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Harnage v. Pillai

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

June 1, 2018

JAMES A. HARNAGE
v.
DR. OMPREKASH PILLAI, et al.

          RULING ON PENDING MOTIONS

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

         Pending before the Court are four motions filed by self-represented plaintiff James A. Harnage (“plaintiff”). Two motions seek to compel responses to, and sanctions for defendant Rikel Lightner's failure to respond to, plaintiff's interrogatories and requests for production (collectively the “motions to compel”). [Docs. #33, #34]. The third motion seeks the entry of a default against all defendants for their failure to comply with a discovery order (“motion for default”). [Doc. #32]. The fourth motion seeks to “extend discovery nunc pro tunc.” [Doc. #31 (sic)]. On May 18, 2018, and May 25, 2018, Judge Alvin W. Thompson referred those motions to the undersigned. [Docs. #35, #37]. Defendants Dr. Omprekash Pillai, Dr. David Giles, Lisa Caldonero, “P.A. Rob”, and Rikel Lightner (collectively the “defendants”) filed an objection to the pending motions on May 20, 2018. [Doc. #36]. On May 31, 2018, plaintiff filed a “response” to defendants' objection. [Doc. #38]. For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS, in part, and DENIES, in part, plaintiff's motions to compel [Docs. ##33, 34], DENIES plaintiff's motion for default [Doc. #32], and GRANTS, in part, and DENIES, in part, plaintiff's motion to extend discovery nunc pro tunc [Doc. #31].

         I. Background

         Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983. See generally Doc. #1, Complaint. Plaintiff alleges that Rikel Lightner, from whom the discovery at issue is sought, “is and was a medical staff member, employed by CMHC, and assigned duties as the Health Services Administrator, responsible for overseeing the medical services provided to inmates at MacDougall[.]” Id. at ¶6. At the time of the incidents alleged in the Complaint, plaintiff was incarcerated at the MacDougall Correctional Institute (“MacDougall”). See Id. at ¶1.

         Plaintiff generally alleges that in retaliation for filing lawsuits, grievances, and health service reviews, defendants “unreasonably denied, delayed and prolonged plaintiffs treatment[]” for his hemorrhoid and abdominal hernia, for which plaintiff eventually underwent surgery. Id. at ¶¶9-17 (sic). Plaintiff alleges, inter alia, that defendants permitted conditions to exist that “deprived the plaintiff of proper and adequate post-operative care.” Id. at ¶16. As to defendant Lightner specifically, plaintiff alleges that she “retaliated against Harnage following the hemorrhoid surgery when after Harnage filed numerous requests and Health Service Reviews asking that these conditions be corrected, Lightner ignored the plaintiffs pleas thereby condoning the conditions.” Id. at ¶28 (sic). Defendants filed an answer to the Complaint on September 27, 2017, and asserted several affirmative defenses. [Doc. #23].

         On November 2, 2017, Judge Thompson granted plaintiff's motion for extension of time until December 30, 2017, to complete discovery. See Doc. #28. In granting that motion, Judge Thompson warned: “No further extensions shall be granted.” Id. On May 10, 2018, over four months after the close of discovery, plaintiff filed the two motions to compel and motion for default now at issue. See Docs. #32, #33, #34. Simultaneously with those motions, plaintiff filed a nunc pro tunc motion to extend the discovery deadline to July 9, 2018. [Doc. #31].

         II. Motions to Compel [Docs. #33, #34]

         Plaintiff's motions to compel seek responses to interrogatories and requests for production served on defendant Lightner. See Docs. #33, #34. Each of the discovery requests attached to plaintiff's motions bears a date of October 3, 2017. See Docs. #33-2, #34-2. At the time the requests were served on defendant Lightner, discovery was scheduled to close on October 26, 2017. See Doc. #9 at 8-9. Thus, the requests at issue were served within the then controlling discovery deadline.

         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. Timeliness of Motions

         In response to plaintiff's motions, defendants contend that each is untimely and that “alone justifies denying all of the motions outright.” Doc. #36 at 1. Defendants also concede, however, that they “have not provided plaintiff with discovery in this specific action, ” but assert that “many of the concerns plaintiff's raises in these motions will be addressed by the production” in another one of plaintiff's cases, Harnage v. Wu, 3:16CV1543(AWT). Id. (sic) (footnote omitted).[1]

         Defendants are correct that plaintiff's motions could be deemed untimely as they were filed after the close of discovery. “Though Rule 37 does not establish time limits for such a motion, a party seeking to file a motion to compel after discovery has closed must ... establish good cause.” Gucci Am., Inc. v. Guess?, Inc., 790 F.Supp.2d 136, 139 (S.D.N.Y. 2011); accord Casagrande v. Norm Bloom & Son, LLC, No. 3:11CV1918(CSH), 2014 WL 5817562, at *2 (D. Conn. Nov. 10, 2014). Plaintiff “disagrees” with defendants' representation that his discovery is untimely and contends: “To the point any such pursuit of the enforcement of the discovery rules may be construed as ‘untimely', the plaintiff posits that such untimeliness is a direct result of the defendants actions.” Doc. #38 at 2 (sic). Plaintiff then lists the ways in which he believes defense counsel has obstructed his attempts to obtain discovery in this matter. See Id. at 2-3. Plaintiff also attempts to lay blame on the Court for his untimely motions. See Id. at 3. Generally, plaintiff fails to offer good cause for the Court to consider his motions to compel at this late stage. Indeed, plaintiff is well-versed in litigation and he could have filed a motion seeking an extension of the discovery deadline. Or, he could have filed a motion to compel in November 2017, when the responses were due. He did not do so. Thus, the Court could simply deny plaintiff's motions as untimely. See, e.g., Richardson v. City of New York, 326 Fed.Appx. 580, 582 (2d Cir. 2009) (“[T]he district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Plaintiff's motion to compel discovery, which was filed over one month after the close of discovery, as untimely.”); James v. United States, No. 99CV4238(BSJ)(HBP), 2003 WL 22149524, at *6 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 17, 2003) (denying motion to compel as untimely where it was filed six months after the close of discovery and the movant proffered no justification for the untimeliness). However, in recognition of plaintiff's self-represented status, and in light of the concession that defendants have not provided plaintiff with any discovery in this action, the Court will not deny the motions as untimely. See Doc. #36 at 1.

         C. Motion to Compel Answers to Interrogatories [Doc. #33]

         Plaintiff has served fifteen interrogatories directed to defendant Lightner, to which she has provided no answers or objections. See Doc. #33-2. After reviewing those interrogatories and the allegations of plaintiff's Complaint, as limited by the Initial Review Order, see Docs. #1, #9, the Court hereby orders as follows:

Defendant Lightner shall answer interrogatories 1, 3 through 7, and 10 through 12, ...

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