United States District Court, E.D. California
ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART
DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO COMPEL PLAINTIFFS' AMENDED
RESPONSES TO REQUESTS FOR ADMISSION ORDER DENYING
DEFENDANTS' REQUEST FOR MONETARY SANCTIONS ORDER DENYING
PLAINTIFFS' REQUEST FOR SANCTIONS (ECF Nos. 25, 29, 32,
before the Court is Defendants Poverello House's
(“Poverello”) and Naomi's House's
“Defendants”) motion to compel Plaintiffs Jill
Mcgee, Lacey Hoxsie, Lydia Carranza, Noadiah Riaz, Tracey
Stroud, Christine D'Ambrosi, and Sharon Wade
(collectively “Plaintiffs”) to serve amended
responses to Defendants' requests for admissions, set
one. (ECF No. 25.) The Court heard oral argument on June 26,
2019. (ECF No. 33.) Peter Kapetan appeared on behalf of
Plaintiffs and Brian Plummer appeared on behalf of
Defendants. Having considered the joint statement, moving and
opposition papers, the declarations and exhibits attached
thereto, arguments presented at the June 26, 2019 hearing, as
well as the Court's file, the Court issues the following
The Allegations in the Operative Complaint
April 24, 2018, Plaintiffs filed this action in the Fresno
Superior Court bringing federal and state law claims, which
was removed to the above entitled court on June 5, 2018. (ECF
No. 1.) Plaintiffs bring causes of action for: (1) negligent
infliction of emotional distress; (2) violation of the Unruh
Civil Rights Act; (3) violation of the California Fair
Employment & House Act; (4) violation of the right to
privacy; (5) violation of the Federal Fair Employment and
Housing Act; and (6) violation of California unfair
competition laws. (Compl., EFC No. 1 at 5.)Defendants run
homeless shelters that provide housing and other services.
(Compl. ¶¶ 16-17.) Poverello operates Naomi's
House, and Naomi's House receives federal grants through
the Department of Housing and Urban Development
(“HUD”), in addition to additional funding from
Poverello. (Compl. ¶ 17.)
are homeless woman who have sought shelter at Naomi's
between June 2017 and present. (Compl. ¶ 21.) Plaintiffs
allege that beginning in approximately June of 2017, a male
to female transgender person identified as “D.N.”
was admitted to Naomi's. (Compl. ¶ 22.) D.N. dressed
in female attire, but still had male genitalia.
(Id.) Naomi's requires all women who stay to
shower every night or risk being excluded from the shelter.
(Compl. ¶ 20.) Plaintiffs allege that D.N. was allowed
to observe the women when they were required to undress in
the open area, and that during shower times, D.N. would
repeatedly make lewd and sexually inappropriate comments to
some of the Plaintiffs. (Id.) D.N. would allegedly
“stare and leer at Plaintiffs while naked and make
sexually harassing comments about their bodies, ” in
addition to showing sexual pictures and/or videos of D.N.,
and making sexual advances on some of the Plaintiffs. (Compl.
allege they repeatedly complained to staff at Naomi's
regarding such conduct, both verbally and in writing. (Compl.
¶ 24.) Plaintiffs were informed that they had to respect
D.N.'s decision to identify as a woman, and that because
Naomi's received HUD funding, there was nothing
Naomi's could do. (Id.) If Plaintiffs refused to
take showers with D.N., staff threatened them with expulsion,
and Plaintiffs complain that Naomi's refused to take
appropriate disciplinary action against D.N. or make any
reasonable accommodation to protect Plaintiffs' rights
and privacy. (Id.)
The Discovery Dispute
28, 2019, Defendants filed a motion to compel Plaintiffs'
amended responses to requests for admissions, set one,
numbers 13, 21, 22, 30, 31, 45, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 62,
63, 78, 79, and 119, along with a request for monetary
sanctions against Plaintiffs' attorney of record. (ECF
No. 25.) On June 7, 2019, Plaintiffs' counsel Peter
Kapetan filed a declaration in opposition of Defendants'
monetary sanctions request and in support of Plaintiffs'
request for monetary sanctions. (ECF No. 26.) On June 19,
2019, pursuant to Local Rule 251, the parties filed a joint
statement re discovery disagreement. (Joint Statement Re
Discovery Disagreement (“JS”), ECF No. 32.)
the discovery dispute originally encompassed Plaintiffs'
responses to Defendants' requests for production,
interrogatories, and requests for admission, through the
parties' meet and confer efforts, the instant dispute now
only concerns seventeen requests for admission which
Defendants are moving to compel amended responses to. (JS
2-3.) Plaintiffs objected to requests for admission 13, 21,
22, 30, 31, 45, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 62, 63, 78, 79, and
119 on various grounds, including that the requests are vague
and ambiguous, that the requests call for speculation, that
the requests call for a legal conclusion, or that they call
for a medical opinion. (JS 5.) Plaintiffs denied each of the
requests for admission based on the proffered objections.
