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James v. Varano

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

June 14, 2017

PARIS L. JAMES, Plaintiff,
v.
DAVID VARANO, et al., Defendants

          Kane Judge.

          MEMORANDUM

         Presently before the Court is Plaintiff Paris James' motion to compel discovery. (Doc. No. 80.) For the reasons set forth below, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, an inmate at the State Correctional Institution at Coal Township, Pennsylvania (“SCI-Coal Township”), initiated this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against 16 named individual defendants and 14 “John and Jane Doe” defendants, all employees of the Department of Corrections at SCI-Coal Township.

         In his complaint, Plaintiff alleges that two defendants, Physician Assistants Davis and Daya, failed to provide him with adequate medical care and treatment for breathing difficulties, and that they conspired with other Defendants to deprive Restricted Housing Unit (“RHU”) inmates of proper intake examinations or access to health care, and intentionally refused medical care to reduce transportation costs from the RHU. (Doc. No. 28.) Plaintiff claims violations of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. (Id.) Subsequently, the Court dismissed Plaintiff's conspiracy claims, equal protection claims, and condition of confinement claims, but permitted the Eighth Amendment claims of deliberate indifference to a serious medical need to proceed against Defendants Davis and Daya. (Doc. No. 56.)

         Along with his motion to compel, Plaintiff has filed a supporting brief (Doc. No. 81), a declaration (Doc. No. 82), and exhibits (Doc. No. 83), which include the discovery documents propounded upon Defendants. Defendants have filed a brief in opposition together with evidentiary materials detailing their responses to Plaintiff's discovery requests. (Doc. No. 84). Having been fully briefed, this discovery matter is now ripe for disposition.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1), as amended, defines the scope of discovery as follows:

(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 and proportional to the needs of the case, considering the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties' relative access to relevant information, the parties' resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit. Information within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). “The 2015 amendment to Rule 26 reinforces the shared obligation of the parties, counsel, and the court to consider the proportionality of all discovery and consider it in resolving discovery disputes.” Employers Ins. Co. of Wausau v. Daybreak Express, Inc., No. 2:16-CV-4269-JLL-SCM, 2017 WL 2443064, at *2 (D.N.J. June 5, 2017). Thus, under the present amendment, to be deemed discoverable, the matter sought to be discovered must be: (1) relevant to the party's claim or defense; (2) non privileged; and (3) proportional to the needs of the case. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1).

         A matter is “relevant ‘if it has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable that it would be without the evidence' and ‘the fact is of consequence in determining the action.'” In re Suboxone (Buprenorphine Hydrochloride & Naloxone) Antitrust Litig., No. 13-MD-2445, 2016 WL 3519618, at *3 (E.D. Pa. June 28, 2016) (quoting Fed.R.Evid. 401). “This concept of relevance is tempered . . . by principles of proportionality, ” which include: (1) the importance of the issues at stake in the action, (2) the amount in controversy, (3) the parties' relative access to relevant information, (4) the parties' resources, (5) the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, (6) and whether the burden of expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit. Fassett v. Sears Holdings Corp., No. 4:15-CV-00941, 2017 WL 386646, at *3 (M.D. Pa. Jan. 27, 2017) (citation omitted); Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1).

         “Federal courts employ a burden-shifting analysis to resolve discovery disputes. Employers Ins. Co. of Wausau v. Daybreak Express, Inc., No. 2:16-CV-4269-JLL-SCM, 2017 WL 2443064, at *2 (D.N.J. June 5, 2017). Specifically, a party seeking to compel discovery under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37 bears an initial burden of demonstrating that “the information sought is relevant to the subject matter of the action.” Id. (citation omitted). The burden then shifts to the objecting party to show, in specific terms, why the discovery request is improper. Hicks v. Big Bros./Big Sisters of Am., 168 F.R.D. 528, 529 (E.D. Pa. 1996).

         Decisions relating to the scope of discovery under Rule 26, and the extent to which discovery may be compelled, are matters committed to the sound discretion of the court, and 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); Wisniewski v. Johns-Manville Corp., 812 F.2d 81, 90 (3d Cir. 1987).

         Guided by the above standards, the Court turns to Plaintiff's motion to compel.

         B. Motion to Compel

         In his supporting brief, Plaintiff requests that Defendants be compelled to answer completely Plaintiff's first set of interrogatories and requests for admission propounded upon Defendant Davis, and Plaintiff's first and second set of interrogatories and Plaintiff's requests for admission propounded upon Defendant Daya.

         i. First Set of Interrogatories

         The first set of interrogatories submitted to both Defendants includes a total number of 25 interrogatories. While Plaintiff requests full and complete responses to every single interrogatory in this set, the arguments he raises in his motion to compel primarily concern the first two interrogatories. Those two interrogatories, and Defendants respective and identical answers, are as follows:

Interrogatory 1:
State and identify the standard policy and procedures for examination of inmates upon reception at a new Facility after transfer, this includes but is ...

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