The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Anthony J. Battaglia U.S. Magistrate Judge United States District Court
Order Granting Motion to Compel [Doc. No. 83]
Plaintiff brings this motion to compel seeking all records in the possession of Children's Hospital and Health Center ("CHHC") and its Center for Child Protection, which pertain to Travis Phinney. Plaintiff's request to CHHC for Travis Phinney's medical records was accompanied by a medical records authorization from Travis Phinney's mother. Defendants' contend that Plaintiff is not entitled to the requested discovery because the requested records have no bearing on the instant case and are not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence as required by Rule 26(b)(1) of the Federal Rules. The parties submitted letter briefs and the hearing was set for April 6, 2007 at 1:30 p.m. before Judge Battaglia was vacated as this motion is appropriate for submission on the papers and without oral argument pursuant to Local Rule 7.1(d)(1). Based upon the moving papers and for the reasons set forth herein, Plaintiff's Motion to Compel is hereby GRANTED.
The instant action was brought by Plaintiff for violation of his Civil Rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of Plaintiff's fourth amendment rights , malicious prosecution under both § 1983 and state law, intentional infliction of emotional distress and violation of state civil rights statutes. Plaintiff was convicted of the murder of Phillip Buell. The complaint in the instant action alleges a conspiracy between Defendants to mislead and distort the medical history of Phillip Buell, to perform his autopsy in a false and deliberate manner to convict Plaintiff. Plaintiff's complaint also alleges that the Defendants improperly influenced the County of San Diego to allow them to perform autopsies and autopsy related services in cases where children's deaths were suspected of having been caused by abuse.
Plaintiff brings this motion to compel seeking all records in the possession of Children's Hospital and Health Center ("CHHC") and its Center for Child Protection, which pertain to Travis Phinney, who was admitted to the hospital in September 1984 and died there on October 9, 1984. His autopsy at CHHC resulted in a false accusation of murder against his mother, Carol Phinney. Plaintiff's request to CHHC for Travis Phinney's medical records was accompanied by a medical records authorization from Travis Phinney's mother. Defendant, CHHC argues that Plaintiff is not legally entitled to discovery of documents from an unrelated case involving the death of the child named Travis Phinney, who was deceased after Phillip Buell.
I. Rule 37 - Motion to Compel
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1)*fn1 states, "Parties may obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, that is relevant to the claim or defense of any party, including the existence, description, nature, custody, condition of any books, documents, or other tangible things and the identity and location of persons having knowledge of any discoverable matter. . . .Relevant information need not be admissible at the trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 26(b)(1). "Generally, the purpose of discovery is to remove surprise from trial preparation so the parties can obtain evidence necessary to evaluate and resolve their dispute. Toward this end, Rule 26(b) is liberally interpreted to permit wide-ranging discovery of information even though the information may not be admissible at the trial." U.S. ex rel. Schwartz v. TRW, Inc., 211 F.R.D. 388, 392 (C.D. Cal 2002)(internal citations omitted).
Federal Rule 37(a)(2)(B), allows the discovering party to move for an order compelling an answer, a designation, or an inspection in accordance with a specific discovery request. Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 37(a)(2)(B). This rule establishes "a flexible means by which a court may enforce compliance with the Federal discovery procedures through a broad choice of remedies and penalties." B.F. Goodrich Tire Co. v. Lyster, 328 F. 2d 411, 415 (5th Cir. 1954). Answers that are evasive or incomplete are treated as a failure to disclose. Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 37(a)(3).
At issue in this motion is the relevance and the degree to which the records are likely to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Defendants' contend that Plaintiff's motion to compel should be denied because the requested documents: 1) are not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence; 2) improperly seek propensity evidence, which is not supported by the complaint; 3) would be inadmissible under Federal Rule of Evidence Rule 403 and would result in extraordinary expense and burden. Alternatively, the Plaintiff argues that the requested discovery is 1) relevant; 2) admissible under Federal Rule of Evidence Rule 404(b); 3) required under Monell to establish that a policy, practice or procedure of the municipality was the driving force behind the deprivation of Plaintiff's constitutional rights.
I. Relevancy Under Rule 26 and Admissibility Under Rule 403
Rule 26 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs the permissible scope of discovery in federal civil litigation. Rule 26(b) sets forth the threshold relevance requirement that information sought to be discovered must appear "reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence."*fn2
Rule 26(c) then confers broad powers on the courts to regulate or prevent discovery even though the materials sought are within the scope of 26(b), and these ...