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Ballard v. NC Department of Public Safety

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Statesville Division

June 16, 2015

ROBERT S. BALLARD, Plaintiff,
v.
NC DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY, MARTA M. KALINSKI, Doctor, PAULA SMITH, Doctor, Director of Health Services, Defendants.

ORDER

FRANK D. WHITNEY, Chief District Judge.

THIS MATTER is before the Court on the following motions by the parties: (1) Plaintiff's Motion to Compel Defendants to Release and Produce Documents, (Doc. No. 65), Plaintiff's Motion for Law Library, (Doc. No. 75), Plaintiff's Motion for Rule 26(f) Meeting, (Doc. No. 81), Plaintiff's Motion to Stay/Continue, (Doc. No. 85), and Defendant's Motions for Protective Order, (Doc. Nos. 71; 82).

I. Background

Plaintiff filed this action on November 26, 2013, bringing a claim against the sole remaining Defendant in this action, Marta Kalinski, for deliberate indifference to a serious medical need. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant took Plaintiff off pain medications without any cause and/or justification, and such actions showed a deliberate indifference to a serious medical need. On June 30, 2014, this Court conducted an initial review of Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 1915(e)(2) and concluded that Plaintiff's allegations of an Eighth Amendment violation against Defendant Kalinski survived initial review. (Doc. No. 19). Defendant filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim on August 28, 2014, which motion this Court denied on February 10, 2015. (Doc. Nos. 31; 45).

The Court entered a Pretrial Order and Case Management Plan on February 12, 2015, requiring all discovery to be completed by June 11, 2015. (Doc. No. 47). The Order specifically stated that the parties were required to "initiate discovery requests... sufficiently in advance of the discovery completion deadline so as to comply with this Order. Discovery requests that seek responses... after the discovery completion deadline are not enforceable except by order of the Court for good cause shown." (Id. at 2-3). Per the Order, each party was to propound no more than 20 Interrogatories, including subparts, and to request no more than 20 requests for admission. (Id. at 2).

Defendant was served with Plaintiff's First Set of Interrogatories on February 22, 2015, and two sets of Requests for Production of Documents, one dated February 21, 2015, and one dated February 24, 2015, all of which were received by defense counsel on February 27, 2015. Plaintiff then served Defendant with a Third Request for Production of Documents on March 1, 2015. The Court then granted Defendant's motions for extensions of time, giving Defendant until April 30, 2015, in which to file discovery responses. (Doc. No. 53). On April 13, 2015, Plaintiff served a "Request for Admissions" on Defendant.

On April 21, 2015, Defendant sent Plaintiff her discovery responses. Along with the responses, Defendant sent Plaintiff all of the records she had received (and has received to date) from the North Carolina Department of Public Safety for Plaintiff. Defendant was involved in Plaintiff's care from approximately August 2013 to February 2014. Defendant received records up through September 2014, more than six months after the last time Defendant had any contact with or entered any orders with respect to Plaintiff, and Defendant asserts that she has provided these records to Plaintiff, totaling approximately 2, 897 pages. On April 25, 2015, Plaintiff served Defendant with a Second Set of Interrogatories and a Fourth Request for Production of Documents. On May 22, 2015, Plaintiff served on Defendant a Fifth Request for Production of Documents.

II. Discussion

a. Plaintiff's Motion to Compel (Doc. No. 65)

The Court first addresses Plaintiff's motion to compel filed on May 1, 2015, in which Plaintiff moved "for an order compelling defendants to produce certain documents withheld by defendants." (Doc. No. 65). In Plaintiff's motion, Plaintiff claims there is a "health care manual" in Defendant's possession and which Defendant is denying Plaintiff. (Id. at 1). Plaintiff then claims that Defendant has gone through Plaintiff's medical records and removed certain papers. (Id. at 2). Finally, Plaintiff claims that Defendant is in possession of a policy regarding the dispensing of scheduled narcotic medicine and that said policy is in the "health care manual that the Defendants do not want Plaintiff to have." (Id. at 3).

The Court denies the motion to compel for the reasons stated in Defendant's response, in which Defendant denies withholding any medical information from Plaintiff. Defendant also states that she is neither the owner of the health care manual at issue, nor does she have it in her possession. The Court finds that Defendant has complied in good faith with Plaintiff's discovery requests, and the Court will not compel Defendant to produce the health care manual that Plaintiff is seeking. Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 34(c) and 45 provide a means for Plaintiff to obtain documents from non-parties such as the North Carolina Department of Public Safety (the purported owner of the health care manual requested by Plaintiff), and Plaintiff's attempt to seek this information through Defendant is improper. Furthermore, the burden and expense of making Defendant attempt to obtain such information would be greatly outweighed by any potential benefit as Plaintiff's request would also not likely lead to the discovery of relevant evidence. In sum, the Court denies Plaintiff's motion to compel.

b. Defendant's Motion for a Protective Order (Doc. No. 71)

The Court next addresses Defendant's Motion for a Protective Order regarding Plaintiff's Second Set of Interrogatories, Fourth Request for Production of Documents, and Requests for Admissions recently served on Defendant. (Doc. No. 71). After reviewing the court file and the materials submitted by the parties, the Court concludes that, for the reasons set forth in Defendant's brief, Defendant shall not be required to answer Plaintiff's Second Set of Interrogatories, Plaintiff's Fourth Request for Production of Documents, or Plaintiff's Requests for Admissions. Specifically, the Court finds that Defendant has engaged in discovery in good faith and has reasonably responded to Plaintiff's discovery requests. With respect to Plaintiff's Second Set of Interrogatories, Plaintiff has exceeded his Interrogatory limit of 20 and Plaintiff's Second Set of Interrogatories are therefore improper. Moreover, Plaintiff's Second Set of Interrogatories subjects Defendant to annoyance, undue burden, and expense, as well as being unreasonably cumulative and duplicative. Plaintiff's Second Set of Interrogatories also seeks information that Plaintiff may himself ascertain from the medical records. Many of Plaintiff's questions are phrased to be harassing and argumentative. Other questions by Plaintiff are within his own knowledge and available from a more convenient source. Moreover, Defendant has already responded to the First Set of Interrogatories where many of these same questions were asked, and Defendant has represented to this Court that she does not have Plaintiff's latest medical records. Finally, considering the filings and the submissions before this Court, any benefit to Defendant answering Plaintiff's Second Set of Interrogatories is outweighed by the burden and expense of doing so.

As to Plaintiff's Fourth Request for Production of Documents, in which Plaintiff seeks his medical records from September 2014 to the present, Defendant has asserted that she was involved in Plaintiff's care from approximately August 2013 to February 2014. Defendant received records from May 2014 up through September 2014, more than six months after the last time Defendant had any contact with or entered any orders with respect to Plaintiff. Defendant asserts that she provided these records to Plaintiff, copying and mailing thousands of pages of ...


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