The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael J. Seng United States Magistrate Judge
ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO COMPEL AND DENYING MOTION FOR SANCTIONS AND COURT COSTS (ECF No. 34) THIRTY DAY DEADLINE
ORDER AMENDING DISCOVERY AND SCHEDULING ORDER (ECF No. 45) DISCOVERY CUT-OFF DATE: NOVEMBER 1, 2012 DISPOSITIVE MOTION DEADLINE: JANUARY 10, 2013
Plaintiff Iren Anderson ("Plaintiff") is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This matter proceeds on Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint (Second Am. Compl., ECF No. 19) claims of excessive force against Defendant Hansen, failure to protect against Defendant Hartley, and failure to intervene against Defendant Lewis. (Order Finding Cognizable Claims, ECF No. 20.) Defendants Hansen, Hartley, and Lewis have answered. (Answer, ECF No. 25.) Discovery in this matter closed August 23, 2012. (Am. Discovery and Scheduling Order, ECF No. 45.)
Now pending before the Court is Plaintiff's motion to compel, filed October 27, 2011, seeking Defendant Hansen's further responses to certain interrogatories in Plaintiff's First Set Interrogatories and certain requests in his First Set Requests for Admissions. (Mot. to Compel, ECF No. 34.)*fn1 On November 17, 2011, Defendants filed opposition to the motion to compel. (Oppo. to Mot., ECF No. 39.) Plaintiff filed no reply, and the time for doing so has passed.*fn2 The matter is deemed submitted for decision.
For the reasons discussed below, Plaintiff's motion to compel is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.
Rule 26(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that any non-privileged material "that is relevant to any party's claim or defense" is within the scope of discovery. Information is relevant for purposes of discovery if "it is reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence," even if the information is not admissible at trial. Id. The court may allow discovery of any material "relevant to the subject matter involved in the action," not just the claims or defenses of each party, if there is good cause to do so. Federal Rule of Evidence 401 defines "relevant evidence" as "evidence having any tendency to make existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence." Federal Rule of Evidence 402 provides that all relevant evidence is admissible except as otherwise provided by the U.S. Constitution, Act of Congress, or applicable rule of Federal Rules of Evidence. "The question of relevancy should be construed liberally and with common sense and discovery should be allowed unless the information sought has no conceivable bearing on the case." Soto v. City of Concord, 162 F.R.D. 603, 610 (N.D. Cal. 1995).
Relevance requires only that the evidence have "any" tendency to prove or disprove "any" consequential fact. This test incorporates two separate components: (1) logical relevance, meaning the evidence must have some tendency, however slight, to make any fact more or less probable; and (2) legal relevance, meaning the evidence must relate to a fact "of consequence" to the case, i.e., will the "fact" that the evidence is offered to establish help in determining some issue in the case? See, Jones & Rosen, Federal Civil Trials and Evidence (2011) Evidence, para. 8:111, p. 8B--2. If the inference to be drawn from the evidence is the result of speculation or conjecture, the underlying evidence is not relevant. See Engstrand v. Pioneer Hi--Bred Int'l, 946 F.Supp. 1390, 1396 (S.D. Iowa 1996). "[T]he standard of relevancy is not so liberal as to allow a party to . . . explore matter which does not presently appear germane on the theory that it might conceivably become so." Food Lion v. United Food & Comm'l Workers Union, 103 F.3d 1007, 1012-1013 (D.C. Cir. 1997).
Where otherwise discoverable information would pose a threat to the safety and security of the prison or infringe upon a protected privacy interest, a need may arise for the Court to balance interests in determining whether disclosure should occur. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(c); Seattle Times Co. v. Rhinehart, 467 U.S. 20, 35 n.21 (1984) (privacy rights or interests are implicit in the broad purpose and language of Rule 26(c)); Soto, 162 F.R.D. at 616 (recognizing a constitutionally-based right of privacy that can be raised in discovery).
A responding party that objects to interrogatories or requests for admissions is required to state objections with specificity. Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(b)(4), 36(a)(5). If the party requesting discovery is dissatisfied with any of the responses, the party may move to compel further responses. Courts in the Eastern District of California have required, "at a minimum, as the moving party plaintiff has the burden of informing the court (1) which discovery requests are the subject of his motion to compel, (2) which of the defendant's responses are disputed, (3) why he believes the defendant's responses are deficient, (4) why the defendant's objections are not justified, and (5) why the information he seeks through discovery is relevant to the prosecution of this action." Walker, 2009 WL 3075575 at *1; Brooks, 2009 WL 331358 at *2.
The court must limit discovery if the burden of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit. Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2) (C)(iii). "In each instance [of discovery], the determination whether . . . information is discoverable because it is relevant to the claims or defenses depends on the circumstances of the pending action." Fed. R. Civ. P. 26 Advisory Committee's note (2000 Amendment) (Gap Report) (Subdivision (b)(1)).
