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R.D. v. Shohola Camp Ground And Resort

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

May 24, 2018

R.D., Plaintiff

          MUNLEY JUDGE



         I. Factual Background

         This case involves allegations of battery, negligence and negligent hiring and supervision in connection with an episode of alleged sexual abuse which occurred in 2007 when the then-minor plaintiff, R.D., was participating in a camping excursion conducted by the defendant. In the course of this excursion it is alleged that another camper, identified as N.S., sexually assaulted the plaintiff, and may have had inappropriate sexual contact with two other minors who shared a tent with the plaintiff and N.S. during this excursion. These two other minors are identified in these proceedings as G.M. and E.J.

         On March 7, 2017, this matter was referred to the undersigned for pretrial management and resolution of discovery disputes. Since that time we have addressed numerous discovery disputes between these parties. One of these discovery issues related to a dispute concerning the extent to which the plaintiff's counsel may have waived the work-product privilege with respect to an investigative interview which the plaintiff's private investigator conducted with E.J. on February 24, 2017.

         We resolved this issue in an order which directed the disclosure of only those portions of the interview of E.J. which provided a complete background, and context on E.J.'s recollection of the events that allegedly transpired in the tent shared by these boys some ten years ago in 2007. (Doc. 91.) We now are invited to discuss the implications of this ruling in the context of a discovery dispute relating to the plaintiff's damages expert witness, Dr. Pittman. This dispute is thoroughly outlined in the parties' correspondence, (Docs. 184, 188 and 189), but the essential facts are as follows:

         During a recent deposition of Dr. Pittman, the doctor testified that he received a complete transcript of the investigative interview with E.J., which included both the materials which we ordered released, as well as other privileged information which we did not order released. While Dr. Pittman acknowledged having access to this entire transcript, the parties agree that the doctor testified that this transcript played absolutely no role whatsoever in the formulation of his expert opinion and testimony.

         While the parties assure us that this factual background is undisputed, they dispute the degree to which the entire interview transcript must now be disclosed, with the defendant insisting that full disclosure of this information is now required under Rule 26(b), and the plaintiff arguing that as to this expert witness only materials relied upon by the expert must be disclosed. Since Dr. Pittman has testified that he placed no reliance on this interview in formulating his testimony and opinions, the plaintiff contends that disclosure of the interview in its entirety is not required.

         For the reasons set forth below, we agree that further disclosure of this interview in its entirety is not necessary simply because it was provided to Dr. Pittman given the undisputed fact that the transcript played no role in the doctor's testimony or opinions.

         II. Discussion

         Issues relating to the proper scope and nature of discovery rest in the sound discretion of the Court. Wisniewski v. Johns-Manville Corp., 812 F.2d 81, 90 (3d Cir. 1987). A court's decisions regarding the conduct of discovery, therefore, 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).

         This discretion extends to resolution of questions regarding the application of the work product privilege. “The work-product doctrine is embodied within Rule 26(b)(3) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides that ‘a party may not discover documents and tangible things that are prepared in anticipation of litigation or for trial' unless otherwise discoverable or a party shows substantial need for the material. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(3). The doctrine is, in essence, a recognition that a lawyer requires a ‘certain degree of privacy, free from unnecessary intrusion by opposing parties and their counsel.' Hickman v. Taylor,329 U.S. 495, 511, 67 S.Ct. 385, 91 L.Ed. 451 (1947). The doctrine thus is intended ‘to protect material prepared by an attorney acting for his client in anticipation of litigation.' United States v. Rockwell Int'l,897 F.2d 1255, 1265 (3d Cir.1990); see also United States v. Nobles, 422 U.S. 225, 238, 95 S.Ct. 2160, 45 L.Ed.2d 141 (1975) (‘At its core, the work-product doctrine shelters the mental processes of the ...

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