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Dewayne G. Thomas v. Nangalama

March 27, 2012

DEWAYNE G. THOMAS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NANGALAMA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



ORDER

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding without counsel and in forma pauperis in an action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He is proceeding on his May 25, 2010 complaint in which he alleges that defendants Bal and Nangalama ("defendants") were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Specifically, he alleges that the defendants refused, for six months, to provide pain medication for his testicular, scrotal and penile pain, and denied him a referral to a urologist. Currently pending are defendants' motion to compel (Docket No. 25) and motion for summary judgment (Docket No. 32). For the reasons provided below, defendants' motion to compel is granted in part and their motion for summary judgment is denied without prejudice.

I. Motion to Compel

On May 20, 2011, defendants timely moved for an order compelling plaintiff to provide further responses to their interrogatories. Dckt. No. 25; see also January 31, 2011 Discovery and Scheduling Order, Dckt. No. 16. Defendants contend that plaintiff provided deficient responses to: (1) Bal's first set of interrogatories, numbers 7-25; and (2) Nangalama's first set of interrogatories, numbers 4, and 7-8. Id. Defendants also request attorney's fees in the amount of $1,225 on the grounds that plaintiff's failure to comply with the discovery process was not justified. Id. On June 7, 2011, plaintiff filed a statement of non-opposition to defendants' motion. Dckt. No. 28. Plaintiff states that he is uneducated in the law, and that he reasonably believed his discovery responses were sufficient. Id. Plaintiff states that after receiving defendants' motion to compel, however, he agreed that his responses were insufficient, and served supplemental responses. Id. On June 8, 2011, defendants filed a reply, arguing that their motion to compel should be granted because plaintiff's supplemental responses are still evasive and incomplete and are tantamount to no response at all. Dckt. No. 29.

Rule 33(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ("Rule") provides that the party responding to an interrogatory must answer by stating the appropriate objection(s) with specificity or by "answer[ing] separately and fully in writing under oath." Fed. R. Civ. P. 33(b)(3), (4). Rule 37(a) provides that the interrogating party may move to compel an answer when a party fails to answer an interrogatory, or when the answer provided is evasive or incomplete. Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(a)(3)(B)(iii), (a)(4).

Defendants argue that plaintiff's responses to their interrogatories are evasive and incomplete because plaintiff (1) did not answer with written facts, but rather, incorporated by reference documents that he did not produce, (2) stated that he has "personal knowledge" of facts to support his claims, but never stated what those facts are, and (3) lists names of witnesses that he contends have personal knowledge, but provides no facts regarding the personal knowledge of those witnesses.

A. Bal's Interrogatories 7-25*fn1

1. Plaintiff Must "Fully" Answer Interrogatories 7 and 8

Interrogatories 7 and 8 sought "all facts" that plaintiff claims support certain allegations in the complaint. Plaintiff initially responded that his "administrative grievance appeal," or "medical records" included such facts.*fn2 Id. As plaintiff concedes, these responses are insufficient, as defendants requested facts, not documents. See United States ex rel. O'Connell v. Chapman Univ., 245 F.R.D. 646, 650 (C.D. Cal. 2007) ("It is well established that an answer to an interrogatory must be responsive to the question. It should be complete in itself and should not refer to the pleadings, or to depositions or other documents . at least where such references make it impossible to determine whether an adequate answer has been given without an elaborate comparison of answers.") (citation and quotes omitted). It is not defendants' responsibility to try to identify which specific documents plaintiff is referring to, and then comb through those documents looking for any facts that they believe support plaintiff's claims. See Mancini v. Ins. Corp., 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5132, at *7 (S.D. Cal. June 18, 2009) ("Plaintiffs have not provided any justification for why the burden of reviewing the documents to identify where the answers can be found should be shifted to [defendant]."); Fed. R. Civ. P. 33(b)(3).

In his supplemental responses, plaintiff stated that either he or certain witnesses have personal knowledge to support the relevant allegations, and that he could prove the allegations with direct and circumstantial evidence. These are also insufficient responses. If the facts that plaintiff contends support his allegations are memorialized in documents, or are known to plaintiff or his witnesses, plaintiff must do more than just refer to those documents or claim that somebody has personal knowledge of these undisclosed facts. To answer "fully," as required by Rule 33(b)(3), plaintiff must actually state what the material facts are that support the allegations identified in Bal's interrogatories.

2. Plaintiff Must "Fully" Answer Interrogatories 9, 11-12, 16-17, 19-21, and 23-25

Interrogatories 9, 11, 12, 16-17, 19, 20, 21, 23, 24, and 25, also sought "all facts" that plaintiff claims support certain allegations in the complaint. Plaintiff initially responded that facts would be set forth in a "declaration under penalty of perjury that may follow," or by referring to other documents. As discussed above, plaintiff's reference to other documents is insufficient. Although plaintiff answered some of these interrogatories with facts, he did not answer any of them fully because he also answered, without further explanation, that he and/or other individuals are "aware of facts" or can testify about facts that plaintiff claims support the relevant allegations. Plaintiff cannot simply generalize that there are facts that support his claim and not specifically identify those facts.

For example, interrogatory 9 sought all facts that plaintiff contends support his allegation that on March 29, 2009, he experienced pain, dizziness, and headaches. Plaintiff answered that he "is aware of facts to support the allegations," but did not state what those facts are. Plaintiff must answer by directly stating the material facts that support the allegation, not by just stating that he is aware of unspecified facts without describing those them. If plaintiff has personal knowledge of facts supporting his allegation that he experienced pain, dizziness, and headaches on March 29, 2009, because on March 29, 2009, he actually experienced these symptoms or because he subsequently reported these symptoms either orally or in writing to a specific person on a specific date, he must say so in a verified response.

Plaintiff must fully answer these interrogatories by actually stating what the material facts are that support the allegations ...


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