United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
DERRICK FAHS, ex rel. SCOTT AND SHERRY FAHS, Plaintiffs
THE RED LION AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendant
C. CARLSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
7, 2015, plaintiffs Scott and Sherry Fahs commenced this
action on behalf of their son, Derrick Fahs (collectively,
“the Fahses”), by filing an initial complaint
alleging violations of the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act (“IDEA”), 20 U.S.C. § 1400,
et seq., the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C.
§§ 701-797(b), the Americans with Disabilities Act
(“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12131, et
seq., and state law against the defendant, the Red Lion
Area School District (“the School District”),
where Derrick Fahs attended school. (Doc. 1.) The Fahses now
proceed on an amended complaint, filed on August 3, 2015,
which asserts additional federal law claims. (Doc. 8.)
Namely, the Fahses allege two new theories of relief against
the School District: retaliation in violation of the ADA and
the Rehabilitation Act by citing Scott Fahs for truancy in
response to the Fahses' advocacy on Derrick's behalf;
and violation of the IDEA for failing to comply with and
implement an order issued by a Pennsylvania Special Education
Hearing Officer (“the Hearing Officer”) on March
9, 2015. (Doc. 8, ¶¶ 34-38, 156-168.) In response
to the new claims raised in the amended complaint, the School
District noticed depositions and propounded discovery
requests seeking Derrick's medical records and other
medical information regarding Derrick from his treating
physicians. (Doc. 35.) Those requests form the basis of the
current discovery dispute.
December 22, 2016, this matter was referred to the
undersigned for pretrial management and resolution of
discovery disputes. (Doc. 44.) Two discovery motions are now
pending before this court: the Fahses' motions to quash
the subpoenas issued by the School District to Drs. Dennis J.
Dlugos and Allen S. Nussbaum (Doc. 49); and the Fahses'
motion for a protective order or order limiting discovery
concerning Derrick's medical records and physician
information (Doc. 51). Both motions have been fully briefed
and are now ripe for disposition.
reasons set forth below, this court will deny in part these
motions with respect to the Fahses' IDEA compliance claim
because we believe that Derrick's medical records may be
relevant to a determination regarding the adequacy of the
school district's efforts to comply with his medical
their pleadings the plaintiffs have suggested that they may
elect to dismiss this IDEA claim rather than provide this
requested discovery, and have for this reason asked us to
also rule upon whether this information is subject of
disclosure with respect to the ADA retaliation claim they
have filed. Given this representation by counsel, we believe
that the more appropriate course would be to defer judgment
regarding whether the defendant would also be entitled to
disclosure of this information on the plaintiff's ADA
retaliation claim until after the plaintiffs inform us
concerning whether they elect to pursue their IDEA compliance
claim and provide this discovery.
basic guiding principles inform our resolution of the instant
discovery motions. At the outset, rulings regarding the
proper scope of discovery are matters consigned to the
court's discretion and judgment. Wisniewski v.
Johns-Manville Corp., 812 F.2d 81, 90 (3d Cir. 1987).
Thus, a court's decisions regarding the conduct of
discovery 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). This far-reaching discretion
extends to rulings by United States Magistrate Judges on
discovery matters. In this regard:
District courts provide magistrate judges with particularly
broad discretion in resolving discovery disputes. See
Farmers & Merchs. Nat'l Bank v. San Clemente Fin.
Group Sec., Inc., 174 F.R.D. 572, 585 (D.N.J. 1997).
When a magistrate judge's decision involves a
discretionary [discovery] matter . . ., “courts in this
district have determined that the clearly erroneous standard
implicitly becomes an abuse of discretion standard.”
Saldi v. Paul Revere Life Ins. Co., 224 F.R.D. 169,
174 (E.D. Pa. 2004) (citing Scott Paper Co. v. United
States, 943 F.Supp. 501, 502 (E.D. Pa. 1996)). Under
that standard, a magistrate judge's discovery ruling
“is entitled to great deference and is reversible only
for abuse of discretion.” Kresefky v. Panasonic
Commc'ns and Sys. Co., 169 F.R.D. 54, 64 (D.N.J.
1996); see also Hasbrouck v. BankAmerica Hous.
Servs., 190 F.R.D. 42, 44-45 (N.D.N.Y. 1999) (holding
that discovery rulings are reviewed under abuse of discretion
standard rather than de novo standard); EEOC v. Mr. Gold,
Inc., 223 F.R.D. 100, 102 (E.D.N.Y. 2004) (holding that
a magistrate judge's resolution of discovery disputes
deserves substantial deference and should be reversed only if
there is an abuse of discretion).
Halsey v. Pfeiffer, No. 09-1138, 2010 WL 3735702, *1
(D.N.J. Sept. 17, 2010).
the scope of discovery is to be interpreted broadly, it
“is not without limits.” Fassett v. Sears
Holdings Corp., 319 F.R.D. 143, 149 (M.D. Pa. 2017)
(quoting Kresefky v. Panasonic Commc'ns & Sys.
Co., 169 F.R.D. 54, 64 (D.N.J. 1996)). Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 26(b)(1), as amended, provides:
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). In determining “the scope of
discoverable information under Rule 26(b)(1), the Court looks
initially to the pleadings.” Trask v. Olin
Corp., 298 F.R.D. 244, 263 (W.D. Pa. 2014). Furthermore,
“[i]nformation within this scope of discovery need not
be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). Thus, “all 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).
also provides a framework by which a party may seek a
protective order to limit the scope of discovery.
Specifically, Rule 26(c)(1) provides as follows:
A party or any person from whom discovery is sought may move
for a protective order in the court where the action is
pending. . . . The motion must include a certification that
the movant has in good faith conferred or attempted to confer
with other affected parties in an effort to resolve the
dispute without court action. The court may, for good cause,
issue an order to protect a party or person from ...