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Arellano v. Haskins

United States District Court, E.D. California

January 16, 2020

ERIK ARELLANO, Plaintiff,
v.
CHAD HASKINS, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO COMPEL FURTHER DISCOVERY (DOC. 42)

          JENNIFER L. THURSTON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Erik Arellano asserts Bakersfield Police Officers Chad Haskins and Frederick Martinez used excessive force after he surrendered to an arrest. (Doc. 9) Defendants assert Plaintiff again failed to provide proper responses to their interrogatories and Requests for Production of Documents. Pursuant to Rule 37 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Defendants seek to compel Plaintiff to provide further discovery responses. (Doc. 42) Plaintiff opposes the motion, asserting he complied with the prior motion to compel and provided verified responses to his discovery responses. (Doc. 43)

         For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion to compel further discovery from Plaintiff is GRANTED in part.

         I. Relevant Background

         The Court held a scheduling conference on January 8, 2019, at which deadlines related to discovery were set for the parties. (Doc. 24) The parties were ordered to exchange their initial disclosures no later than January 28, 2019. (Id. at 1, 3) In addition, the Court ordered the parties to complete all non-expert discovery no later than February 18, 2020. (Id.)

         Defendants served Plaintiff with interrogatories, a request for admissions, and a request for production of documents on February 13, 2019. (Doc. 28-1 at 2-3) Although responses were due no later than March 18, 2019, Plaintiff failed to respond. (Id.) On March 28, 2019, Defendants' Counsel, Heather Cohen, notified Plaintiff through a letter “that his Initial Disclosure and discovery responses were delinquent and requested that he provide his Initial Disclosure and responses to the discovery requests on or before April 15, 2019.” (Id. at 3) Plaintiff failed to respond to the letter, either by providing the discovery requested or seeking an extension of time to respond. (Id.)

         On April 18, 2019, Defendants filed a motion to compel discovery, reporting Plaintiff failed to comply with the Court's Scheduling Order to make his initial disclosures pursuant to Rule 26 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and that he failed to respond to Defendants' discovery requests. (Doc. 28) The Court granted the motion and directed Plaintiff to serve his initial disclosures. (Doc. 30 at 6) Plaintiff was directed to “respond to Defendants' Interrogatories-Set One and produce documents responsive to Defendants' Request for Production of Documents- Set One no later than May 31, 2019.” (Id., emphasis omitted) Further, Plaintiff was advised “failure to comply with this order or any other order of the Court-including the scheduling order-may result in the Court imposing sanctions on him which could include dismissal of the action as authorized by Local Rule 110.” (Id., emphasis omitted)

         On May 23, 2019, Plaintiff served a document entitled “Appendix” upon Defendants, which included his initial disclosures, a notice of change of address (indicating the same address already listed on the Court's docket), Responses to Interrogatories, and Responses to Request for Production of Documents. (Doc. 34-2 at 43) In response to several requests, Plaintiff indicated he was “not prepared to produce the documents...due to a lack of making copies.” (Id. at 51) He also indicated some documents were “not prepaired (sic) at [the] moment.” (Id. at 52) Defendants' counsel, Heather Cohen, wrote to Plaintiff on June 3, 2019, “and requested that he provide proper verified responses and documents by June 14, 2019.” (Id.) When Plaintiff failed to do so, Defendants filed a second motion to compel on June 25, 2019, which was granted by the Court. (Docs. 34, 37)

         On September 27, 2019, the Court informed Plaintiff that he must provide responses to interrogatories that were “accompanied by verification signed under oath.” (Doc. 37 at 5) In addition, the Court determined his “responses to the Request for Production-namely, that he was not prepared to produce the documents because he did not have copies-was insufficient for the Court to determine whether responsive documents exist, or the extent to which Plaintiff is refusing to engage in discovery.” (Id.) Plaintiff was also informed that if he had “control over any medical records, he may execute a release for Defendants to obtain the records” to properly respond to the requests for production. (Id.) Therefore, the Court ordered Plaintiff to “serve supplemental responses to Defendants' Interrogatories-Set One and produce documents responsive to Defendants' Request for Production of Documents- Set One no later than October 18, 2019.” (Id. at 6, emphasis omitted)

         On October 11, 2019, Plaintiff filed a motion for discovery. (Doc. 33 at 1) At the same time, he attempted to file his discovery responses, including responses to interrogatories, requests for admissions, and the production of documents. (See id. at 1) However, the Clerk of Court returned the discovery responses to Plaintiff with a “Clerks Notice” that indicated: “Pursuant to Local Rule 250.2(c), Interrogatories, Responses and Proofs of Service shall not be filed with the Clerk of Court until there is a proceeding in which the Interrogatories, Responses, or Proofs of Service are at issue.” (See Doc. 42-3 at 53) Plaintiff then served the documents-and the Clerk's Notice-upon Defendants on October 24, 2019. (See Id. at 2, ¶ 6)

         On November 1, 2019, the Court issued a minute order regarding discovery, indicting Defendants were authorized to bring a motion to compel discovery if necessary. (Doc. 40) Plaintiff was “advised that he is obligated to write his responses to discovery requests in the blanks provided or to rewrite the questions and write his responses below. Also, his answers to interrogatories must be signed under penalty of perjury.” (Id.) In addition, the Court ordered: “[T]o the extent the plaintiff knows of documents but does not have them with him in jail, he SHALL describe the documents with specificity and identify from whom the defendants can obtain a copy. Likewise, he SHALL take all reasonable steps to obtain his documents or to have a friend or family member provide the copies of the documents to the defense.” (Id.)

         On November 7, 2019 Defendants filed the motion now pending before the Court, related to the discovery responses received from Plaintiff. (Doc. 42) Plaintiff filed his opposition to the motion on December 23, 2019. (Doc. 43)

         II. Motions to Compel Discovery

         Under the Federal Rules, “[a] party seeking discovery may move for an order compelling an answer, designation, production or inspection” when “a party fails to answer an interrogatory submitted under Rule 33; or . . . a party fails to respond that inspection will be permitted - or fails to permit inspection - as requested under Rule 34.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(3)(B).

         The scope and limitations of discovery are set forth by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Evidence. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b) states:

Unless otherwise limited by court order, parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged manner that is relevant to any party's claim or defense - including the existence, description, nature, custody, condition, and location of any documents or other tangible things…For good cause, the court may order discovery of any matter relevant to the subject matter involved in the accident. Relevant information need not be admissible at the trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.

         Relevant evidence is defined as “evidence having any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence.” Fed.R.Evid. 401. Relevancy to a subject matter is interpreted “broadly to encompass any matter that bears on, or that reasonably could lead to other matter that could bear on, any issue that is or may be in the case.” Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 351 (1978).

         III.Discussion and ...


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