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Johnson v. Pelle

United States District Court, D. Colorado

December 16, 2015




Plaintiff has filed a Motion to Compel Discovery Response [filed November 2, 2015; docket #60], which has been referred to this Court for disposition [docket #62]. The matter is briefed to the extent permitted by court rules, and the Court finds that oral argument will not assist in adjudication of the motion. For the reasons that follow, the Court denies the Motion.


Plaintiff, a pro se prisoner, initiated this action on January 15, 2015 [see docket #1], and then filed the operative Amended Complaint at the direction of the Court on May 15, 2015 [see docket #19]. Plaintiff brings his case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1343 and 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Defendants denied him proper care for an acute dental problem while he was a pretrial detainee awaiting trial and being housed in the Boulder County Jail. Docket #19 at 3.

In the present Motion, Plaintiff requests Defendants supplement their responses to a number of discovery requests that they search for and produce emails they have not produced, and that Plaintiff be allowed either copies of the documents available on the Boulder County Sheriff Office’s and Jail’s public websites or that he be allowed to access the internet so he is able to download and review the material himself.

On September 9, 2015, Plaintiff submitted a document titled “Discovery Request.” Docket #54. Defendants provided their response on October 5, 2015, and a supplemental response on October 9, 2015. See docket #64, exhs. A-B. Plaintiff then filed the pending Motion on November 2, 2015. Docket #60.


I. Legal Standard

The scope of evidence that is subject to discovery under the federal rules is broad:

Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter 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 and the identity and location of persons who know of any discoverable matter. For good cause, the court may order discovery of any matter relevant to the subject matter involved in the action. Relevant information need not be admissible at the trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.

Fed. R. Civ. P 26(b)(1) (2012). Generally, the party objecting to discovery as irrelevant must establish that the requested discovery does not fall under the scope of relevance as defined in Fed. R. Civ. P 26(b)(1). Simpson v. University of Colo., 220 F.R.D. 354, 359 (D. Colo. 2004).

II. Analysis

The Court broadly construes relevancy, and a request for discovery is valid if it is possible that the information sought may be relevant to the claim or defense of any party. Bonanno v. Quizno’s Franchise Co., 255 F.R.D. 550, 552 (D. Colo. 2009). When the requested information appears to be relevant, the party objecting to the discovery has the burden to establish the information is irrelevant by demonstrating the information does not come within the scope of relevance as defined by Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1), or is of such marginal relevance that the harm in producing the information outweighs the presumption in favor of broad disclosure. Id. (citing Simpson, 220 F.R.D. at 359). “Conversely, when the request is overly broad on its face or when relevancy is not readily apparent, the party seeking the discovery has the burden to show the relevancy of the request.” Hammond v. Lowe’s Home Ctrs. Inc., 216 F.R.D. 666, 670 (D. Kan. 2003); see also Bonanno, 255 F.R.D. at 553.

First, however, the party moving to compel discovery must prove that the opposing party’s answers are incomplete. Bayview Loan Servicing, LLC v. Boland, 259 F.R.D. 516, 518 (D. Colo. 2009) (citing Daiflon, Inc. v. Allied Chemical Corp., 534 F.2d 221 (10th Cir. 1976) (“appellees had the burden of proving the answer to their interrogatory was indeed incomplete”)); see also Continental Ins. Co. v. McGraw, 110 F.R.D. 679, 682 (D. Colo. 1986) (the burden of proof lies with the proponent to prove answers are incomplete, inadequate, or false).

The Court will thus analyze each of Plaintiff’s challenges to the enumerated discovery responses.

A. Interrogatory A12 to Defendant Pelle

This interrogatory asked: “Who is the designated health care provider responsible for continuity of care for Andrew Johnson from admission to transfer or discharge from the Boulder County Jail?”[1] Docket #64, exh. 1 at 4. Defendant Pelle responded: “The jail maintains the medical staff responsible for the inmates’ medical needs during their incarceration.” Id.

Plaintiff asserts the answer “avoids the question.” Docket #60 at 2. Defendant Pelle responds that “the answer was sufficient because there is not a single health care provider who is solely responsible for either Plaintiff’s or any other inmate’s or detainee’s care. The on-duty medical staff as a whole provides continuity of care for all inmates and detainees with medical problems. Outside medical providers are responsible for the service that they provide.” Docket #64 at 2.

With that clarification from Defendant Pelle, the Court finds the answer is sufficient and no further information needs to be compelled. However, as long as Plaintiff has not exhausted his discovery, the Court will in the interest of justice allow Plaintiff to ask one additional interrogatory despite the discovery deadline having passed. In the additional interrogatory, Plaintiff may seek the identity of any dental care providers who were part of the “on-duty medical staff” during the relevant time period. Should Plaintiff choose to ask this interrogatory, he must do so on or before December 30, 2015.

B. Interrogatory A13 to Defendant Pelle

This interrogatory asked: “Who is the health authority or health services administrator that makes decisions about the deployment of health resources and the day-to-day operations of health services programs and assures detainees access to dental services at the Boulder County Jail?” Docket #64, exh. 1 at 4. Defendant Pelle responded: “The jail contracts with two physicians: Dr. Jeremiah Kaplan and Dr. Charles Davies. Revada Farnsworth is the Health Services Administrator. The jail also employs a dentist, a dental hygienist, mental health professionals, and many R.N.s and L.P.N.s who provide health services to the individuals incarcerated at the Boulder County Jail.” Id.

Plaintiff asserts the answer “does not answer the question” as it does not provide information about “who makes decisions to deploy resources and services and assures access to dental services.” Docket #60 at 3. Defendant Pelle responds that the answer was sufficient as it provided the identity of those persons generally responsible for deployment of health services. Docket #64 at 2.

The Court agrees with Defendant Pelle and finds no need to compel more information.

C. Interrogatory A14 to Defendant Pelle

This interrogatory asked: “What is the chain of command to supervise the medical services and assures they are received, adequate in providing necessary care and accessible?” Docket #64, exh. 1 at 5. Defendant Pelle responded: “The medical staff is to ensure provision of medical and dental care of inmates. If an inmate has a complaint about that service and files a grievance, it will ...

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