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Mood v. City of Costa Mesa

United States District Court, C.D. California

May 16, 2017

Ivin Mood
v.
City of Costa Mesa, et al.

          Present: The Honorable KENLY KIYA KATO, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          CIVIL MINUTES-GENERAL

         Proceedings: Order (a) Granting in Part and Denying in Part Defendants' Motion to Compel, (b) Granting Request for Sanctions, and (c) Vacating May 18, 2017 Hearing [Dkt. 73]

         On April 12, 2017, Defendant City of Newport Beach (“Defendant”) filed a Motion to Compel Further Responses to Requests for Production and Special Interrogatories (“Motion”). ECF Docket No. (“Dkt.”) 73, MTC. Defendant also requests an award of expenses incurred in bringing the Motion in the sum of $1, 760.00. Id. For the reasons set forth below, (a) Defendant's Motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART, and (b) Defendant's request for expenses is GRANTED in the sum of $1, 320.00. The hearing set for May 18, 2017 is hereby VACATED.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On December 20, 2016, Defendant served Plaintiff Ivin Mood (“Plaintiff”) with Requests for Production of Documents and Interrogatories. Dkt. 66-1, Declaration of Allen Christiansen, ¶¶ 2-3, Exs. A, B. Plaintiff did not serve responses to the discovery requests. Id. ¶ 5.

         On February 23, 2017, Defendant filed a Motion to Compel Responses to Requests for Production and Special Interrogatories (“Motion”). Dkt. 66, MTC.

         On March 20, 2017, the Court granted Defendant's Motion to Compel Plaintiff to respond to Requests for Production and Special Interrogatories within ten days, i.e. by March 30, 2017. Dkt. 72.

         On March 29, 2017, Defendant received Responses to its Requests for Production and Special Interrogatories. See Dkt. 73-2, Declaration of Allen Christiansen in support of Motion (“Christiansen Decl.”), Ex. A. The same day, Defendant's counsel sent Plaintiff a letter explaining how the Responses were deficient and requesting a meet and confer conference pursuant to Local Rule 37-1. Id.

         On April 4, 2017, Defendant's counsel received what appeared to be supplemental responses to Request for Production Nos. 12 and 13. Id. ¶ 3, Ex. B.

         Plaintiff did not respond to Defendant's March 29, 2017 request to meet and confer. Id. ¶ 5.

         On April 12, 2017, Defendant filed the instant Motion seeking to compel further responses to (a) Request for Production Nos. 1, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, and 13; and (b) Special Interrogatory Nos. 9, 10, 11, 15, 16, and 17.[1] Dkt. 73. On April 27, 2017, Plaintiff filed an Opposition to the Motion signed under penalty of perjury. Dkt. 76.[2] On May 1, 2017, Defendant filed a Reply. Dkt. 78. On May 9, 2017, Plaintiff filed “Supplemental Reponses to City of Newport Beach Request for Production of Documents and Further Responses to Special Interrogatories.” Dkt. 82.

         II.

         APPLICABLE LAW

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b) provides that parties 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, considering 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.

         Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). Relevant information “need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.” Id. A court “must limit the frequency or extent of discovery otherwise allowed” 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 proposed discovery is outside the scope permitted by Rule 26(b)(1).” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(2)(C).

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(a)(3)(B)(iii), (iv), “A party seeking discovery may move for an order compelling an answer, . . . production, or inspection.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(3)(B)(iii), (iv).

         III.

         DISCUSSION

         A. REQUESTS FOR PRODUCTION

         1. Relevant Law

         In response to a request for production of documents under Rule 34 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a party is to produce all relevant documents in his “possession, custody, or control.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(a)(1). “[I]f a responding party contends that documents are not in its custody or control, the court may require more than a simple assertion to that effect.” Bryant v. Armstrong, 285 F.R.D. 596, 603 (S.D. Cal. 2012) (granting motion to compel further response requiring responding party to state under oath whether any responsive documents exist in his possession or control and describe the efforts he made to locate responsive documents). Responses to requests for production “must be complete, explicit and responsive.” Hash v. Cate, No. C 08-03729 MMC (DMR), 2012 WL 6043966, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 5, 2012).

         2. Request for Production No. 1

         Request for Production No. 1: “Any and all Documents of which you are in possession, custody and/or control of which have been identified by you in your initial disclosures in this matter.” Mot. at 5.

         Plaintiff's Response: “Plaintiff is providing information from encounters with defendants' officer's, from the time period this suit was submitted to the court.” Id.

