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Aubin v. Columbia Casualty Co.

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

November 16, 2017

WILLIAM J. AUBIN, ET AL.
v.
COLUMBIA CASUALTY COMPANY, ET AL.

          RULING AND ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO COMPEL DISCOVERY AND INITIAL DISCLOSURES

          ERIN WILDER-DOOMES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Before the court is a Motion to Compel (the “Motion”)[1] filed by defendants, Jason Ard, Sheriff of Livingston Parish and Deputy William Durkin (collectively “Movants”). After the Motion was filed, the undersigned issued a Notice and Order requiring that the parties engage in an additional conference pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(1) and ordering the Movants to file a supplemental certification or motion to withdraw (if all disputes were resolved during the conference).[2] The Movants timely filed their supplemental certification.[3] While the additional conference resolved some issues between the parties, some of the issues raised in the Motion remain in dispute. Accordingly, an opposition memorandum was filed by Plaintiffs, William and April Aubin (“Plaintiffs”).[4] For the reasons set forth herein, the Motion is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.

         I. Background

         On March 28, 2016, Plaintiffs filed a Complaint[5] in this Court against Columbia Casualty Company, Deputy William Durkin, and Sheriff Jason Ard, individually and in his official capacity as Livingston Parish Sheriff, seeking damages as a result of alleged police brutality committed by Deputy Durkin and challenging the constitutionality of La. R.S. 14:122, Louisiana's Public Intimidation and Retaliation statute. In the Complaint, which has been amended, [6] Plaintiffs allege that Deputy Durkin is liable for the false arrest, battery, and malicious prosecution of William Aubin based on the events that occurred near the Plaintiffs' home on April 30, 2015.[7] Plaintiffs allege that as a result of those events, William Aubin was charged with resisting an officer in violation of La. R.S. 14:108, interfering with a law enforcement investigation in violation of La. R.S. 14:329, and public intimidation and retaliation in violation of La. R.S. 14:122, but that all of the charges were subsequently dismissed and/or refused by the district attorney.[8] Plaintiffs also allege that Deputy Durkin is liable for his assault upon April Aubin on April 30, 2015, and for her loss of consortium.[9] Plaintiffs allege that Sheriff Ard is vicariously liable to Plaintiffs for the acts, omissions, torts, and/or other misconduct of Deputy Durkin and for his failure to adequately train and supervise Deputy Durkin.[10] Plaintiffs further allege that La. R.S. 14:122 is an unconstitutional content-based restriction of speech protected by the First Amendment and that it is vague and overbroad, both on its face and as applied to William Aubin in this case.[11]

         Movants filed the Motion seeking to compel more complete responses to Interrogatory Nos. 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 12, 17 and 20, as well as Requests for Production Nos. 4 and 8.[12] Following an additional discovery conference ordered by the undersigned, [13] the parties were able to resolve their disputes with regard to Interrogatory Nos. 4, 5, 10 and 12.[14] This Ruling and Order addresses the remainder of the discovery requests about which the parties cannot agree.

         II. Law and Analysis A. Legal Standards

         “Unless otherwise limited by court order, the scope of discovery is as follows: 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, considering the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties' relative access to relevant information, the parties' resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit. Information within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1).

         A determination of relevancy is tied to applicable substantive law and then weighed against the six proportionality factors. Any information sought that is not relevant to a party's claim or defense is not discoverable, regardless of proportionality. On motion or on its own, the court must limit the frequency or extent of discovery if it determines that: “(i) the discovery sought is unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or can be obtained from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive; (ii) the party seeking discovery has had ample opportunity to obtain the information by discovery in the action; or (iii) the proposed discovery is outside the scope permitted by Rule 26(b)(1).” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(2)(C).

         Motions to compel discovery responses are governed by Rule 37(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 37(a)(3)(B) provides that a party seeking discovery may move for an order compelling production or answers against another party when the latter has failed to produce documents requested under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 34 or to answer interrogatories under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 33. The initial burden rests with the party seeking to compel discovery to establish that the information sought is relevant and proportional. Once the moving party establishes relevancy and proportionality, the party resisting discovery must substantiate its objections.[15]

         In response to a request for production under Rule 34, “[f]or each item or category, the response must either state that inspection and related activities will be permitted as requested or state with specificity the grounds for objecting to the request, including the reasons.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(b)(2)(B). Further, “an objection must state whether any responsive materials are being withheld on the basis of that objection. An objection to part of a request must specify the part and permit inspection of the rest.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(b)(2)(C). In response to an interrogatory under Rule 33, “[e]ach interrogatory must, to the extent it is not objected to, be answered separately and fully in writing under oath.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(b)(3). In addition, “[t]he grounds for objecting to an interrogatory must be stated with specificity. Any ground not stated in a timely objection is waived unless the court, for good cause, excuses the failure.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(b)(4). Movants point out that the undersigned has previously found in ruling on a Motion to Compel filed by Plaintiffs in this matter that reliance on boilerplate objections does not suffice to assert a valid objection, citing McLeod, Alexander, Powel and Apffel, P.C. v. Quarles, 894 F.2d 1482, 1485 (5th Cir. 1990) and other cases.[16]

         B. Plaintiffs Are Required to Supplement Answers to Interrogatory Nos. 6, 8 and 9

         Interrogatory Nos. 6, 8 and 9 seek information regarding non-ordinary medical issues plaintiffs had before the incident that forms the basis of the suit (Interrogatory No. 6), after the incident that forms the basis of the suit (Interrogatory No. 8) and a listing of all health care providers who have treated Plaintiffs for any illness or injury during the past ten years (Interrogatory No. 9).

