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Anderson v. County of Contra Costa

United States District Court, N.D. California

March 9, 2017

COUNTY OF CONTRA COSTA, et al., Defendants.

          DISCOVERY ORDER Re: Dkt. No. 62

          MARIA-ELENA JAMES United States Magistrate Judge


         Plaintiff Shaun Anderson (“Plaintiff”) and Defendants the County of Contra Costa, Contra Costa Health Services (“CCHS”), Contra Costa County Sheriff David O. Livingston (“Livingston”), Dennis McBride, and Adam Buck (collectively, “Defendants”) filed a joint discovery letter concerning Livingston's deposition. Letter, Dkt. No. 62. Having considered the parties' positions, the relevant legal authority, and the record in this case, the Court issues the following order.


         In February 2014, Plaintiff's father, Robert Anderson, was booked into the Martinez Detention Facility (the “Jail”). Compl. ¶ 14. On February 27, 2014, Mr. Anderson was taken to the CCHS-operated Contra Costa County Regional Medical Center (the “Medical Center”), where he “reported chest pain, a painful cough, shortness of breath, yellow sputum with streaks of blood, nausea and a history of serious health problems, including [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease („COPD')] and asthma.” Id. (internal quotation marks and edits omitted). Mr. Anderson remained at the Medical Center for seven days and “was diagnosed with community-acquired pneumonia complicated by COPD, chronic kidney disease, Hepatitis C infection, asthma and coronary artery disease, among other diagnoses.” Id. On March 6, 2014, the Medical Center discharged Mr. Anderson back to the Jail under the care of the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office. Id. The Medical Center provided “significant discharge medication and medical care instructions (including the provision of Symbicort, an inhaler used for the treatment of COPD).” Id.

         Plaintiff alleges the Jail failed to provide Mr. Anderson with Symbicort per the Medical Center's instructions. Id. ¶ 15. Mr. Anderson returned to the Medical Center on March 17, 2014, where he reported chest pain and significant pain when he breathed deeply. Id. The Medical Center discharged Mr. Anderson the same day, noted “he was not likely to get his Symbicort[, ]” and instructed Mr. Anderson to follow up with the Jail's physician. Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).

         Plaintiff alleges the Jail's medical personnel still did not provide Mr. Anderson with the necessary medication and did not monitor his condition. On March 23, 2014, Mr. Anderson was taken to the Medical Center after he fainted in his cell. Id. ¶ 16. Medical personnel determined that he fainted due to hypotension and that COPD exacerbation caused his chest pain. Id. Lab results indicated an elevated white blood cell count. Id. Medical Center personnel did not determine whether Mr. Anderson continued to suffer from a staph infection and/or pneumonia, but discharged Mr. Anderson to the Jail on March 24, 2014. Id.

         Mr. Anderson was rushed to the Medical Center on March 30, 2014, suffering from hypotension and complaining of chest pain. Id. ¶ 19. Mr. Anderson reported the chest pain started a few days before, while he was at the Jail. Id. Mr. Anderson was diagnosed with septic shock due to severe pneumonia. Id. He died at the Medical Center on March 31, 2014. Id.

         Plaintiff initiated this action on April 13, 2015. See Id. He asserts three claims: (1) 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments; (2) negligence/wrongful death; and (3) California Government Code section 845.6. Id. ¶¶ 26-57. Plaintiff sues Livingston in his individual capacity under a theory of supervisory liability and his official capacity under a theory of municipal liability. Id. ¶ 7; Letter at 3.

         On March 8, 2016, Plaintiff requested dates for several depositions, including Livingston's. Letter at 2. On September 19, 2016, Defendants objected to producing Livingston on the ground that Livingston is an “apex” employee or a high-ranking official. Id. Defendants offered to allow Plaintiff to depose a Rule 30(b)(6) witness in lieu of Livingston. Id. at 3. Two days later, Plaintiff noticed Livingston's deposition for October 19, 2016. Id. at 2. Defendants maintained their objection. Id. at 3.

         Plaintiff filed a Motion to Compel Livingston's deposition on November 16, 2016. See Mot., Dkt. No. 53. The presiding judge in this matter, the Honorable Richard Seeborg, referred the Motion and all discovery-related matters to the undersigned on December 2, 2016. Dkt. No. 55. On December 5, 2016, the undersigned denied the Motion without prejudice pending the filing of a joint letter. Dkt. No. 56. The parties filed this Letter on March 6, 2017.[1]


         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 and proportional to the needs of the case[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). Factors to consider include “the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties' relative access to relevant information, the parties' resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit.” Id. Discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable. Id. However, “[t]he parties and the court have a collective responsibility to consider the proportionality of all discovery and consider it in resolving discovery disputes.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26 advisory committee notes (2015 amendments). Thus, there is “a shared responsibility on all the parties to consider the factors bearing on proportionality before propounding discovery requests, issuing responses and objections, or raising discovery disputes before the courts.” Salazar v. McDonald's Corp., 2016 WL 736213, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 25, 2016); Goes Int'l, AB v. Dodur Ltd., 2016 WL 427369, at *4 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 4, 2016) (citing advisory committee notes for proposition that parties share a “collective responsibility” to consider proportionality and requiring that “[b]oth parties . . . tailor their efforts to the needs of th[e] case”).

         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). “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) ...

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