United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
RICHARD P . CONABOY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court is the Defendants' Motion to Compel
Production of Documents pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 37. (Doc. 68, Mot. to Compel). This motion is fully
briefed and now ripe for disposition.
case arises following a December 20, 2013 use-of-force
incident where Stockton claims Defendants retaliated against
him and conspired to assault him. Stockton also claims a
nurse failed to treat his injuries sustained during the
assault. As a consequence of his actions that day, Stockton
was criminally prosecuted and convicted of one count of
aggravated assault. (Doc. 33, Am. Compl.)
instant motion to compel, Defendants ask this Court to order
Stockton to produce documents supporting his claims against
Defendants as well as a copy of his criminal trial
transcript. (Doc. 68). Plaintiff responds that
Defendants' request is overbroad and a "fishing
expedition" which seeks "privileged"
documents. Plaintiff also objects to producing documents
available from alternative third-party sources. (Docs. 70 and
78, Pl's Opp'n. Br.). Defendants argue Stockton has
not proven his assertion of privilege and, despite their best
efforts, they are unable to obtain copies of Stockton's
criminal trial transcript from any other source. (Doc. 75,
Defs.' Supp. Br.)
reasons that follow, the Defendants' Motion to Compel
(Doc. 68) will be granted.
Relevant Legal Standards
scope and conduct of discovery are within the sound
discretion of the trial court. In re Cendant Corp. Sec.
Litig., 343 F.3d 658, 661-62 (3d Cir. 2003); see
also McConnell v. Canadian Pacific Realty Co., 280
F.R.D. 188, 192 (M.D. Pa. 2011) ("Rulings regarding the
proper scope of discovery, and the extent to which discovery
may be compelled, are matters consigned to the Court's
discretion and judgment."). The court's decision
regarding the conduct of discovery, including whether to
compel disclosure, will only be disturbed upon a showing of
an abuse of discretion. See Petrucelli v. Bohringer &
Ratzinger, GMBH, 46 F.3d 1298, 1310 (3d Cir. 1995) .
Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) defines the scope of
discovery as "any nonprivileged matter that is relevant
to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the
needs of the case." A matter is "relevant" if
"it has any tendency to make a fact more or less
probable than it would be without the evidence; and, the fact
is of consequence in determining the action."
Fed.R.Evid. 4 01; see also Coles Wexford Hotel, Inc. v.
Highmark, Inc., 209 F.Supp.3d 810, 823 (W.D. Pa. 2016)
("[T]he scope of all discovery is limited to matter that
is relevant to the claims or defenses in the case and
proportional to what is at stake in a given case.") .
Rules of Civil Procedure 33 and 34 state that a party upon
whom interrogatories and requests for production of documents
have been served shall serve a copy of the answers, and
objections, if any, to such discovery requests within thirty
days after the service of the requests. Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(b)
(2) and 34(b)(2)(A). A shorter or longer time may be directed
by court order or by stipulation of the parties.
(Id.; see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 29.)
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs motions to
compel discovery. Under Rule 37(a), a party may file a motion
to compel discovery when the opposing party fails to respond
or provides incomplete or evasive answers to properly
propounded document request or interrogatories. See
Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(3)(B)(iii - iv). "A party seeking
discovery bears the initial burden of demonstrating the
requested discovery is relevant to its claim or
defense." CedarCrestone, Inc. v. Affiliated Computer
Services LLC, No. 1:14-MC-0298, 2014 WL 3055355, at *4
(M.D. Pa. 2014) (citing Morrison v. Phila. Hous.
Auth., 203 F.R.D. 195, 196 (E.D. Pa. 2001)). Once that
initial burden is met, "the party resisting the
discovery has the burden to establish the lack of relevance
by demonstrating that the requested discovery (1) does not
come within the broad scope of relevance as defined under
Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1), or (2) is of such marginal relevance
that the potential harm occasioned by discovery would
outweigh the ordinary presumption in favor of broad
disclosure." McConnell v. Canadian Pac. Realty
Co., 280 F.R.D. 188, 193 (M.D. Pa. 2011) (citing In
re Urethane Antitrust Litigation, 261 F.R.D. 570, 573
(D. Kan. 2009)).
Relevant Background and Procedural History
18, 2017, the Court granted in part and denied in part the
Pennsylvania Department of Corrections' (DOC) motion to
dismiss Stockton's Amended Complaint. (Doc. 48). The
surviving claims relate to events that transpired at the
State Correctional Institution at Smithfield (SCI-Smithfield)
Restricted Housing Unit (RHU) on December 20, 2013.
alleges the Defendants (Lt. Bard, Sgt. Miller, CO Willinksy,
CO Harpster, CO Wilson, CO Barndt and CO Parks) improperly
opened his RHU cell door for the explicit purpose of
assaulting him. Defendants' claim when CO Parks
accidently opened Stockton's cell door, Stockton exited
his cell and then refused repeated direct orders to return to
his cell. Staff physically restrained Stockton and placed him
in his cell. Stockton claims ...