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Mayfield v. Orozco

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 1, 2016

JAMES JOSHUA MAYFIELD, JAMES ALLISON MAYFIELD, JR., and TERRI MAYFIELD, Plaintiffs,
v.
IVAN OROZCO, SHERIFF SCOTT JONES, JAMES LEWIS, RICK PATTISON, COUNTY OF SACRAMENTO, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA DAVIS HEALTH SYSTEM, DR. GREGORY SOKOLOV, DR. ROBERT HALES, and Does 1-5, Defendants.

          ORDER

          ALLISON CLAIRE UNITED STATES MAGISTEIATE JUDGE

         Plaintiffs move to compel further discovery responses from the University of California Davis Health System and related defendants (collectively “UCD”). The motion, ECF No. 100, came on for hearing on June 29, 2016. Lori Rifkin appeared for plaintiffs, and Robert F. Tyler appeared for UCD. For the reasons set forth below, the court will grant the motion in part and deny it in part.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff James Joshua Mayfield (“Joshua Mayfield”) attempted suicide in the Sacramento County Jail, where he was a pre-trial detainee, and survived with quadriplegia and cognitive impairments. He and his wife and son sue the County and various jail correctional staff, and UCD Health Services and related jail psychiatric staff, on grounds including failure to protect and failure to provide medical care.

         Pursuant the Pretrial Scheduling Order now in place, ECF No. 41, discovery closes on October 14, 2016.

         MOTION TO COMPEL

         Plaintiffs seek to compel further responses to their First and Third Sets of Requests for Production of Documents and First and Third Sets of Interrogatories. Additionally, plaintiffs seek (1) a more detailed privilege log; (2) production of all responsive documents whether “indigenous” or not; (3) production of documents for the entire temporal period requested; (4) clarification as to the categorical identify of documents withheld as “inapplicable”; and (5) augmented, complete answers to interrogatories and production of related documents withheld by UCD on HIPAA grounds. ECF Nos. 100, 107 at 9.

         STANDARDS

         The scope of discovery under the Federal Rules is broad. Discovery may be obtained as to “any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party’s claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case, considering the importance of the issues at stake in the action . . . and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit.” Fed.R.Civ.P. (“Rule”) 26(b)(1). “Information within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.” Id. “Evidence is relevant if: (a) it has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence; and (b) the fact is of consequence in determining the action.” Fed.R.Evid. 401.

         Where a party fails to answer an interrogatory submitted under Rule 33, or fails to produce documents requested under Rule 34, the party seeking discovery may move for compelled disclosure. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37. “The party seeking to compel discovery has the burden of establishing that its request satisfies the relevancy requirements of Rule 26(b)(1). The party opposing discovery then has the burden of showing that the discovery should be prohibited, and the burden of clarifying, explaining or supporting its objections.” See Bryant v. Ochoa, 2009 WL 1390794 at * 1, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 42339 at *3 (S.D. Cal. 2009). The party opposing discovery is “required to carry a heavy burden of showing” why discovery should be denied. Blankenship v. Hearst Corp., 519 F.2d 418, 429 (9th Cir.1975).

         Privileges are to be “strictly construed” because they “impede full and free discovery of the truth.” Eureka Financial Corp. v. Hartford Acc. and Indemnity Co., 136 F.R.D. 179, 183 (E.D. Cal. 1991). The Supreme Court has long noted that privileges are disfavored. Jaffee v. Redmond, 518 U.S. 1, 9 (1996). “The party asserting an evidentiary privilege has the burden to demonstrate that the privilege applies to the information in question.” Tornay v. United States, 840 F.2d 1424, 1426 (9th Cir. 1988).

         Where, as here, a case presents federal claims and pendent state law claims, the federal law of privilege applies. Agster v. Maricopa Cty., 422 F.3d 836, 839 (9th Cir. 2005). When a party withholds otherwise discoverable information by claiming that it is privileged, the party must make the claim expressly and describe the nature of the documents, communications, or things not produced or disclosed in a manner that, without revealing information itself privileged or protected, will enable other parties to assess the applicability of the privilege. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(5). Generalized or boiler-plate assertions of privilege are inadequate. Burlington N. & Santa Fe Ry. Co. v. U.S. Dist. Court for Dist. of Mont., 408 F.3d 1142, 1147 (9th Cir. 2005), cert. denied, 546 U.S. 939 (2005).

         DISCUSSION

         I. Privilege Issues

         On June 15, 2016, defendants belatedly produced a privilege log in relation to the discovery requests at issue. Defendants asserted HIPAA protections and state confidentiality law as to inmate medical information; California Evidence Code §§ 1156-1157 as to minutes of Quality Improvement Committee meetings; and attorney/client privilege as to various communications.

         A. HIPAA and Medical ...


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