United States District Court, E.D. California
ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART
PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO MODIFY SUBPOENA AND DENYING MOTION
TO QUASH (DOCS. 22)
JENNIFER L. THURSTON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
August 15, 2019, Plaintiff Phillip Reid filed a motion to
quash Defendant's subpoena duces tecum or to
request that the subpoena be modified and limited to issues
and dates relevant to Plaintiff's complaint. (Doc. 22.)
The subpoena seeks “all [of Plaintiff's] medical
and mental records from January 1, 2018 to the present,
” as well as “all special incident reports, IDNs,
special movement reports, team meeting notes and any other
records/documents that may be stored digitally and/or
electronically for [Plaintiff] … from January 1, 2018
to present.” (Id. at 18.). Plaintiff objects
to the subpoena because he claims it violates the Court's
July 19, 2019 order staying this case and on because it seeks
information that is irrelevant and unlikely to lead to
admissible evidence. (Id. at 2-3.) On August 22,
2019, Defendant Amanda M. Wood filed an opposition to
Plaintiff's motion. (Doc. 27). Plaintiff did not file a
reply, and the Court deems the motion submitted. See
Local Rule 230(1).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 45(a)(1)(C), a party may
subpoena a nonparty to produce documents, electronically
stored information, and tangible things. Under Rule 26(b)(1),
a party “may obtain discovery regarding any
nonprivileged matter that is relevant to a party's claim
or defense and proportional to the needs of the case.”
The Court must quash or modify a subpoena if it
“requires disclosure of privileged or other protected
matter, if no exception or waiver applies.”
recognize a constitutional right to privacy, as well as a
doctor-patient and psychotherapist-patient privilege.
See, e.g., Jaffee v. Redmond, 518 U.S. 1, 15 (1996);
Marin Caesar v. Mountanos, 542 F.2d 1064, 1067 (9th
Cir. 1976); Anderson v. Clawson, No. C 13-0307 LHK
(PR), 2014 WL 3725856, at *2 (N.D. Cal. July 25, 2014).
However, a party's right and privilege are waived when he
raises an otherwise protected matter before the Court.
See, e.g., Caesar, 542 F.2d at 1070. For example, a
party waives the psychotherapist privilege when he elects to
seek monetary damages for emotional distress, since he has
placed his mental condition at issue. E.g., Enwere v.
Terman Assocs., L.P., No. C 07-1239 JF PVT, 2008 WL
5146617, at *3 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 4, 2008); Doe v. City of
Chula Vista, 196 F.R.D. 562, 568 (S.D. Cal. 1999).
However, even when a party waives his right to privacy on a
matter, the waiver is limited to information that is relevant
to the lawsuit. Enwere, 2008 WL 5146617, at *2
(citation omitted). This coincides with the Federal
Rules' mandate that discovery be limited to matters that
are relevant to a party's claim or defense. See
Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1).
Motion to Quash
moves to quash Defendant's subpoena on two grounds.
First, Plaintiff contends that the subpoena violates the
Court's July 31, 2019 order staying this case, since
Defendant issued the subpoena on July 31, 2019, as well as an
amended version on August 1, 2019. (Doc. 22 at 3; see
also Id. at 10, 14.) The Court finds that the subpoena
constituted discovery in contravention of the Court's
order, (see Doc. 17 at 2). However, since the Court
lifted the stay on August 21, 2019, (Doc. 25),
Plaintiff's objection on this ground is moot.
Plaintiff argues that the subpoena “seek[s] material
that is outside the scope of this litigation, and …
will potentially prejudice Plaintiff should this case be put
in front of a jury.” (Doc. 22 at 4.) Plaintiff also
contends that the documents sought by Defendant are
“irrelevant and unlikely to … lead to …
admissible evidence.” (Id.)
Federal Rules make clear that information “need not be
admissible in evidence to be discoverable.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). Thus, whether discovered material will
prejudice Plaintiff at trial is not pertinent to whether
discovery is allowed. If this case goes to trial, the Court
will determine whether specific evidence is admissible at the
trial. Thus, the question now is whether the subpoenaed
materials are relevant to a party's claim or defense,
whether they are privileged or otherwise protected, and
whether they are subject to a waiver or exception to an
implicated privilege or protection. See Fed. R. Civ.
P. 26(b)(1); 45(d)(3)(A)(iii).
complaint, Plaintiff contends that the defendant violated his
right to safety as a civil detainee and failed to protect him
against physical attacks by co-patients at Coalinga State
Hospital. (Doc. 1 at 4; see also Doc. 9 at 7.)
Plaintiff alleges that he reported threats to his safety to
hospital doctors, psychologists, and staff, including
Defendant Supervisor Woods. (Doc. 1 at 4.) In his request for
relief, Plaintiff seeks $400, 000 for “physical and
mental anguish” suffered as a result of Defendant's
alleged misconduct. (Doc. 1 at 5.) Consequently, Plaintiff
has placed his physical and mental condition, as well as
discussions with hospital doctors and psychologists, at issue
in his lawsuit. See Enwere, 2008 WL 5146617, at *3.
Therefore, even though Plaintiff enjoys a privacy right with
respect to his medical records, and communications with his
doctors and psychotherapists are privileged, Plaintiff has
waived his right and privilege.
same reason, Plaintiff's medical records are relevant to
the parties' claims and defenses. Because Plaintiff is
alleging that hospital personnel failed to protect him after
he warned them he was in danger, Defendant has the right to
counter this allegation by contending, for example, that
Defendant was unaware of Plaintiff's warnings.
Additionally, because Plaintiff is arguing that physical and
mental injuries entitle him to monetary damages, Defendant
has the right to counter this argument by arguing, for
example, that any physical and emotional injuries were caused