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Harnage v. Brennan

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

May 9, 2018

JAMES A. HARNAGE
v.
JANINE BRENNAN, et al.

          RULING ON PENDING MOTIONS

          HON. SARAH A. L. MERRIAM, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Pending before the Court are two motions filed by self-represented plaintiff James A. Harnage (“plaintiff”). One motion seeks to compel responses to, and sanctions for defendant Dr. Wu's failure to respond to, plaintiff's interrogatories. [Doc. #44]. The second motion requests an extension of time to complete discovery and to modify the current scheduling order. [Doc. #45]. Defendants have filed an objection to plaintiff's motions. [Doc. #49]. For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS, in part, and DENIES, in part, plaintiff's motion to compel [Doc. #44], and GRANTS, in part, plaintiff's motion for extension of time to complete discovery and modification of scheduling order [Doc. #45], for the limited purpose of completing the discovery ordered herein.

         I. Relevant Procedural History

         The Court presumes familiarity with the general procedural and factual background of this matter, and outlines the procedural history only as relevant to the current dispute.

         On November 13, 2017, plaintiff filed a “Motion to Expand Discovery, ” which sought to increase the number of interrogatories he could serve on each defendant. See Doc. #30. On November 15, 2017, defendants filed an objection to that motion. [Doc. #31]. On November 20, 2017, Judge Thompson referred plaintiff's motion to the undersigned. [Doc. #32]. The next day, the Court denied plaintiff's motion, without prejudice. [Doc. #33]. The Court stated, inter alia: “If plaintiff wishes to pursue this request, he may file a renewed motion that includes a list of the interrogatories he wishes to serve, and explains why each of the interrogatories is necessary and appropriate under Rule 26.” Id. At no time since that Order has plaintiff filed a renewed motion for permission to serve excess interrogatories.

         On December 11, 2017, Judge Thompson held a telephonic status conference, and ordered that all discovery be completed by February 9, 2018. See Doc. #40. Judge Thompson further ordered that any dispositive motions be filed by March 12, 2018. See Id. No dispositive motions having been filed, on April 9, 2018, Judge Thompson entered a Trial Memorandum Order, requiring that the parties jointly file by May 9, 2018, a Trial Memorandum for approval by the Court. [Doc. #43].

         Plaintiff filed the motions now at issue on April 11, 2018, and April 16, 2018, respectively. The Court addresses each in turn.

         II. Motion to Compel [Doc. #44]

         Plaintiff moves to compel answers to 183 separate interrogatories directed to defendant Dr. Wu. See Doc. #44. Plaintiff also seeks the award of “punitive monetary sanctions to be awarded to charity” in light of “defendants failure to comply with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure[.]” Id. at 1 (sic). Plaintiff asserts that Dr. Wu has provided no response to any of the 183 interrogatories. See Id. Dr. Wu responds that plaintiff never sought permission to serve 183 interrogatories and that answering 183 interrogatories is overly burdensome and an abusive discovery tactic. See Doc. #49 at 1.

         A. Legal Standard

         Rule 26(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure sets forth the scope and limitations of permissible discovery:

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). “[T]he burden of demonstrating relevance is on the party seeking discovery[.]” Mason Tenders Dist. Council of Greater New York v. Phase Constr. Servs., Inc., 318 F.R.D. 28, 36 (S.D.N.Y. 2016). Once the party seeking discovery has demonstrated relevance, the burden then shifts to “[t]he party resisting discovery ... [to] show[] why discovery should be denied.” Cole v. Towers Perrin Forster & Crosby, 256 F.R.D. 79, 80 (D. Conn. 2009) (alterations added).

         B. ...


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