26, as recently amended, 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, 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). Information need not be admissible in
evidence to be discoverable. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1).
party may serve on any other party a written request to
admit, for purposes of the pending action only, the truth of
any matters within the scope of Rule 26(b)(1) relating to:
(A) facts, the application of law to fact, or opinions about
either.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 36(a)(1). “Each matter must
be separately stated.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 36(a)(2). If a
responding party does not admit a matter, “the answer
must specifically deny it or state in detail why the
answering party cannot truthfully admit or deny it.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 36(a)(4). If a matter is denied, the
“denial must fairly respond to the substance of the
matter; and when good faith requires that a party qualify an
answer or deny only a part of a matter, the answer must
specify the part admitted and qualify or deny the
rest.” Id. A responding party may object to a
request if they state the ground for the objection in the
response, but the “party must not object solely on the
ground that the request presents a genuine issue for
trial.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 36(a)(5). The requesting party may
then move the court to determine the sufficiency of an answer
or objection. Fed.R.Civ.P. 36(a)(6). The court must order
that an answer be served unless it finds an objection
justified. Id. “On finding that an answer does
not comply with this rule, the court may order either that
the matter is admitted or that an amended answer be
to compel are governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37,
which states, in pertinent part:
(a) Motion for an Order Compelling Disclosure or
(1) In General. On notice to other
parties and all affected persons, a party may move for an
order compelling disclosure or discovery.
The motion must include a certification that the movant has
in good faith conferred or attempted to confer with the
person or party failing to make disclosure or discovery in an
effort to obtain it without court action.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 37. Rule 37 states that “an evasive or
incomplete disclosure, answer, or response must be treated as
a failure to disclose, answer, or respond.”
motion to compel discovery is granted, Rule 37(a)(5)(A)
requires a court to order the “party or deponent whose
conduct necessitated the motion, the party or attorney
advising that conduct, or both to pay the movant's
reasonable expenses incurred in making the motion, including
attorney's fees” unless: “(i) the movant
filed the motion before attempting in good faith to obtain
the disclosure or discovery without court action; (ii) the
opposing party's nondisclosure, response, or objection
was substantially justified; or (iii) other circumstances
make an award of expenses unjust.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
37(a)(5)(A). If the motion is denied, the court must
“require the movant, the attorney filing the motion, or
both to pay the party or deponent who opposed the motion its
reasonable expenses incurred in opposing the motion,
including attorney's fees, ” however the court
“must not order this payment if the motion was
substantially justified or other circumstances make an award
of expenses unjust.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(5)(B). Where
the motion is granted in part and denied in part, the court
“may, after giving an opportunity to be heard,
apportion the reasonable expenses for the motion.”
Court now turns to the requests for admission that are the
subject of Defendants' motion to compel.
Request for Admission No. 13
Request for Admission 13: Admit that you were never
forced or coerced by any DEFENDANT to be at and/or stay at
NAOMI'S HOUSE at any time.
Response to Request 13: Plaintiff objects to this
Request for Admission on the grounds that it is vague and
ambiguous as to the term “forced or coerced” and
the term “at and/or stay at.” Therefore, based on
said objection, Plaintiff denies.
Ruling: Plaintiffs' objection as to vague
or ambiguous language is overruled. Plaintiffs' argument
that Defendants may have threatened expulsion from the
shelter if Plaintiffs continued to complain about D.N's
behavior or refer to D.N. in the masculine, does not prevent
Plaintiffs from answering the request for admission in the
form it is currently in regarding whether Defendants forced
Plaintiffs to remain at the shelter. See U.S. ex rel.
Englund v. Los Angeles Cty., 235 F.R.D. 675, 684 (E.D.
Cal. 2006) (“When the purpose and significance of a
request are reasonably clear, courts do not permit denials
based on an overly-technical reading of the request.”).
In the joint statement, Plaintiffs argue the request is vague
and ambiguous because it is compound and conjunctive.
Plaintiffs did not object that the request was compound and
conjunctive at the time Plaintiffs served their responses,
and although the request is arguably compound, the Court does
not find the request impermissibly vague and ambiguous
because of such phrasing. See Clay v. Cytosport,
Inc., No. 15-CV-00165-L (DHB), 2016 WL 11523590, at *5
(S.D. Cal. Aug. 16, 2016) (“To the extent the requests
are compound, Defendant can explain the scope of its
admission or denial in its responses.”). “[I]t is
not ground for objection that the request is
‘ambiguous' unless so ambiguous that the responding
party cannot, in good faith, frame an intelligent reply,
” and parties “should ‘admit to the fullest
extent possible, and explain in detail why other portions of
a request may not be admitted.' ” U.S. ex rel.
Englund v. Los Angeles Cty., 235 F.R.D. 675, 685 (E.D.
Cal. 2006) (quoting Marchand v. Mercy Med. Ctr., 22
F.3d 933, 938 (9th Cir. 1994)).
Defendants' motion to compel a response to
Defendants' request for admission number 13 is
Requests for Admissions Nos. 21, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, and
Request for Admission 21: Admit that NAOMI'S HOUSE
is a female-only housing facility.
Request for Admission 52: Admit that you never
complained to DEFENDANTS at any time about having to be nude
in front of and/or in the ...