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Harnage v. Shari

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

September 12, 2019

JAMES A. HARNAGE
v.
INTERN SHARI, et al.

          RULING ON PLANTIFF'S EMERGENCY MOTION TO COMPEL RESPONSES TO PLAINTIFF'S FIRST INTERROGATORIES AND REQUEST FOR PRODUCTION [DOC. #80]

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

         Pending before the Court is a motion filed by self-represented plaintiff James A. Harnage (“plaintiff”), seeking to compel additional responses to plaintiff's interrogatories and requests for production directed to defendant Sreelakshmi Reddivari (hereinafter the “defendant”) [Doc. #80]. On August 16, 2019, Judge Alvin W. Thompson referred plaintiff's motion to the undersigned. [Doc. #86]. On September 3, 2019, following a meet-and-confer telephone call with plaintiff [Docs. #93, #101], defendant filed an objection to plaintiff's motion to compel. [Doc. #102]. For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS, in part, and DENIES, in part, plaintiff's Emergency Motion to Compel Responses to Plaintiff's First Interrogatories and Request for Production [Doc. #80].

         I. Background

         Plaintiff, proceeding by a Corrected Complaint, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983, alleging that each named defendant was deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs. See Doc. #25, Corrected Complaint. At all times relevant to the allegations in the Corrected Complaint, plaintiff was an inmate in the custody of the Connecticut Department of Correction, and housed at the MacDougall Correctional Institute. See Id. at ¶1.

         On September 2, 2015, plaintiff underwent a surgical correction of “an abdominal midline hernia and diastasis.” Id. at ¶7. The allegations of the Corrected Complaint do not relate to the surgery itself, but instead are limited to the several days of plaintiff's post-surgical care at the University of Connecticut (“UConn”) John Dempsey Hospital (hereinafter the “Hospital”). See generally Doc. #25, Corrected Complaint. Plaintiff alleges that defendant, who was then a surgical intern at the Hospital, deliberately used excessive pressure when examining plaintiff's abdomen during post-surgical rounds, causing plaintiff unnecessary pain. See Id. at ¶¶24-40. Plaintiff asserts that after he complained about defendant's post-surgical examinations, defendant “became even more aggressive in her palpitation of plaintiffs abdomen, sadistically for the very purpose of causing the plaintiff pain.” Id. at ¶38 (sic). Plaintiff also alleges that defendant was present for plaintiff's “pre-surgery and post-surgical consultations with” his surgeon, Dr. Giles. Id. at ¶24.

         Each of the other three named defendants -- Joanne Ernest, Jacqueline Anderson and Joan LeBlanc -- is alleged to have been part of the Hospital medical staff tending to plaintiff's post-surgical care. See Doc. #25 at ¶¶3-5. Plaintiff alleges, in pertinent part, that these three defendants each deliberately ignored doctors' prescriptions for plaintiff's post-surgical pain medications, turned off plaintiff's call button, denied or ignored plaintiff's requests for assistance in using the toilet, and denied plaintiff's requests for secondary pain medication. See generally Id. at ¶¶8-23.

         Although the Corrected Complaint alleges that after plaintiff's surgery on September 2, 2015, he “remained hospitalized for approximately 7 days, ” plaintiff has clarified on the record that the claims at issue in this case relate solely to the time when he was hospitalized from September 4, 2015, through September 8, 2019. See Doc. #95, Transcript of August 12, 2019, Telephonic Discovery Conference, at 18:2-14, 26:20-22; see also Id. at 35:18-20 (“Mr. Harnage has explained that the harm in this case and the actions in this case are all entirely limited to ... September 4th to 8, 2015[.]”).

         Plaintiff filed his motion to compel on August 12, 2019. [Doc. #80]. On August 13, 2019, the Court took that motion under advisement, and ordered plaintiff and counsel for defendants to engage in a meet-and-confer telephone call by August 26, 2019. See Doc. #83. The Court also ordered that by September 3, 2019, plaintiff and counsel for defendants file a joint status report detailing which of plaintiff's discovery requests had been resolved by agreement, and which remained outstanding for the Court's adjudication. See Id. On August 30, 2019, counsel for defendants filed a status report concerning the parties' meet-and-confer efforts. See Doc. #101. Those efforts were fruitless, and the entirety of plaintiff's motion remains for the Court's consideration. See Id. at 1. On September 3, 2019, defendant filed an objection to plaintiff's motion to compel. [Doc. #102].

         II. 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 remains on the party seeking discovery.” Bagley v. Yale Univ., 315 F.R.D. 131, 144 (D. Conn. 2016) (quotation marks and citation omitted), as amended (June 15, 2016); Republic of Turkey v. Christie's, Inc., 326 F.R.D. 394, 400 (S.D.N.Y. 2018) (same). 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).

         III. Discussion

         Plaintiff seeks to compel further responses to both his interrogatories and requests for production served on defendant. See Doc. #80. The Court addresses each request in turn, beginning with plaintiff's interrogatories.

         A. Interrogatories

         1. Interrogatory 1

         Interrogatory 1 asks defendant to: “Describe any and all interactions and medical care provided by you (Reddivari) to plaintiff, James A. Harnage, at any time between January 2013 and December 2018, including the date of the medical care, the type and purpose of the medical care and any other person involved in providing or supervising the care provided.” Doc. #80-2 at 1. Defendant did not answer interrogatory 1, and instead objected on grounds that the interrogatory is overly broad, unduly burdensome, vague, ambiguous, not reasonably limited in time or duration, and seeks information that is not relevant to the claims of this case. See Id. at 1-2. Defendant also objected:

[I]t appears plaintiff is in a better position to obtain or provide the information sought, as he is in possession of his medical records and has refused to produce them to the defendant in this case and has refused to execute releases that would allow the defendant to obtain those records in this case. The defendant would need to review the medical records in order to assess or evaluate this interrogatory.

Id. at 2.

         The Court SUSTAINS defendant's objections, in part. In light of the very discrete claims at issue in the Corrected Complaint, interrogatory 1 is overbroad in both substantive and temporal scope. The Court also sustains defendant's objection that the term “interactions” is vague. Nevertheless, the Court will require defendant to answer interrogatory 1, reframed as follows: Describe (1) any and all medical treatment provided by you to plaintiff, and/or (2) any medical visits you had with plaintiff, related to plaintiff's September 2, 2015, abdominal hernia surgery. Defendant's response should include the date of any ...


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