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Matthew G. Jennings v. A. Moreland

April 10, 2013

MATTHEW G. JENNINGS PLAINTIFF,
v.
A. MORELAND, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Carolyn K. Delaney United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER

Plaintiff, a state prisoner, proceeds pro se with a second amended civil rights complaint filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff claims that defendants violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment at California State Prison-Sacramento ("CSP-SAC") by either (1) failing to protect him from physical assault at the hands of another inmate; or (2) being deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs by failing to ensure that he received appropriate medical care following the assault. Four long-pending discovery motions are before the court. (Dkt. Nos. 115, 116, 119 and 123.)

On April 18, 2012, plaintiff filed a motion requesting the court to rule on pending discovery motions at dockets 115, 116, 119, and 123. (Dkt. No. 182.) On September 27, 2012, the undersigneddenied the motion as moot, finding that "[t]hese motions were denied in three separate orders entered on October 26, 2010 by the then-assigned magistrate judge. Dkt. Nos. 134, 135, 136." (Dkt. No. 193.)

On October 26, 2012, plaintiff filed objections to the April 18, 2012 order. (Dkt. No. 196.) On January 25, 2013, the district judge construed the objections as a request for reconsideration of the undersigned's September 27, 2012 order and denied the request. (Dkt. No. 208.)

Upon further review of the record, however, it appears that plaintiff's discovery motions at dockets 115, 116, 119 and 123 are indeed still pending. These motions were initially denied by the then-assigned magistrate judge on October 26, 2010 for plaintiff's failure to comply with Local Rule 251(b), which provides, in relevant part, that "[c]counsel for all interested parties shall confer in advance of the filing of [a motion to compel discovery] or in advance of the hearing of the motion in a good faith effort to resolve the differences that are the subject of the motion." (Dkt. Nos. 134, 135, 136.) Plaintiff filed objections to the orders denying his motions on that basis, and, on November 30, 2010, the then-assigned visiting district judge granted his objections and vacated the magistrate judge's orders denying the motions.

Defendants twice moved for additional time to respond to the motions on the merits and finally filed oppositions to plaintiff's pending motions on January 31, 2011. (Dkt. Nos. 155, 156.) Plaintiff replied on February 7, 2011. (Dkt. No. 159.) In the meantime, the visiting district judge recused himself, and the case was reassigned to the original district and magistrate judges. On September 22, 2011, the court instructed the parties to clarify which of plaintiff's discovery motions still required decision. (Dkt. No. 165 at 5.) Plaintiff responded, requesting the court to rule on the pending discovery motions at dockets 115, 116, 119 and 123. (Dkt. No. 166.) Defendants responded on October 4, 2011, giving their reasons why the motions should be denied. (Dkt. No. 169.) In the court's order of March 6, 2012, several pending discovery issues were resolved, however, plaintiff's motions at dockets 115, 116, 119 and 123 were not addressed. (Dkt. No. 178.) These motions will now be addressed.

I. Plaintiff's Motion at Docket 115

Plaintiff's discovery motion at docket 115 is a "motion to determine the sufficiency of an answer or objection in response to plaintiff's request for admissions." Plaintiff seeks a ruling from the court as to whether defendants' responses to his requests for admissions number 2, 3, 4, 5, 11, 12, 13, 15, 17, 19, 23 and 24 comply with the requirements set forth in Fed.

R. Civ. P. 36(a). In particular, plaintiff alleges that defendants denied admissions based on "not having personal knowledge," when they did in fact have knowledge, or could have obtained such knowledge from a reasonable investigation. (Dkt. No. 115; Dkt. No. 159 at 2.) Plaintiff requests the court to sanction defendants and compel them to amend their answers. (Id.) Defendants opposed the motion on January 31, 2011, and plaintiff filed a reply. (Dkt. Nos. 155, 159.)

A party may properly answer a request for admission by admitting, denying, or objecting to the request, and stating the reasons for the objection. Fed. R. Civ. P. 36(a)(4), (5). In addition, a party may give lack of information or knowledge as a reason for failure to admit or deny so long as the answering party states that he has made a reasonable inquiry, and that the information known or readily obtainable by him is insufficient to enable him to admit or deny. Fed. R. Civ. P. 36(a)(4).

