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Harnage v. Brennan

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

August 30, 2018

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

          RULING ON PENDING MOTIONS

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

         Self-represented plaintiff James A. Harnage (“plaintiff”) has filed two motions to compel, seeking orders compelling defendants Janine Brennan, Dr. Wu, and Nurse Laura (collectively the “defendants”) to respond to plaintiff's first and second requests for production (collectively the “motions to compel”). [Docs. #51, #53]. Plaintiff also requests that the Court impose monetary sanctions as a result of defendants' failure to respond to his written discovery requests. See generally Id. On May 24, 2018, Judge Alvin W. Thompson referred the motions to compel to the undersigned. [Doc. #55]. On June 16, 2018, defendants filed an objection to the motions to compel [Doc. #59], to which plaintiff filed a “Rebuttal” on June 21, 2018 [Docs. #64, #65]. For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS, in part, and DENIES, in part, plaintiff's motions to compel [Docs. #51, #53].

         I. Background

         Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983. See generally Doc. #1, Complaint. Plaintiff alleges that on or about July 29, 2016, he was transferred from the MacDougall Correctional Institute (“MacDougall”) to the Corrigan Correctional Institute (“Corrigan”). Id. at ¶9. Plaintiff alleges that “[a]t all times herein mentioned” he was housed at Corrigan. See Id. at ¶1.

         Plaintiff alleges that during his incarceration he has been prescribed a litany of medications to treat his many ailments. See Id. at ¶¶10-11. Plaintiff alleges that the denial of those medications causes him “significant pain and needless suffering.” Id. at ¶12. In particular, plaintiff alleges:

Dr. Wu, in an attempt to save money, has instituted a policy instructing staff to minimize costs by any means including the unreasonable and arbitrary elimination of mid-day doses of necessary medications, reducing plaintiff from 3 times per day down to 2 times per day without any care or concern for the adverse effects on inmates, like Harnage.

Id. at ¶17. Plaintiff further alleges that upon his arrival at Corrigan, each of the defendants “in a conspiracy [illegible] with the other, began and did, interfere with the refill and renewal of many of the plaintiffs needed prescriptions.” Id. at ¶19 (sic). Judge Alvin W. Thompson has construed plaintiff's complaint as bringing an action for deliberate indifference to medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. See Doc. #7, Initial Review Order.[1]Plaintiff was transferred back to MacDougall in June 2017.[2] The allegations of plaintiff's complaint relate solely to his confinement at Corrigan, although plaintiff has filed another lawsuit with similar allegations directed to the time he has spent incarcerated at MacDougall. See Harnage v. Wu, No. 16CV1543(AWT) (D. Conn. Sept. 13, 2016) (hereinafter referred to “Harnage I”).

         II. Motions to Compel [Docs. #51, #53]

         Plaintiff has filed two motions to compel. The first seeks to compel responses to plaintiff's second request for production directed to defendant Brennan, to which plaintiff has received no response. See Doc. #51. The second seeks to compel responses to plaintiff's first request for production directed to defendants Brennan, Dr. Wu, and Nurse Laura, to which plaintiff has also received no response. See Doc. #53. The discovery requests at issue were respectively served on December 22, 2017, and April 12, 2017. See Doc. #51-2 at 4; Doc. #53-2 at 9. At the time the requests were served, discovery was scheduled to close on February 9, 2018. See Doc. #40. Thus, the requests at issue were timely served.

         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 motion is untimely and that “alone constitutes sufficient cause to deny them.” Doc. #59 at 1. Defendants also concede, however, that they “have not responded to the individual production requests in this case, ” but have “provided plaintiff with vast production [in plaintiff's other cases].” Id. at 2.

         Defendants are correct that plaintiff's motions may 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 responds that he “has not waived his right to discovery or the enforcement motions therewith” and that he “has done the best he can, within the confines of his confinement, to meet his obligations to prosecute this action.” Doc. #64 at 1. Generally, plaintiff fails to offer good cause for the Court to consider his motions to compel at this late stage. 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, the Court will review the substance of plaintiff's motions, particularly in light of the concession that defendants have not responded at all to plaintiff's requests for production in this action. See Doc. #59 at 2.

         C. Production in Plaintiff's Other Federal Lawsuits

         Defendants represent that in Harnage I, “Plaintiff has been provided copies of his medical chart” and further assert that plaintiff will be “provided with a variety of other records regarding his medical care[, ]” including “copies of electronic medical records, records from UConn Health Center, and URC records.” Doc. #59 at 2-3. Plaintiff concedes that his “medical cases are inter-related[, ]” but contends that he requires “a set of copies of a majority of the documents for use as exhibits in each separate action.” Doc. #64 at 2.

         The Court will not require defendants to reproduce the discovery already produced in Harnage I that is also responsive to the requests for production now at issue. Requiring defendants to reproduce thousands of pages of documents does not comply with the spirit, or the letter, of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Indeed, as the very first Rule instructs: “These rules ... should be construed, administered and employed by the Court and the parties to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 1. Requiring defendants to reproduce such vast quantities of documents does not promote the speedy or inexpensive determination of this proceeding. Accordingly, rather than reproduce any responsive documents, defendants may respond to plaintiff's written discovery requests by pointing plaintiff to the Bates numbers of the prior production which is responsive to the requests below. To the extent that the timeframe here differs from the documents produced in Harnage I, then defendants shall also produce any responsive documents for that time period, as ordered below.

         Plaintiff also contends that defendants should produce a separate set of documents in this action because of his anticipated need for trial exhibits and his limited ability to make copies at his correctional facility. See Doc. #64 at 2. Essentially, by demanding that defendants reproduce all responsive documents, plaintiff asks defendants to bear the cost of producing copies of the production. “Under federal law, the party responsible for production generally bears the cost. Reproduction is not necessarily required, however. A party need only make requested documents available for inspection and copying; it need not pay copying costs.” Clever View Investments, Ltd. v. Oshatz,233 F.R.D. 393, 394 (S.D.N.Y. 2006) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted); See also 7 James Wm. Moore et al, Moore's Federal Practice §34.14[5] (3d ed. 2017) (“A party producing documents will ordinarily not be put to the expense of making copies for the requesting party. ...


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