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Lawrence v. City and County of San Francisco

United States District Court, N.D. California

March 10, 2015

EMIL LAWRENCE, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO, et al., Defendants.

DISCOVERY ORDER Re: Dkt. Nos. 43, 45

MARIA-ELENA JAMES, Magistrate Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Emil Lawrence brings claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law causes of action against Defendant City and County of San Francisco related to his January 2, 2012 arrest. On February 23, 2015, Defendant City and County of San Francisco filed a discovery letter seeking to compel Plaintiff to execute or provide an authorization for medical records so it may discover the nature and extent of his alleged injuries. Dkt. No. 43, Ex. A ("Def.'s Ltr."). On March 3, 2015, Plaintiff filed his opposition to Defendant's request.[1] Dkt. No. 45 ("Pl.'s Ltr.").

BACKGROUND

The following factual allegations are taken from Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint. Not. of Rem., Ex. A, Dkt. No. 1. Plaintiff alleges that, in December 2011, while having lunch at a Panda Express restaurant, he noticed "a black notebook, possibly with a calculator or unknown brand of reader like Kindle, or a Droid, PC, Apple, or some other kind of electronic device, across from me at the table." Id. at 15. Plaintiff picked up the device and left the restaurant. Id. On January 2, 2012, he returned to the Panda Express for lunch, at which point two San Francisco police officers approached him and asked, "Did you take a computer from this store?" Id. at 16. At the same time, a woman yelled from the sidewalk, "That is the thief, that is him, get him, my computer, he is on the video stealing it." Id. at 4. Plaintiff alleges that this "was the start of intentional multiple torts" that "continued for almost three hours, when plaintiff was pushed, forced to listen to high volume music and to sit on his handcuffed hands, hands and wrists which contained a metal plate." Id. at 5.

Plaintiff alleges that the officers handcuffed him twice, pushed him "into a box hole fit for a midget, " and then pushed him into a police vehicle "with a backseat fit for a midget." Id. at 4-5. Plaintiff alleges that the officers forced him to sit on his wrists, which had previously been broken, and forced his "veinstasis [sic] diseased legs" into a spot "fit for a midget or child." Id. at 4. The officers transported Plaintiff to the Northern Station on Fillmore Street, where they dragged him out of the vehicle, dropping him on his back onto the pavement while still handcuffed. Id. at 4-5. Although "Plaintiff was crying and screaming for help and justice, " no officers responded. Id. at 4. Plaintiff alleges that he was "shackled like an animal from the wild" for two hours at the police station, with the handcuffs "so tight which made both hands numb while plaintiff's legs numb legs [sic] were now bleeding." Id. at 4, 7. Plaintiff was released after signing two citations. Id. at 4.

As a result of his arrest, Plaintiff alleges multiple claims, including violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, false imprisonment, false arrest, negligence, and various California statutory claims. Plaintiff alleges that he sustained the following injuries: "Shock, pain, emotional drama, temporary loss of use of legs, hands, trauma and pain induced depression, suffering due to pain, duress, coronary thrombosis and propensity for myocardial infarct due to excited delirium, induced by false arrest, charges, accusations and physical handling." Id. at 3.

At his August 19, 2014 deposition, Plaintiff testified that he sought medical treatment for his injuries at the San Francisco Veteran's Affairs Medical Center one or two days after his arrest. Def.'s Ltr. at 1. Plaintiff also testified that he had a pre-existing medical condition in his lower extremities and wrists that predated the incident in this case. Id. On September 8, 2014, the parties met and conferred, at which time Defendant provided an authorization to obtain San Francisco VA Medical Center records for Plaintiff's review and signature. Id. Plaintiff refused to execute the authorization. Id. To date, Plaintiff has not signed the authorization.

LEGAL STANDARD

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26 provides that a party may obtain discovery "regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense." Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). "Relevant information need not be admissible at the trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." Id. A court "must limit the frequency or extent of discovery otherwise allowed by [the Federal] rules" if "(i) 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; (ii) the party seeking discovery has had ample opportunity to obtain the information by discovery in the action; or (iii) the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit, considering the needs of the case, the amount in controversy, the parties' resources, the importance of the issues at stake in the action, and the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues." Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(2)(C).

"The court may, for good cause, issue an order to protect a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense, " including by (1) prohibiting disclosure or discovery; (2) conditioning disclosure or discovery on specified terms; (3) preventing inquiry into certain matters; or (4) limiting the scope of disclosure or discovery to certain matters. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c)(1). "Rule 26(c) confers broad discretion on the trial court to decide when a protective order is appropriate and what degree of protection is required." Seattle Times Co. v. Rhinehart, 467 U.S. 20, 36 (1984).

DISCUSSION

Given the injuries alleged in this case, Defendant argues that it cannot adequately defend this action without review of the VA Medical Center records. Def.'s Ltr. at 1. Defendant notes that it does not seek to subpoena all of Plaintiff's medical history; instead, the medical authorization is for the medical facility that treated Plaintiff for the alleged injuries in this case. Id. at 2. Further, as Plaintiff claims that he has sustained injuries to parts of his body where he had a pre-existing condition that predates the incident at issue, Defendant maintains that it is entitled to discover pre-existing conditions which may affect causation in this case. Id.

In his response, Plaintiff argues that the requested information is not relevant because his injuries "though stated, and were caused by [Defendant], are not a cause of action' for medical compensation." Pl.'s Ltr. at 3. He states that he "will have access to VA medical records for evidence at the trial, in [sic] behalf of the Plaintiff, " but argues that Defendant is not entitled to these records ...


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