Plaintiff's voluminous motion at docket 115 is deficient in several respects. Not only did plaintiff fail to comply with the local rule requiring parties to confer in advance of the filing of a motion to compel discovery, he did not attach a copy of his requests to admit, or any of the 11 defendants' challenged responses, to his motion. Rather, he has paraphrased or quoted his requests and the various defendants' allegedly deficient responses throughout 30 pages of argument which he expects the court to comb through in order to determine the merits of his motion.

The crux of plaintiff's argument throughout the motion at docket 115 is not that defendants failed to respond to any of his requests for admission, but rather, that he does not believe their responses are truthful. This is not an appropriate basis for a motion to compel further or different responses to requests to admit. Nor can the court "determine the sufficiency" of defendants' responses as plaintiff asks the court to do. As will be discussed, except for two instances in which defendants made amended responses based on examination of exhibits tendered by plaintiff, defendants unequivocally indicate that they stand by their responses. Accordingly, the court cannot compel further responses from defendants at this time. Although it is regrettable that the merits of plaintiff's discovery motion at docket 115 are being reached only after pending for a very long time, it is equally true that the court would not have compelled further or different responses had this motion been ruled upon in a timely manner.

When a party perceives dishonesty or contradictions in another party's discovery responses, that party may seek to impeach the other party with those perceived contradictions in any declaration or testimony subsequently offered. In addition, if a party later proves at trial or on summary judgment that certain matters improperly not admitted are true, the party may seek recourse in the form of reasonable expenses incurred in making that proof. Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(c)(2); see also Marchand v. Mercy Med. Cntr., 22 F.3d 933, 937-39 (9th Cir. 1994). Otherwise, at the discovery stage, a party is generally required to accept another party's sworn responses to requests for admission. Nevertheless, the court will attempt to address the merits of plaintiff's arguments in the motion at docket 115.

A. Request for Admission 2

In request 2, plaintiff asked defendants Walker, Vance, Goldman, Pereira, Valente, B. Brown, Flores, and Bartell to admit that plaintiff was attacked by inmate Jeff Barrus on the morning of August 1, 2007. (Dkt. No. 115 at 2, 6, 9, 12, 18, 20, 25, and 27.) In support of his contention that defendants improperly denied this admission, plaintiff submitted copies of classification hearings held on August 9, 2007, May 25, 2006, and June 1, 2006, respectively. (Dkt. No. 115 at Ex. A, B, C.) Defendants are correct that these exhibits do not support plaintiff's allegation that inmate Barrus attacked him. At best, the information contained in the exhibits establishes that plaintiff and Barrus were engaged in mutual combat.

B. Request for Admission 3

In request 3, plaintiff asked defendants Vance, Goldman, Pereira, Valente, B.

Brown, Scicluna, and Moreland to admit that "Plaintiff was shot in his right shoulder on August 1, 2007 with a 40 mm direct impact round by correctional officer K. Hofer #13292." (Dkt. No. 115 at 6, 10, 13, 18, 20, 22, and 29.) Plaintiff claims that the defendants' denials based upon their lack of personal knowledge were deficient based on information contained in exhibits I, J, M, R, and X to his motion.

Among these exhibits, of particular note are Exhibits J, R and X. Exhibit J is a Crime/Incident Report signed by defendant Pereira which reflects that staff "discharged two 40MM Direct Impact Rounds" to quell the fight between plaintiff and inmate Barrus; the report states that "the injury to [plaintiff's] right shoulder shows indication of being caused by a 40MM Direct Impact Round (emphasis added)." Exhibit R, a Medical Report of Injury, reflects injuries at or near plaintiff's shoulder but does not reflect the source of those injuries. Finally, Exhibit X is a copy of defendant Moreland's response to plaintiff's interrogatory asking "Did inmate Matthew Jennings personally speak with you in regards to the gunshot wound he received on August 1, 2007?"; Moreland responded "Yes."

Defendants assert that none of the defendants personally witnessed the events leading to plaintiff's injuries and that Exhibit J, in particular, contains only hearsay statements reported by others that do not prove defendant Pereira's personal knowledge. In addition, exhibit X only reflects the date and not the source of plaintiff's injuries. For these reasons, the exhibits provided fall short of demonstrating ...


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