United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Statesville Division
ANGELA SHOEMAKE, Individually, and as Natural Parent and Guardian of Minor Child, J.S., Plaintiff,
ELI LILLY AND COMPANY, Defendant.
DAVID C. KEESLER, Magistrate Judge.
THIS MATTER IS BEFORE THE COURT on "Defendant Eli Lilly And Company's Motion To Compel" (Document No. 34). This motion has been referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b), and is ripe for disposition. Having carefully considered the motion, the record, and applicable authority, the undersigned will grant the motion.
Angela Shoemake ("Shoemake" or "Plaintiff"), individually, and as parent and guardian of minor child, J.S., filed this action on January 23, 2014. (Document No. 1). Plaintiff contends that J.S. developed a cardiac anomaly as a result of Shoemake's ingestion of Defendant Eli Lilly and Company's ("Defendant") prescription anti-depressant Prozac during her pregnancy with J.S. See (Document Nos. 1, 10, 34). Plaintiff's "Amended Complaint At Law" (Document No. 10) was filed on February 14, 2014, and asserts fourteen (14) causes of action against Defendant based on injuries allegedly suffered by Plaintiff and J.S. as a result of Shoemake's ingestion of Prozac. The "Answer Of Defendant Eli Lilly And Company To Plaintiff's Amended Complaint" (Document No. 13) was filed on March 18, 2013.
On May 7, 2013, the Court entered a "Pretrial Order And Case Management Plan" (Document No. 24). On July 2, 2013, the parties' "Joint Motion For Protective Order" (Document No. 27) was granted, and the "Joint Protective Order" (Document No. 29) was docketed. See (Document No. 28).
"Defendant Eli Lilly And Company's Motion To Compel" (Document No. 34) was filed on January 3, 2014. By its motion, Defendant seeks an order from the Court compelling Plaintiff to identify Shoemake's "mental health providers, and provide authorizations for the release of their records." (Document No. 34, p.2). "Plaintiff's Response In Opposition..." (Document No. 37) was filed on January 21, 2014. "Defendant Eli Lilly And Company's Reply..." (Document No. 38) was then filed on January 31, 2014. The pending motion is fully briefed and ripe for review and disposition.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Rule 26 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that:
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). The rules of discovery are to be accorded broad and liberal construction. See Herbert v. Lando , 441 U.S. 153, 177 (1979); and Hickman v. Taylor , 329 U.S. 495, 507 (1947). However, a court may "issue an order to protect a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression or undue burden or expense." Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c)(1).
Whether to grant or deny a motion to compel is generally left within a district court's broad discretion. See Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon, Inc. v. Alpha of Va., Inc. , 43 F.3d 922, 929 (4th Cir. 1995) (denial of motions to compel reviewed on appeal for abuse of discretion); Erdmann v. Preferred Research Inc. , 852 F.2d 788, 792 (4th Cir. 1988) (noting District Court's substantial discretion in resolving motions to compel); and LaRouche v. National Broadcasting Co. , 780 F.2d 1134, 1139 (4th Cir. 1986) (same).
Defendant contends that the "Amended Complaint" includes allegations which directly place Plaintiff's mental health and need for medication before, during, and after her pregnancy with J.S. at issue in this case. (Document No. 34, p.1). Defendant asserts that it has sought the identity of Plaintiff's health care providers and authorization for access to their records since the beginning of discovery in May 2013, but access to this information has been blocked by Plaintiff. Id . Defendant notes that Plaintiff has offered to provide authorizations for mental health providers, if Defendant agrees to a process allowing Plaintiff to review and redact the records before Defendant reviews them. (Document No. 35, p.2). According to Defendant, Plaintiff's proposal is unwarranted because the Court's Protective Order is sufficient to protect Plaintiff's confidentiality and there is no applicable privilege. Id.
In response, Plaintiff opposes "unfettered access" to Shoemake's mental health records and argues that its offer of "a reasonable compromise" should be adopted by the Court. (Document No. 37, p.1). Plaintiff acknowledges "the need for some discovery of these records, " but asserts ...