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Leonard v. Leblanc

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division

February 6, 2015

HENRY LEONARD,
v.
JAMES LeBLANC, ET AL

MEMORANDUM ORDER[1]

KAREN L. HAYES, Magistrate Judge.

Before the undersigned Magistrate Judge, on reference from the District Court, is a Motion to Compel, [doc. # 23], filed by Plaintiff Henry Leonard. Plaintiff asks the Court to compel depositions and responses to his first set of interrogatories and requests for production of documents. Defendants oppose the Motion. [doc. # 29]. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is GRANTED IN PART.

Background

Plaintiff filed suit against Defendants James M. LeBlanc, Dr. Raman Singh, Jerry Goodwin, Paula Willwee, [2] and the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections on September 20, 2013. [doc. # 1]. Plaintiff is an inmate in the custody of Louisiana's Department of Corrections (DOC). Id. He is incarcerated at the David Wade Correctional Center ("DWCC") in Homer, Louisiana, and he complains that Defendants "are acting and have acted with deliberate indifference" to his "serious dental needs, in violations of his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution...." Id. at 10. Plaintiff also seeks to represent a putative class of similarly situated inmates-and former inmates-at DWCC. Id. at 2.

Plaintiff claims, in general, that Defendants fail to employ a full time dentist, fail to employ a dental assistant, utilize an inadequately trained medical doctor for dental care, force inmates to wait months for dental appointments, "subject inmates to denial and delay of all services, " ignore "follow up care, " and delay screening "incoming inmates... for almost a year." Id. at 6-9. He defines the proposed class as follows:

All inmates who, while confined at David Wade Correctional Center on or after January 1, 2011, made a request for treatment of dental pain and were not examined by a qualified and licensed dentist within 7 days of that request.

Id. at 3.[3]

Plaintiff also makes more particularized allegations concerning himself and another inmate at DWCC, Robert Melancon. Id. at 8. He claims that Defendants failed to properly treat his broken tooth in December of 2011 and Mr. Melancon's broken tooth in June of 2013. Id.

Law and Analysis

Rule 26(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil procedure provides that "[p]arties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense...." FED. R. CIV. P. 26(b)(1). The Rule specifies that "[r]elevant information need not be admissible at the trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." Id. Relevant information encompasses "any matter that bears on, or that reasonably could lead to other matter that could bear on, any issue that is or may be in the case." Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 351 (1978). Once a party moving to compel discovery establishes that the materials and information it seeks are relevant or will lead to the discovery of admissible evidence, the burden rests upon the party resisting discovery to substantiate its objections. McLeod, Alexander, Powel and Apffel, P.C. v. Quarles, 894 F.2d 1482, 1485 (5th Cir. 1990).

A party objecting to discovery "must state with specificity the objection and how it relates to the particular request being opposed, and not merely that it is overly broad and burdensome' or oppressive' or vexatious' or not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.'" Reyes v. Red Gold, Inc. 2006 WL 2729412 (S.D. Tex. Sept. 25, 2006) (citing Harding v. Dana Transport, Inc., 914 F.Supp. 1084, 1102 (D.N.J. 1996)); see also Quarles, 894 F.2d at 1484-85 (noting that to say that a request for production or an interrogatory was "overly broad, burdensome, oppressive and irrelevant was not adequate to voice a successful objection....").

The discovery rules are accorded broad and liberal treatment in order to achieve their purpose of adequately informing litigants in civil trials. Hebert v. Lando, 441 U.S. 153, 177 (1979). Nevertheless, discovery does have "ultimate and necessary boundaries." Sanders, 437 U.S. at 351. A plaintiff is not permitted to "go fishing, " and trial courts retain "discretion to determine that a discovery request is too broad and oppressive." Marshall v. Westinghouse Elec. Corp., 576 F.2d 588, 592 (5th Cir. 1978). A court may limit discovery if: (1) the discovery sought is unreasonably cumulative or duplicative or is obtainable from another, more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive source; (2) the party seeking discovery has had ample opportunity to obtain the information sought; or (3) the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit. FED. R. CIV. P. 26(b)(2)(C).

A. Interrogatory No. 6

Plaintiff asks the Court to compel Defendants to "identify any and all contracts and/or agreements entered into by the Defendant for the provision of dental treatment/services for inmates housed at DWCC." [doc. # 23-3, p. 10]. However, Plaintiff filed a Reply on January 20, 2015, and indicated that Defendants satisfactorily responded to the Interrogatory. [doc. # 30-2, p. 7]. Thus, Plaintiff's Motion, with respect to Interrogatory No. 6, is DENIED AS MOOT.

B. Interrogatory No. 7 and Requests for Production Nos. 3 & 29

Interrogatory No. 7 asked Defendants to "identify, describe and provide all documentation of any and all complaints and civil actions filed, during the past ten years, against the State, alleging a failure to provide dental treatment, alleging pain, suffering or injuries as a result of delay or refusal to provide such treatment, or otherwise involving inadequate dental treatment and state the following: a) The substance of any charges made; b) The names and addresses of all charging parties; c) The date and outcome of each such charge, including the date and nature of any internal DWCC disciplinary action; d) The case name, court name and location, document number, if any; e) The name and address of counsel involved of each case and f) The case verdict of settlement, if any." [doc. # 23-3, p. 34].

Request No. 3 asked Defendants to produce "[a]ny and all forms, records and/or requests including but not limited to sick call, urgent sick call and grievances completed by inmates seeking dental treatment since January 1, 2008." Id. at 39. Request No. 29 asked Defendants to produce "a true and correct copy of any and all DWCC inmate grievances relative to dental care for the past five years." Id. at 23.

Defendants objected on the basis that the information sought was irrelevant, vague, overly broad, and unduly burdensome. [doc. # 29, p. 3-4]. As to the relevancy, Defendants asserted that the information requested was unrelated to the Plaintiff's particular allegation. Id. Defendants apparently concede that the information is relevant to the class allegations, but they argue that the Court has not certified Plaintiff's proposed class. Id. In other words, they argue that, at present, discovery should be limited to Plaintiff's individual allegations.

Defendants argument is not persuasive. In light of Rule 23(c)(1), which instructs district courts to decide whether to certify an action as soon as practicable, it is imperative that district courts "be permitted to limit pre-certification discovery to evidence that, in [their] sound judgment, would be necessary or helpful to the certification decision." Stewart v. Winter, 669 F.2d 328, 331 (5th Cir. 1982) (citation omitted). "[A] certain amount of discovery is essential in order to determine the class action issue and ...


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