional Institution at Huntingdon. He is also a frequent litigant in federal court. In this case, Hagan has sued five individuals, all of whom are contracted with or employed by the DOC, alleging that the defendants engaged in a conspiracy to modify his health diagnosis and discontinue his prescription medications in order to keep him hidden from certain Department of Justice officials who were intending to tour the facility and interview inmates as part of an investigation.[1] Hagan also alleges that the defendants took these actions to retaliate against him for filing grievances and other litigation against prison staff. Additionally, Hagan alleges that the defendants prolonged his detention in segregated housing, and exhibited deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs, in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

The case now comes before the court, once again, for resolution of a discovery dispute. Specifically, Hagan has filed a new motion to compel the defendants to produce documents in response to his fourth, sixth and seventh request for the production of documents, and to provide more fulsome answers to a second set of interrogatories that Hagan propounded upon Secretary Wetzel.[2]

The document requests include those directed to Secretary Wetzel seeking information related to an investigation allegedly conducted by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) into the mental health challenges faced by inmates in solitary confinement within Pennsylvania prisons; grievance documents and requests Hagan made to staff; and information from Hagan’s medical file, including what he describes as information relating to a decision to alter or remove a particular mental health diagnosis that he had previously been assigned. With respect to the second set of interrogatories directed to Secretary Wetzel, Hagan seeks records and information relating to the establishment of the DOC’s Behavioral Management Unit and the development of policies relating to that unit. (Doc. 95, Exhibits.)

The defendants have responded to the motion, arguing that it should be denied because the responses they have furnished Hagan comply fully with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure; because the information that Hagan seeks should be, in some instances, already in his possession; because Hagan’s medical file has been made available to him, and he has been informed that he is permitted to make copies of documents contained within it provided that he pays for them; because some of the information sought either does not exist and, if it did, it would be subject to privilege; and because the information Hagan seeks is not relevant. The motion is fully briefed and, for the reasons that briefly follow, will be granted in part and denied in part.


Several basic guiding principles inform our resolution of the instant discovery dispute. At the outset, Rule 37 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs motions to compel discovery, and provides that:

(a) Motion for an Order Compelling Disclosure or Discovery.
(1) In General. On notice to other parties and all affected persons, a party may move for an order compelling disclosure or discovery. The motion must include a certification that the movant has in good faith conferred or attempted to confer with the person or party failing to make disclosure or discovery in an effort to obtain it without court action.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(a)(1).

The scope of what type of discovery may be compelled under Rule 37 is defined, in turn by Rule 26 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which now provides that:

(1) Scope in General. Unless otherwise limited by court order, the scope of discovery is as follows: Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense--including the existence, description, nature, custody, condition, and location of any documents or other tangible things and the identity and location of persons who know of any discoverable matter. For good cause, the court may order discovery of any matter relevant to the subject matter involved in the action. Relevant information need not be admissible at the trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. All discovery is subject to the limitations imposed by Rule 26(b)(2)(C).

Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1).

Rulings regarding the proper scope of discovery, and the extent to which discovery may be compelled, are matters consigned to the court’s discretion and judgment. Thus, it has long been held that decisions regarding Rule 37 motions are “committed to the sound discretion of the district.” DiGregorio v. First RediscountCorp., 506 F.2d 781, 788 (3d Cir. 1974). Similarly, issues relating to the scope of discovery permitted under Rule 26 also rest in the sound discretion of the Court. Wisniewski v. Johns-Manville Corp., 812 F.2d 81, 90 (3d Cir. 1987). Thus, a court’s decisions regarding the conduct of discovery, and whether to compel disclosure of certain information, will be disturbed only upon a showing of an abuse of ...

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