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William Cody Carter v. City of Carlsbad

February 15, 2011


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


[ECF No. 29]

Pending before the Court is Plaintiff's motion to compel production of documents. ECF No. 29. Having considered the briefing filed by the parties and all applicable law, the Court GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART Plaintiff's motion.


This case arises out of an October 31, 2009 incident involving Plaintiff and officers of the Carlsbad Police Department. In his First Amended Complaint ("FAC"), Plaintiff explains that he, his fiancee, and four other friends went to the Coyote Bar & Grill in Carlsbad on October 31, 2009. FAC ¶ 12. When Plaintiff was denied entrance due to overcrowding, he went around to the back patio to explain the situation to his friends, who already had entered the bar. Id. ¶ 13. Plaintiff's fiancee, Megan, and two other friends decided to leave with Plaintiff, and they set off walking along the edge of the parking lot next to the bar. Id.

As they were walking, Plaintiff and one of his friends were involved in a loud conversation. Id. ¶ 14. When the group reached the sidewalk and was preparing to cross a set of train tracks, Megan heard a voice yell "Stop!" Id. The others did not hear anything. Id. Then, three police officers approached and Officer Meritt called out "Hey stupid!" Id. Plaintiff had his back to the officers and did not notice their approach. Id. When he did finally start to turn around, Officer Meritt shot him in the chest with his taser, causing Plaintiff to fall backward and hit his head on the sidewalk. Id. ¶ 15.

Despite the fact that Plaintiff was bleeding out of his ears and unconscious, Officer Meritt would not allow anyone, including an Emergency Medical Technician passerby, to assist Plaintiff, who waited approximately fifteen minutes for an ambulance to arrive. Id.

¶¶ 15-16. Plaintiff suffered a fractured skull, a concussion, and tinnitis. Id. ¶ 17. Fluid continues to leak from his right ear, in which he also has suffered approximately fifty percent hearing loss. Id.

In his FAC, brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiff alleges use of excessive force, failure to train, failure to supervise, battery, negligence, and violation of California Civil Code § 52.1.

The instant discovery dispute revolves around requests for production of documents served on the City of Carlsbad (City) by Plaintiff on September 7, 2010. Pursuant to a briefing schedule issued by the Court (ECF No. 27), Plaintiff filed his motion to compel on January 19, 2011 (ECF No. 29). Defendants opposed the motion on January 26, 2011 (ECF No. 32), and Plaintiff filed a reply brief on January 28, 2011 (ECF No. 36). The Court then took the matter under submission. See ECF No. 27.


The Federal Rules generally allow for broad discovery, authorizing parties to obtain discovery regarding "any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense." Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). Also, "[f]or good cause, the court may order discovery of any matter relevant to the subject matter involved in the action." Id. District courts have broad discretion to determine relevancy for discovery purposes. See Hallett v. Morgan, 296 F.3d 732, 751 (9th Cir. 2002). Similarly, district courts have broad discretion to limit discovery where the discovery sought is "unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or can be obtained from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive." Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2)(C). Limits also should be imposed where the burden or expense outweighs the likely benefits. Id. When a party fails to permit inspection as requested under Rule 34, a motion to compel is appropriate. Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(a)(3)(B)(iv).


In his motion, Plaintiff seeks to compel production of documents that the City withheld in responding to Plaintiff's Request for Production of Documents, Set One, Nos. 2,3, 6 & 7. Mem. P. & A. Supp. Mot. to Compel (P.'s Mem.) at 7-8. Specifically, Plaintiff moves to compel production of the portions of the Carlsbad Police Department's Internal Affairs Investigation report on the October 31, 2009 incident that the City redacted and any documents related to investigations of, or disciplinary actions taken against, Officer Merritt. Id. at 7-8, 16. Defendants contend that Plaintiff is not entitled to this information. Defs.' Opp'n at 3.

As an initial matter, Defendants raised a timeliness objection when the parties initially contacted the Court regarding their discovery disputes. The Court considered the objection, but exercised its discretion to allow Plaintiff to file the motion. Both parties subsequently addressed in their briefs the question of whether Plaintiff's motion was filed in a timely manner. Defs.' Opp'n at 5-6; Pl.'s Reply at 4-5. The Court ...

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