         Plaintiff's Supplemental Response: “Plaintiffs' amended response was that, information from the encounters with defendants' officer's, from the time period this suit was submitted to the court. Has been provided, the defendants' are to blame, for being evasive and sandbagging plaintiff in order to cause, needless lingering litigation. There was only three documents issued to plaintiff, in his custody or control, PLAINTIFF HAS NOT FAILED TO PRODUCE THE REQUESTED DOCUMENTS, IDENTIFIED IN HIS INITIAL DISCLOSURES, PROCEDURALLY PLAINTIFF HAS PRODUCED ALL RESPONSIVE DOCUMENTS TO DEFENDANT CITY OF NEWPORT BEACH, FOR THIS REQUEST FOR PRODUCTION. No. 1.” Suppl. Resp. at 9.

         As an initial matter, the Court notes Plaintiff's argumentative tone in his Supplemental Response is inappropriate. Substantively, Defendant acknowledges Plaintiff attached a newspaper article to his initial disclosures and a citation. Mot. at 5. However, Defendant argues Plaintiff fails to produce any other documents identified in his initial disclosures. Id. Plaintiff's initial disclosures appear to identify the following documents: (a) Citation number 40311, dated March 12, 2014; (b) property release related to an incident on April 5, 2014; (c) release from O.C. District Attorney's office dated November 7, 2014; (d) September 25, 2014 booking report; (e) property release related to an incident on July 8, 2014; (f) “released on own recognizance” printed form related to an incident on July 8, 2014; and (g) newspaper article. Christiansen Decl., Ex. C. Plaintiff attached the following three documents to his Opposition: (a) Field Contact report dated July 2, 2015; (b) notice that no case was filed from the Orange County District Attorney's Office dated November 7, 2014; and (c) booking report dated September 25, 2014. Christiansen Decl., Ex. D, Opp. Therefore, it appears the only documents Plaintiff has not yet produced are the two property releases and the “released on own recognizance” form. In his Opposition, Plaintiff states these documents “are not in plaintiffs possession nor were they issued to him.” Opp. at 3. Because Plaintiff signs the Opposition under penalty of perjury, it is unclear to this Court what more explicit answer Defendant hopes to receive at this point. Therefore, Defendant's Motion to compel further response to Request for Production No. 1 is DENIED without prejudice.[3]

         3. Request for Production No. 4

         Request for Production No. 4: “Any and all DOCUMENTS which refer, relate or pertain to YOUR claims stemming from the incident of August 30, 2014 as alleged in YOUR COMPLAINT.” Mot. at 5.

         Plaintiff's Response: “A copy of Release from Custody Misdemeanor, Newport Beach police Department, dated September 25, 2014 arresting officers Smith S. DR # 14007751 Charges, 11550(A) HS Use/Under Influence of controlled substance, 148(A)(1)PC obs obstruct/Resist/ETC Public/Peace officer/Emergency Med Tech. To be provided by defendants'[.]” Id.

         Plaintiff's Supplemental Response: “Plaintiff has no documents responsive to this request in his possession custody or control, the Newport Beach officer who physically detained plaintiff, on or around this date of August 30, 2014 did not provide plaintiff, one single document. After he removed the handcuffs from Mr. Mood, he drove away in haste.” Suppl. Resp. at 9. Defendant argues that if Plaintiff has no documents relating to the alleged August 30, 2014 incident, he should be ordered to respond accordingly. Id. While the Court agrees Plaintiff's initial response is ambiguous, in light of the Supplemental Response, it is unclear what more specific response Defendant could reasonably obtain. Hence, Defendant's Motion to compel further response to Request for Production No. 4 is DENIED without prejudice.

         4. Request for Production No. 5

         Request for Production No. 5: “Any and all DOCUMENTS which refer, relate or pertain to YOUR claims stemming from the incident of July 2, 2015 as alleged in YOUR COMPLAINT.” Mot. at 6.

         Plaintiff's Response: “After a reasonable and diligent inquiry, plaintiff is unable to produce documentation to specify the event which took place on July 2, 2015. Plaintiff likewise does not waive the right to object on any and all grounds, to (1) the evidentiary use of documents produced in response to these requests, relating to this incident, alleged in plaintiffs' complaint.” Id.

         Plaintiff's Supplemental Response: “Plaintiff has no documents responsive to this request in his possession custody or control, the Newport Beach officer who physically detained plaintiff on this date of July 2, 2015 did not provide plaintiff one single document. After he searched through plaintiffs' back pack and his partner named Minor D. asked him what his name was, Mr. Mood, responding as “Ivin”, then the officer named Minor D. said “ you have been arrested 20 times” they then- drove off with haste, as stated in plaintiffs' initial complaint.” Suppl. Resp. at 10.

         Defendant argues Plaintiff's statement that he is unable to produce documentation is insufficient to satisfy his obligation to identify whether such documents exist. Id. For example, Plaintiff's Opposition appears to identify an “incident report” that would be responsive to Defendant's request, but it is unclear who, if anyone, retained a copy of this report. Opp. at 4. However, in light of the Supplemental Response, it is unclear what more specific response Defendant could reasonably obtain. Hence, Defendant's Motion to compel further response to Request for Production No. 5 is DENIED without prejudice.

         5. Request for ...


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