Plaintiff seeks a court order compelling Defendant Hansen to (1) further answer interrogatory numbers 2, 10, 11, 14, 15, 19-22,*fn3 and 23-25; (2) further respond to request for admissions numbers 1 and 16; and (3) pay nominal sanctions and court costs. (Mot. to Compel, ECF No. 34.) The Court discusses each of Plaintiff's requests below.
A. Interrogatories 2, 10, 11, 14, 15, 19-25
A party may propound interrogatories relating to any matter that may be inquired into under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b), and an interrogatory is not objectionable merely because it asks for an opinion or contention that relates to fact or the application of law to fact. Fed. R. Civ. P. 33(a).
Unless otherwise stipulated or ordered by the court, a party may serve no more than 25 written interrogatories, including all discrete subparts; a single question asking for several bits of information relating to the same topic counts as one interrogatory "if they are logically or factually subsumed within and necessarily related to the primary question." See Safeco of America v. Rawstrom, 181 F.R.D. 441, 445 (C.D. Cal. 1998); Fed. R. Civ. P. 33.
The responding party is obligated to respond to the interrogatories to the fullest extent possible, see 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 in its responses; hyper-technical, quibbling, or evasive objections will not be viewed favorably by the court. Haney v. Saldana, 2010 WL 3341939 at *3 (E.D. Cal. Aug. 24, 2010). 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)(1)(A).
All grounds for objection to an interrogatory must be stated "with specificity." Fed. R. Civ. P. 33(b)(4); see Nagele v. Electronic Data Systems Corp., 193 F.R.D. 94, 109 (W.D.N.Y. 2000) (objection that interrogatories were "burdensome" overruled because objecting party failed to "particularize" the basis for objection); see also Mancia v. Mayflower Textile Services Co., 253 F.R.D. 354, 358 (D.MD. 2008) (boiler-plate objections waived any legitimate objections responding party may have had); Chubb Integrated Sys., Ltd. v. National Bank of Wash., 103 F.R.D. 52, 58 (D.D.C. 1984) (the objecting party must state reasons for any objection, "irrelevant" did not fulfill party's burden to explain its objections); Mitchell v. National R.R. Passenger Corp., 208 F.R.D. 455, 458 at fn.4 (D.D.C. 2002) (objections must explain how request or interrogatory is overbroad or unduly burdensome); Pulsecard, Inc. v. Discovery Card Services, Inc., 168 F.R.D. 295, 310 (D. Kan. 1996) (objection on grounds as vague and ambiguous overruled if reason and common sense to attribute ordinary definitions to terms and phrases provided needed clarity).
Plaintiff seeks to compel responses to Interrogatories 2, 10, 11, 14, 15, and 19-25.Having considered Plaintiff's motion, Defendant's opposition, and the relevant discovery requests and responses, the Court issues the following rulings as to each:
Interrogatory 2: "During the last three year period, have any complaints, grievances or appeals been filed or lodged against you which alleged that you utilized excessive or unnecessary force?"
Response: "Defendant objects to this interrogatory on the ground that it is vague, compound, overbroad, burdensome and oppressive, and seeks information that is not relevant or calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Notwithstanding these objections, Defendant Hansen responds: I am aware of three inmate appeals filed against me, none of which were sustained."
Ruling: Plaintiff generally argues Defendant's response hinders, obstructs and impedes access to evidence relevant to his deliberate indifference claim. He does not address Defendant's objections.
A defendant must "clarify[ ], explain[ ], and support[ ] its objections." El--Shaddai v. Wheeler, 2009 WL 301824 at *2 (E.D. Cal. 2009). Defendant's boilerplate objections are unsupported and overruled in their entirety.
The information sought here is reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence and hence within the scope of discovery. Id. However, Defendant has adequately responded to this interrogatory. The question calls for a "yes" or a "no" answer. Defendant has provided more. Accordingly, Plaintiff's motion to compel further responses to interrogatory number 2 is DENIED.
Interrogatory 10: "Prior to June 17, 2008, did any inmate or prisoner under your charge or care file any complaints, grievances or appeal against you alleging you used excessive force or verbal abuse against them?"
Response: "Defendant objects to this interrogatory on the ground that it is vague, compound, overbroad, burdensome and oppressive, and seeks information that is not relevant or calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Notwithstanding these objections, De[f]endant Hansen responds: I do not recall.
Ruling: Plaintiff generally argues Defendant's response hinders, obstructs and impedes access to evidence. Plaintiff does not address Defendant's objections.
Again, Defendant's blanket, unexplained, unsupported, boilerplate objections are overruled. Each question must be answered separately and fully. Fed. R. Civ. P. 33; Pilling v. General Motors Corp., 45 F.R.D. 366, 369 (D. Utah, 1968). A defendant must "clarify[ ], explain[ ...