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Tellis v. Leblanc

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

June 26, 2019


          FOOTE JUDGE


          Mark L. Hornsby U.S. Magistrate Judge


         The Advocacy Center, on behalf of inmates at the David Wade Correctional Center (“DWCC”), filed this putative class action to seek injunctive relief with respect to the mental health care afforded inmates who are held in extended lockdown on the south compound in buildings N-1 through N-4. Before the court is Defendants' Motion to Compel (Doc. 144), which seeks an order from this court to compel Plaintiffs to produce outstanding responses to Defendants' discovery requests. For the following reasons, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         General Objections

         A. Conference Requirement

         Plaintiffs argue that Defendants failed to meet and confer in good faith prior to filing the motion. Plaintiffs claim that they received a request to supplement their responses on September 18, 2018. Plaintiffs claim that a telephone call that same month was the only time that the parties conferred regarding the adequacy of the supplemental responses. Plaintiffs assert that Defendants did not inform Plaintiffs that the supplemental responses were unsatisfactory.

         Defendants respond that they sent a letter to Plaintiffs highlighting the deficiencies in the supplemental responses and conferred on the matter via telephone on September 19, 2018. During that conference, Plaintiffs agreed to provide a supplementation. Defendants contend that the parties discussed the issues for over an hour, and Plaintiffs have still not provided supplemental responses consistent with their agreement at the conference. Defendants argue that they were not under any obligation to meet and confer on the issues again, and the matter is ripe for decision. The court agrees.

         B. “Blockbuster” Interrogatories

         Defendants have propounded many interrogatories to Plaintiffs seeking specific instances of denial of mental health care, the factual bases for the claims in Plaintiffs' complaint, all documents and evidence Plaintiffs intend to use at trial, and the like. Plaintiffs objected to many of these interrogatories, claiming that they are overbroad and burdensome “blockbuster” interrogatories.

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 33 allows for the use of broad interrogatories. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 33(a)(2). But courts have held that “‘blockbuster' interrogatories, which require a party to state every fact supporting all of its allegations, as well as identify each person with knowledge of each fact and all documents supporting each count, are impermissible.” HCB Fin. Corp. v. Kennedy, 2016 WL 6216179, *2 (S.D.Miss. 2016); citing Hilt v. SFC, Inc., 170 F.R.D. 182, 186-87 (D. Kan. 1997) (interrogatories requiring the party to identify all facts supporting its position, all witnesses with knowledge of those facts, and all documents supporting the position are unduly burdensome). However, “the fact that the information could also be sought by way of a deposition is not grounds for refusing to answer an interrogatory, so long as the answer can be made without imposing an undue burden on the responsive party.” Brassell v. Turner, 2006 WL 1806465, at *2 (S.D.Miss. 2006) (interrogatories were overly broad and unduly burdensome where they sought an open-ended narrative that was not tailored in any way).

         Defendants respond that, if the requests are overbroad, it is because of the scope of Plaintiffs' contentions. Defendants argue that it is unfair for Plaintiffs to make system-wide, broad allegations and then object to providing the bases for the contentions because they are overbroad. Defendants also claim that contention interrogatories, which ask a party to state the facts on which it bases a claim or defense, are a permissible form of written discovery. The court will take up this issue in the context of each interrogatory.

         Interrogatory No. 3

         Defendants asked Plaintiffs to identify all witnesses regarding the facts and circumstances surrounding the incidents referred to in the complaint. Plaintiff answered the interrogatory by referring Defendants to the initial disclosures. Defendants asked for a supplement to the answer, and Plaintiffs responded with a list of everyone in extended lockdown. Defendants argue that Plaintiffs should be required to identify the persons they expect to call as witnesses rather than simply list everyone.

         Plaintiffs respond that Defendants' request to identify the individuals that Plaintiffs expect to call as witnesses was first raised in this motion, rather than in the discovery conference. Plaintiffs argue that the response Defendants seek to compel is new and would require a separate interrogatory request.

         Granted as follows. Plaintiffs shall provide a good faith list of their (currently) expected trial witnesses. Plaintiffs' final witness list will be filed in connection with preparation of the pretrial order.

         Interrogatory No. 4

         Defendants asked Plaintiffs to identify every person with whom the named plaintiffs or their attorney has met or from whom Plaintiffs have taken a statement. Plaintiffs objected to the interrogatory, asserting privilege. Defendants argue that the mere identity of witnesses is not protected from discovery. Plaintiffs respond that they provided a supplemental response to the interrogatory that contains a list identifying every person with whom Plaintiffs had written or oral contact.

         Denied. Plaintiffs' response is sufficient.

         Interrogatory ...

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