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Beckner v. El Cajon Police Dep't

May 9, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Barbara L. Major United States Magistrate Judge


On March 28, 2008, Defendants in the above matter filed a motion to compel discovery pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. ("Rule") 37, alleging that Plaintiff, a prisoner proceeding pro se, had failed to answer interrogatories and produce requested documents. Doc. No. 45 ("Mtn. to Compel"). On April 15, 2008, Plaintiff opposed the motion. Doc. No. 56. The Court took the matter under submission pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7.1(d)(1).

Having considered all of the briefing and supporting documents presented, and for the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion to compel is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART as follows.


In January 2007, El Cajon Police Officers Jacob Cutting, Sean Webb, T. Mandsur, and Ehler (full names unknown) responded to a call reporting an individual who had attempted to cash a stolen check. Doc. No. 50 at 3-10 (police reports). When the officers arrived at the store, Plaintiff, who matched the description of the suspect, fled. Id. The officers pursued and tackled Plaintiff. Id. Plaintiff struggled against the officers and, as they were attempting to handcuff and subdue him, the officers dislocated Plaintiff's elbow, injured his nose, and caused cuts, scrapes and an allegedly broken thumb. Id. at 11-13 (medical reports); First Amended Complaint ("FAC") at 8.*fn1 After handcuffing Plaintiff, the officers called the paramedics, who confirmed that Plaintiff's elbow was broken. Id. at 4, 8; FAC at 8. Plaintiff subsequently was taken to the police station for processing, and then to the hospital for his injuries. Id. at 8; FAC at 8.

On September 10, 2007, Plaintiff pled guilty in San Diego Superior Court to commercial burglary and resisting arrest, in violation of California Penal Code §§ 69 & 470. Doc. No. 21-2. While incarcerated, Plaintiff sued the officers involved in his arrest and the City of El Cajon. FAC. Plaintiff alleges that defendant officers "brutally beat" him and subsequently denied him proper, and sufficiently prompt, health care, in violation of the Constitution, civil rights statutes, and laws of tort. Id. Plaintiff also claims that the officers and City of El Cajon have adopted "the custom and policy of denying individuals in their care proper medical attention." Id. at 4. Defendants raise a number of affirmative defenses, including Plaintiff's contributory negligence, and Defendants' qualified and absolute immunity based on their good-faith actions and status as government actors. Answer at 2-4.

In December 2007, the district judge partially granted Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's FAC, Doc. No. 29, and Defendants answered the remaining claims in January 2008, Answer. On February 21, 2008, Defendants timely served on Plaintiff twelve special interrogatories, Doc. No. 45-3 at 4-6 ("Interrogs."), and a request for production of documents, id. at 8-10 ("Requests for Production"). Both the interrogatories and the document request primarily concern the factual and documentary bases for Plaintiff's allegations of harm and damages arising from the arrest. Interrogs.; Requests for Production.

On approximately March 13, 2008, Plaintiff sent Defendants a document titled "Answers and Objections to Defendants [sic] Interrogatories." Doc. No. 45-3 at 12-13. In this document, Plaintiff objected to each of Defendants' twelve interrogatories, stating for each: "In answer to Question [1, 2, etc.]... The Plaintiff objects to question [1, 2, etc.]." Id. Plaintiff provided no further grounds for his objections.

Several days later, on approximately March 16, 2008, Plaintiff sent Defendants a letter. Id. at 19-20 ("Pl. Letter"). In relevant part, this letter stated:

... This letter is in regards to your request for Production of Documents.

I have already sent to you copies of the police reports and also pictures along with some medical records that I plan on producing as evidence. I am also planning on calling Artemis Whalum as a witness as well as [illegible name]. Artemis Whalum is currently in custody and a witness of Jacob Cuttings [sic] abusive tactics. [Illegible name] is not in custody and he is a witness to the incident at hand.

Id. at 19.

On March 25, 2008, Defendants faxed a "meet and confer" letter to Plaintiff. Doc. No. 45-3 at 15. The letter stated that Plaintiff had not provided sufficient justification for objecting to the interrogatories, and that, if Defendants did not receive complete answers by March 27, 2008, they would file a motion to compel, and request attorneys fees incurred in preparing the motion. Id. On approximately April 1, 2008, while still declining to provide any information, Plaintiff amended his responses to Defendants' interrogatories, stating more specific objections. Doc. No. 47 at 4-5.


The scope of discovery is defined by Rule 26(b), which permits litigants to obtain discovery regarding "any matter, not privileged, that is relevant to the claim or defense of any party . . ." Rule 26(b)(1). In the discovery context, relevant information includes any information "reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence," and need not be admissible at trial. Id. District courts enjoy broad discretion both to determine relevancy for discovery ...

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