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Middleton v. United States

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 27, 2018

TERRY MIDDLETON, Plaintiff
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Federal Bureau of Prisons, Defendant

          MEMORANDUM

          Kane, Judge.

         Pending before this Court is Defendant's motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, motion for summary judgment (Doc. No. 113), and Plaintiff's motion to compel discovery (Doc. No. 116), motion to strike video tape under seal (Doc. No. 120), motion for judgment on the pleadings (Doc. No. 131), and motion for argument (Doc. No. 135). Defendant has filed briefs in opposition to Plaintiff's motion to compel and to strike (Doc. Nos. 124, 128), and Plaintiff has filed reply briefs. (Doc. Nos. 127, 130.) For the foregoing reasons, the Court will grant in part Plaintiff's motion to compel discovery, deny Plaintiff's motion to strike the video tape, and deny without prejudice Defendant's motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, motion for summary judgment and Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings and motion for argument.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On August 15, 2016, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit issued an opinion affirming in part and vacating in part this Court's order dismissing Plaintiff's complaint for lack of jurisdiction. (Doc. No. 76-1.) The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Plaintiff's negligent supervision claims for lack of jurisdiction. (Id.) However, the Third Circuit vacated this Court's “determination that it lacked jurisdiction to hear [Plaintiff] Middleton's failure to protect claim.” (Id. at 2, 9.) Specifically, the Third Circuit remanded the above-captioned action Case 1:13-cv-01085-YK-RM Document 139 Filed 03/27/18 Page 2 of 12 to this Court to: (1) “consider whether the Special Instructions and Specific Post Orders are advisory or mandatory”; and (2) consider whether a “negligent guard” theory - which could “take some conduct outside the discretionary function exception” - applies to this case. (Id. at 9.)

         On April 12, 2017, the Court issued an Order granting Plaintiff's motion for limited jurisdictional discovery and reopened discovery to allow Plaintiff to conduct discovery limited to the above two issues on remand. (Doc. No. 112.) Plaintiff now seeks an order compelling Defendant to answer a number of interrogatories and requests for admissions propounded upon Defendant (Doc. No. 116), and an order to strike the video tape submitted under seal and in camera by Defendant, alleging that it has been altered to eliminate relevant portions. (Doc. 120.)

         On June 13, 2017, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss, or in the alternative, motion for summary judgment. (Doc. No. 113.) The Court subsequently granted Defendant's unopposed motion for an extension of time, permitting Defendant to file a brief in support of its motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment within fourteen (14) days from the Court's disposition of Plaintiff's discovery-related motions. (Doc. No. 123.) Plaintiff subsequently filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings and motion for argument on his motion for judgment on the pleadings. (Doc. Nos. 131, 135.)

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Motion to Compel Discovery

         Plaintiff seeks an order compelling Special Investigative Agent (SIA) James Lyons to respond to four interrogatories. It is well-established that rulings concerning the proper scope of discovery and the extent to which discovery may be compelled are within the Court's discretion. See Wisniewski v. Johns-Manville Corp., 812 F.2d 81, 90 (3d Cir. 1987). The court's decision regarding the conduct of discovery, including whether to compel disclosure, will only be disturbed on a showing of an abuse of discretion. See Marroquin-Manriquez v. I.N.S., 699 F.2d 129, 134 (3d Cir. 1983).

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) provides that a party “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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). Rule 26(b)(1) provides for a broad scope of discovery. As a consequence, courts often - and appropriately - apply liberal treatment to discovery rules. See, e.g., Clements v. N.Y. Cent. Mut. Fire Ins. Co., 300 F.R.D. 225, 226 (M.D. Pa. 2014) (citing Great W. Life Assurance Co. v. Levithan, 152 F.R.D. 494, 497 (E.D. Pa. 1994)). Nonetheless, a “valid claim[] of relevance or privilege” operates to restrict a court's otherwise broad discretion under Rule 26(b)(1). McConnell v. Canadian Pac. Realty Co., 280 F.R.D. 188, 192-93 (M.D. Pa. 2011).

         The interrogatories and SIA Lyon's responses/supplemental responses are as follows:

5. In the case involving the beating of inmate Rico Woodland, you gave a deposition where you described that an officer during a controlled move the officer would typically observe inmates “coming in and out of the unit” and that “he can do that from within inside [sic], standing right in the sally port, or standing outside on the sidewalk, ” why do you take a different position, in this case?
Response: Objection. This interrogatory is outside the scope of the limited discovery permitted by this Court in its April 12, 2017 order. There is no indication that the alleged 2002 beating of Rico Woodland has anything to do with the two issues on remand.
Supplemental Response: Objection. This interrogatory is outside the scope of the limited discovery permitted by this Court in its April 12, 2017 order. Without waiving this objection, without the question posed to me at the deposition and the deposition transcript, I cannot respond to this interrogatory. Further, I may not be taking a different position. Also, it is unknown whether the controlled move at issue was a 10 minute or 90 minute controlled movement.
7. Was the Special Instruction that, “Unit Officers will not leave the unit doors unsupervised during movements” added subsequent to the 2002 beating of Rico Woodland?
Response: Objection. This interrogatory is outside the scope of the limited discovery permitted by this Court in its April 12, 2017 order. There is no indication that the alleged 2002 beating of Rico Woodland ...

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