INTERROGATORY NO. 6:
Please list all injuries, sicknesses, infirmities or hospitalizations from which you suffered prior to the incident made the basis of this suit (excluding ordinary childhood diseases, flu, colds and other ordinary illnesses), but including the name, address and telephone number of each health care provider who treated you and for such conditions.
RESPONSE:
Objected to as overly broad, unduly burdensome, calling for irrelevant and privileged information, and beyond the scope of proper discovery. William Aubin's injuries, sicknesses, infirmities, or hospitalizations from which he suffered prior to the incident made the basis of this suit are reflected in the medical records subpoenaed by defendants.
INTERROGATORY NO. 8:
Please describe all injuries, sicknesses, infirmities, accidents or hospitalizations from which you have suffered subsequent to the incident made the basis of this suit, identifying the dates of each and identifying the names, addresses and phone numbers of each health care provider from whom you sought treatment.
RESPONSE:
Objected to as overly broad, unduly burdensome, calling for irrelevant and privileged information, and beyond the scope of proper discovery. William Aubin's injuries, sicknesses, infirmities, accidents or hospitalizations from which he has suffered subsequent to the incident made the basis of this suit are reflected in the medical records subpoenaed by defendants.
INTERROGATORY NO. 9:
List the names and addresses of all physicians, chiropractors, or other health care providers who treated you for any illness or injury during the past ten years. For each physician, chiropractor, or other health care provider identified, give the date(s) treatment was received and the illness or injury for which you were treated.
RESPONSE:
Objected to as overly broad, unduly burdensome, calling for irrelevant and privileged information, and beyond the scope of proper discovery. Otherwise, please see plaintiffs' initial disclosures, supplemental initial disclosures, and the disclosure of expert witnesses and resumes made by email on July 31, 2017.

         Movants assert that such medical information is clearly relevant where, as here, plaintiffs are claiming personal injuries.[17] In response, Plaintiffs argue that requests of this breadth, i.e., lacking in any time limitations, are not relevant or proportional to the needs of the case. Additionally, Plaintiffs assert that Movants have already been provided with the necessary information through subpoenas to Mr. Aubin's medical providers identified in Fed.R.Civ.P. 26 disclosures.[18] Movants claim that the fact some healthcare providers have been previously identified by Plaintiffs does not obviate the need for them to provide a response to the interrogatories.[19]

         Here, Movants have shown some relevance for the information requested in Interrogatory Nos. 6, 8, and 9. Plaintiffs' Amended and Superseding Complaint seeks the following items of damages that implicate Plaintiffs' medical conditions: past, present, and future physical pain, suffering, and disability of William Aubin; past, present, and future mental and emotional distress of William Aubin and April Aubin; past, present, and future medical expenses of William Aubin.[20] Based on the damages sought, Plaintiffs have put their mental and physical conditions at issue in this litigation. Additionally, Movants are correct that the mere fact Plaintiffs may have provided some information with regard to healthcare providers in Rule 26 disclosures does not obviate the need for Plaintiffs to respond to these interrogatories.[21] However, Movants have not articulated any reason why requests seeking information about Plaintiffs' medical histories that is not in any way time limited is relevant or proportional to the needs of the case. Interrogatory No. 8 is inherently time limited since it seeks only health information following the incident that forms the basis of this suit. Interrogatory No. 9 is also limited to a listing of Mrs. Aubin's providers during the past ten years.[22] The ten year time limitation contained in Interrogatory No. 9 seems reasonably proportional to apply to Interrogatory No. 6 as well, particularly in light of the fact that Interrogatory No. 6 is already limited to information only about “non-ordinary” illnesses.

         Accordingly, Plaintiffs' shall supplement their responses to Interrogatory Nos. 6, 8 and 9 with Interrogatory No. 6 limited to information within the last ten years.

         C. Plaintiffs Are Required to Provide A Supplemental Response to Request for Production No. 4

         As a corollary to their interrogatories seeking health information, Movants also seek a more complete response to their request for medical release authorizations for any providers listed in response to the interrogatories. The arguments from the parties are largely the same as those made with regard to Interrogatory Nos. 6, 8 and 9, however, Plaintiffs raise the additional argument that, because the discovery responses would not be due until the day fact discovery closed such ...


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