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Jacobs v. Scribner

September 22, 2009

GEORGE E. JACOBS IV, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ALLEN K. SCRIBNER, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary S. Austin United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO COMPEL FURTHER ANSWERS TO INTERROGATORIES

(Doc. 41)

Order on Plaintiff's Motions to Compel Interrogatory Responses and for Sanctions

Plaintiff George E. Jacobs IV ("Plaintiff") is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and California law. This action is proceeding on Plaintiff's Complaint, filed September 18, 2006, against Defendants Martinez, German, and Northcutt for use of excessive physical force, assault and battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress; and against Defendant Martinez for acting with deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's serious medical needs. The excessive force claim, which is also brought against two Doe defendants, allegedly occurred during the escort of Plaintiff from the Acute Care Hospital to the Security Housing Unit on January 26, 2005. The medical care claim against Defendant Martinez arises from Defendant's alleged failure to obtain medical care for Plaintiff on January 27, 2005, and the medical care claims against Does 3, 4, and 6-10 arise from the failure to obtain medical care for Plaintiff from January 27, 2005 through February 3, 2005. Plaintiff alleges that he was ultimately transported to an outside hospital for emergency medical care on February 2, 2005, and lost the sight in one eye as a result of his injuries.

I. Motion to Compel Further Responses to Interrogatories

On March 3, 2008, Plaintiff filed a motion to compel further responses to his interrogatories and for sanctions. (Doc. 41.) Defendants filed an opposition on March 18, 2008, and Plaintiff filed a reply on April 11, 2008. (Docs. 43, 50.)

Plaintiff is entitled to seek discovery of any non-privileged matter that is relevant to his claims. Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). The discovery sought may include information that is not admissible as long as it appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Id. The responding party is obligated to respond to the interrogatories to the fullest extent possible, Fed. R. Civ. P. 33(b)(3), and any objections must be stated with specificity, Fed. R. Civ. P. 33(b)(4). The responding party shall use common sense and reason, e.g., Collins v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., No. 06-2466-CM-DJW, 2008 WL 1924935, *8 (D. Kan. Apr. 30, 2008), and hyper-technical, quibbling, or evasive objections will not be treated with favor.

A responding party is not generally required to conduct extensive research in order to answer an interrogatory, but a reasonable effort to respond must be made. L.H. v. Schwarzenegger, No. S-06-2042 LKK GGH, 2007 WL 2781132, *2 (E.D. Cal. Sep. 21, 2007). Further, the responding party has a duty to supplement any responses if the information sought is later obtained or the response provided needs correction. Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(e).

A. Defendant Martinez - Set One

ROG 1: "State all facts you have in support of your general denial."

ROG 2: "State all facts you have in support of your affirmative defense."

Ruling: These interrogatories are overly broad and vague, and Defendant's objections are sustained. Plaintiff's motion to compel a response beyond Defendant's denial of the allegations in the Complaint is denied.

ROG 3: "Do you contend that you were not the sole cause of the subject incident?"

ROG 4: "If your response to the preceding interrogatory no 3 was in the affirmative, please set forth each and every fact in support of your contention."

Ruling: Number 3 is vague and ambiguous as to "sole cause" and "subject incident." Plaintiff is asserting more than one claim against Defendant Martinez, and even assuming Plaintiff is referring to either the alleged incident of force on January 26, 2005, or the alleged incident of denial of medical care on January 27, 2005, the question is not comprehensible as framed in that it is unclear what information Plaintiff is attempting to obtain with this interrogatory. As a result, no response to number 4 is due. Plaintiff's motion to compel is denied.

ROG 6: "If your response to the preceding interrogatory (no. 5) was in the affirmative, please set forth each and every fact in support of your contention."

Ruling: Number 5, which is not subject to a motion to compel, asked, "Do you contend that plaintiff contributed to the subject matter incident?" Defendant's response to number 5 was not in the affirmative; rather Defendant responded by denying that Plaintiff's allegations as stated in the Complaint were true. Defendant denies that an incident occurred. Therefore, Plaintiff is not entitled to a response to number 6 and his motion to compel is denied. Although Plaintiff did not move to compel a further response to number 5, the Court's position on number 5 is the same as for number 3.

ROG 8: "If your response to the preceding interrogatory no. 7 was in the affirmative, please set forth each and every fact in support of your contention."

Ruling: Number 7 asked, "Do you contend that plaintiff was not injured as a result of your physical handling?" Defendant denied that Plaintiff was injured in number 7 and then responded to number 8 by stating that he did not answer affirmatively. If Defendant's position is that Plaintiff was not injured, Number 7 was designed to elicit a response in the affirmative, e.g., "Yes, I deny that you were injured" or something similar. Therefore, Defendant's objection to number 8 on the ground that he did not answer in the affirmative is overruled. Ordinarily, a party may not phrase an affirmative interrogatory response in the negative so as to avoid responding to a follow-up interrogatory. However, number 8 requires that Defendant set forth facts in support of a negative, which does not appear possible in this instance. Therefore, Plaintiff's motion to compel is denied.

ROG 10: "If your response to the preceding interrogatories [sic] no. 9 was in the affirmative, please set forth each and every fact in support of your contention." Ruling: Number 9 as framed should have elicited an affirmative response from Defendant to the effect of, "Yes, I contend Plaintiff was not injured." Based on that affirmative response, Defendant was required to respond to number 10. Defendant may not word his response as a denial and then decline to respond when the question as framed should have elicited an affirmative response. Defendant's objection is overruled. Again, however, number 10 seeks that Defendant prove a negative by providing facts in support of the denial that Plaintiff was injured. In this instance, the Court cannot discern how Defendant can do so and hence Plaintiff's motion to compel is denied on that ground.

ROG 12: "If your response to the preceding interrogatory no. 11 was in the negative, please set forth each and every fact in support of your contention."

Ruling: Number 11 asked if Defendant witnessed Plaintiff being punched in the body area by Defendant German and Does 1 & 2. Defendant denied seeing Plaintiff being punched, and responded to number 12 by stating that he cannot provide information on an event which he contends did not occur. Plaintiff's motion to compel is denied. If Defendant denies witnessing such an event and denies it occurred, there is no further information to provide.

ROG 14: "If your response to the preceding interrogatory no. 13 was in the negative, please set forth each and every fact in support of your contention.

Ruling: Number 13 asked if Defendant witnessed Plaintiff being punched in the face/head by Defendant German. Defendant denied seeing Plaintiff being punched, and responded to number 14 by stating that he cannot provide information on an event which he contends did not occur. Plaintiff's motion to compel is denied. If Defendant denies witnessing such an event and denies it occurred, there is no further information to provide.

ROG 16: "If your response to the preceding interrogatory no. 15 was in the negative, please set forth each and every fact in support of your contention."

Ruling: Defendant denied witnessing Plaintiff being punched by any other defendants in number 15 and responded to number 16 by stating that he cannot provide further information on an event that did not occur. Based on those responses, Defendant cannot be compelled to provide further information. Plaintiff's motion to compel is denied.

ROG 18: "If your response to the preceding interrogatory no. 17 was in the affirmative, please set forth each and every fact in support of your contention."

Ruling: Number 17 asked Defendant if he escorted Plaintiff during the day on January 26, 2005, and Defendant responded that he recalls escorting Plaintiff to the SHU on that date. In response to number 18, Defendant objected as overly broad, vague, and ambiguous, but again responded that he recalls escorting Plaintiff to the SHU on that date. Defendant's objections are overruled, and Plaintiff's motion to compel is granted. Defendant shall serve a response setting forth ...


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