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John Allen Rainwater v. John Mcginniss

June 22, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gregory G. Hollows United States Magistrate Judge



Plaintiff is a civil detainee proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this action seeking relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Presently pending is plaintiff's motion to quash a subpoena (Doc. 24), plaintiff's motion to compel (Doc. 31), plaintiff's motion for sanctions (Doc. 33) and plaintiff's motion for a 91 day extension of discovery (Doc. 37).*fn1

Plaintiff was housed in Sacramento County Main Jail (SCMJ) for several months as a civil detainee while away from his usual facility, Coalinga State Hospital (CSH). Plaintiff alleges that nearly every aspect of his time at SCMJ was too restrictive and his rights were constantly violated as he was a civil detainee, not a prisoner. Plaintiff objects to cell searches, the color of his clothing, medical treatment, the lack of a private bathroom, procedures regarding his personal property, use of phones, insufficient bedding materials and similar issues.

Motion to Quash

Defendants issued subpoenas to SCMJ and CSH for all records relating to plaintiff's medical history and treatment. Plaintiff does not object to his records being produced from SCMJ but filed the instant motion to quash the subpoena for his CSH records. Doc. 24 at 8.*fn2 Plaintiff contends that his CSH records are privileged and not relevant to the instant litigation. Defendants counter that plaintiff has compared his treatment and services at SCMJ to what he received at CSH, therefore the records are relevant.

A party may seek to quash a subpoena, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 45(c)(3), based on a claim that the subpoena infringes upon the parties' legitimate and privileged interests. U.S. v. Tomison, 969 F.Supp. 587, 596 (E.D. Cal. 1997) (citations omitted); Moon v. SCP Pool Corp., 232 F.R.D. 633, 636-37 (C.D. Cal. 2005). A parties' privacy interest in his confidential medical records is not absolute but conditional; a limited impairment of the right may be properly justified. Soto v. City of Concord, 162 F.R.D. 603, 618-19 (N.D. Cal. 1995). In order to determine whether the privacy rights outweigh the need for the information, courts might examine and balance the five factors set forth in Pagano v. Oroville Hospital, 145 F.R.D. 683, 695-98 (E.D. Cal. 1993)*fn3

(1) the probable encroachment of the individual's privacy right ... and the magnitude of the encroachment; (2) whether the encroachment of the privacy right would impact an area that has traditionally been off limits for most regulation; (3) whether the desired information is available from other sources with less encroachment of the privacy right; (4) the extent to which the exercise of the individual's privacy rights impinge on the rights of others; and (5) whether the interests of society at large encourage a need for the proposed encroachment.

In this ca se the encroachment is severe and would impact an area that has traditionally been off limits, namely an individual's medical records and treatment, both physical and mental. In addition, plaintiff's privacy rights for this information do not impinge on the rights of others and the interests of society do not encourage the encroachment. In fact, the subpoenaed records do not appear relevant to the instant litigation. Plaintiff's claims are solely focused upon his time at SCMJ. Plaintiff raises no issues concerning CSH. Plaintiff does compare his treatment at SCMJ to CSH on a few occasions, yet even if plaintiff compared all of his treatment at both facilities, the care he received at CSH is not at issue in this action. What is at issue is if plaintiff's treatment at SCMJ violated his constitutional rights. Whether CSH is more or less restrictive than SCMJ, does not alter the alleged restrictions and treatment at SCMJ In other words, this case will not be decided on whether alleged restrictions at SCMJ are the same, better, or worse than at CSH. There are certain requirements for SCMJ to maintain regardless for civil detainees. Moreover, defendants do not relate that plaintiff's CSH medical history was available to defendants when plaintiff resided in their jail; thus SCMJ cannot maintain that its treatment of plaintiff was based upon CSH background or treatment records. In such a case, plaintiff's right of privacy in his CSH records outweighs any reason for acquiring them.

For all these reasons, the subpoena to Coalinga State Hospital is quashed. Motion to Compel Plaintiff's motion o compel states that defendants provided plaintiff with a computer CD with 800 pages of documents on it, but plaintiff does not have access to a computer to view it. In their response, defendants indicated that they are printing out the pages and shipping them to plaintiff, therefore this issue is moot. To the extent plaintiff was able to view some of the documents on the CD and he states they were illegible, plaintiff appears to be referring to handwritten notes that he requested which defendants provided. Defendant is not responsible for deciphering handwritten notes or pages provided for discovery, plaintiff must do the best he can.

Therefore, plaintiff's motion to compel is denied.

Motion for Sanctions

Plaintiff seeks sanctions alleging that defendants destroyed evidence. Doc. 33. On April 14, 2011, plaintiff filed a motion (Doc. 20) for defendants to preserve all surveillance video evidence of plaintiff while at SCMJ from June 3, 2009, to October 6, 2009. The court denied the motion but noted that defendants had an ongoing obligation not to destroy evidence and were now on notice. Doc. 22.

During discovery, plaintiff requested the video surveillance and was informed by defendants that the video footage had been purged from the system during the normal course of business. Plaintiff states that defendants have a responsibility to preserve ...

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