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Whitehurst v. Lackawanna County

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

April 20, 2018

LACKAWANNA COUNTY, et al. Defendant.

          MANNION, J.



         This is a counseled prisoner civil rights action which comes before the court on motions by the plaintiff to compel discovery (Doc. 69), and a motion for attorney's fees and costs. (Doc. 71). In the complaint, the plaintiff alleges that he was a pre-trial detainee in the Lackawanna County Prison who was deprived of necessary medical treatment. He is currently an inmate at the state correctional institute at Graterford (“SCI-Graterford”).

         I. Statement of Facts

         The facts pertinent to these motions include the plaintiff's allegations in the complaint (Doc. 1) that the individual medical defendants failed to provide the necessary medical treatment and/or adequate treatment for plaintiff's serious mental and physical health needs, despite having been informed by plaintiff of his needs and knowing that serious injury would result. In addition, it is alleged that the individual medical defendants completely abandoned any medical care to the plaintiff from May 28, 2015, through June 9, 2015. Also, the plaintiff has alleged that while he was incarcerated at the Lackawanna County Prison, the individual medical defendants who were under the control and employment of defendant Correctional Care, Inc. (“C.C.I.”) were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs in that they ignored the plaintiff's repeated requests for help, food, and water. The complaint further alleged that the defendants ignored some signs that the plaintiff was suffering from kidney failure, and that he was near death. The plaintiff asserted that the defendants failed to treat the plaintiff's mental health illness which caused the plaintiff's refusal to eat or drink.

         The plaintiff alleged that C.C.I. was first awarded a contract as the sole medical care provider for Lackawanna County Prison in 2004 after a bidding process in 2003. The contract was renewed several times by Lackawanna County. The plaintiff maintains that his injuries were directly attributable to C.C.I.'s prioritization of profits and cost-cutting over patients and its failure to adequately treat the plaintiff during his stay in the Lackawanna County Prison.

         In his motion for attorney's fees and costs (Doc. 71), the plaintiff seeks the recovery of fees and costs for obtaining service and compelling discovery. In his brief, the plaintiff argues that the defendants willfully refused to provide discovery. (Doc. 73, at 2). Also, the plaintiff asserts that the defendants have a history of vexatious and obdurate behavior regarding their refusal to accept service on behalf of C.C.I.'s nurses. In a telephone conference with the court and counsel on November 6, 2017, plaintiff's counsel stated he would advise the court whether service had been effected and whether his motion to compel service and impose sanctions (Doc. 50) can be withdrawn.

         In his letter of November 13, 2017, counsel for the plaintiff informed the court that the motion for service and sanctions was withdrawn without prejudice. (Doc. 54). Based upon that correspondence, we deemed the motion withdrawn without prejudice. (Doc. 55). The docket reflects that shortly thereafter, service was made upon those defendants which were the subject of the motion for service.

(Doc. 56; Doc. 57; Doc. 58).

         On January 31, 2018, we conducted a telephone conference with counsel in an effort to resolve a discovery dispute. The dispute centered around the plaintiff's request for production of documents addressed to the defendants, C.C.I. and Dr. Edward Zaloga, First Set (Doc. 70-1) and the objections thereto (Doc. 70-1; Doc. 70-2). We resolved most of the objections during the conference. The three unresolved objections during the telephone conference were Request for Production of Documents Nos. 3, 7, and 11, and any other request(s) seeking financial information of either defendant. We permitted the plaintiff to file an appropriate motion to compel with respect to the unresolved objections. (Doc. 67). Before us only are Request Nos. 3 and 7 and the objections thereto. We shall deem Request No. 11 withdrawn. As explained below, the plaintiff's motion to compel will be granted in part and denied in part, and his motion for attorney's fees and costs will be denied.

         II. Legal Standards

         a. Motion to Compel Discovery

         The Federal Courts have broad discretion to manage discovery, Sempier v. Johnson & Higgins, 45 F.3d 724, 734 (3d Cir. 1995), and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure have long permitted broad and liberal discovery. Pacitti v. Macy's, 193 F.3d 766, 777 (3d Cir. 1999). Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1), 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. . . . Information within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.” Further, the Federal Rules' relevancy requirement is to be construed broadly, and material is relevant if it bears on, or reasonably could bear on, an issue that is or may be involved in the litigation. Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 350 (1978).

         b. Motion for ...

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