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Evans v. Capps

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Southern Division

September 19, 2017

CHRISTOPHER CAPPS, et al., Defendants. GEORGE R. EVANS Plaintiff,
MICHAEL GROOM, et al., Defendants.


          Robert B. Jones, Jr. United States Magistrate Judge

         This matter is before the court on the (1) motion of Plaintiff George Evans ("Evans") to compel discovery from Defendant Christopher Capps ("Capps") [DE-120], and (2) motion of nonparty movants William T. Evans and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (altogether "Movants") to quash a subpoena duces tecum Evans has served upon each of them [DE-135]. All responsive briefing is complete, [1] and Capps has provided to the court his responses to Evans' discovery requests as ordered. [DE-147 through -151]. All issues raised in the briefing are ripe for decision and are referred to the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A). For the reasons that follow, Evans' motion to compel [DE-120] is allowed in part and denied in part and Movants' motion to quash [DE-135] is allowed in part and denied in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On March 30, 2014, Evans was sitting in his vehicle in South Carolina when he was surrounded and subsequently pursued by South Carolina authorities in a vehicle chase. After he crossed into North Carolina he was pursued by approximately forty law enforcement vehicles, including members of the Columbus County Sheriffs Office and the North Carolina State Highway Patrol. Evans ran out of gas and exited the vehicle with his hands raised holding a weapon clearly visible to the officers. Evans was in the process of putting his weapon down when he was shot by law enforcement officers and was hit by approximately forty-three rounds. Evans sustained serious injuries. Evans filed his complaint under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, 1988, alleging that the officer defendants violated Evans' civil rights by using excessive force and discriminating against him based on his race. Compl. [DE-1]. The claims raised in this action are for supervisory liability, pattern or practice of disregard of constitutional rights, and failure to properly train/deliberate indifference against Sheriff Hatcher, excessive force, equal protection violation, due process violations, cruel and unusual punishment and racial profiling. [DE-1, -129]. Evans further cites to claims under the North Carolina Constitution and North Carolina General Statutes in his complaint. Id.

         In an order filed June 26, 2017, the court consolidated the instant case with a subsequent complaint plaintiff filed in state court that was ultimately removed to this court. [DE-129]. Each of Evans' complaints makes similar claims arising out of the March 30, 2014 incident with law enforcement. In the second case, Evans alleges state law claims for negligence, gross negligence, intentional torts, excessive force, intentional infliction of emotional distress, unconstitutional policy or customs, failure to properly screen, train, and supervise deputies, deliberate indifference to continuing constitutional violations by deputies, and supervisory liability. The court directed that all claims raised by Evans shall be adjudicated in the first-filed case and instructed Evans to file an amended complaint by July 14, 2017, alleging all claims raised in the two complaints. Id.

         Evans has alleged the following against Capps. Capps is an employee of the North Carolina Highway Patrol. During the encounter with law enforcement on March 30, 2014, Evans was in the process of lowering his weapon when Capps was the first to fire his weapon, causing other officers to fire their weapons at Evans. Capps fired a total of 13 rounds at Evans. According to Evans, Capps conspired with several deputies to make it appear as if Evans was attempting to shoot another law enforcement officer (Sergeant Gore) in order to justify the use of force against Evans. Officer Capps told the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation that he was trained to take the target out and continue firing his weapon until the target is no longer a threat. Capps used excessive force against Evans violating his rights under due process, state law, and the Eighth Amendment. According to Evans, all defendants failed to follow standard protocol for a felony stop by not surrounding the vehicle and failed to follow proper procedure and policy by shooting him when he was attempting to surrender to law enforcement. As a result of Capps' behavior and training he violated Evans' civil rights under North Carolina General Statutes and the North Carolina Constitution. [DE-1].

         On February 14, 2017, Evans served written discovery requests on Capps including a request for the production of documents. [DE-127] at 2. Capps provided his responses on May 26, 2017, and supplemented his responses on June 15, 2017. Id. On June 8, 2017, Evans filed his motion to compel Capps to respond to his Requests for Production of Documents Nos. 4-5, 7-10, 12, 16, and 21-25. [DE-120].


         A. Motion to Compel

         1. Standard of Review

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure enable parties to obtain information by serving requests for discovery on each other, including interrogatories, requests for production of documents, and requests for admission. See generally Fed. R. Civ. P. 26-37. Rule 26 provides for a broad scope of discovery:

Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case, considering the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties' relative access to relevant information, the parties' resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit. Information within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). The district court has broad discretion in determining relevance for discovery purposes. Seaside Farm, Inc. v. United States, 842 F.3d 853, 860 (4th Cir. 2016); Watson v. Lowcountry Red Cross, 974 F.2d 482, 489 (4th Cir. 1992). The party seeking the court's protection from responding to discovery "must make a particularized showing of why discovery should be denied, and conclusory or generalized statements fail to satisfy this burden as a matter of law." Mainstreet Collection, Inc., v. Kirkland's, Inc., 270 F.R.D.238, 240(E.D. N.C. 2010)(citation omitted).

         Rule 34 governs requests for production of documents. A party seeking discovery may serve a request on another party asking him to permit the requesting party "to inspect, copy, test, or sample ... any designated documents or electronically stored information... or... any designated tangible things" that constitute or contain matters within the scope of Rule 26(b) and which are in the possession, custody or control of the party upon whom the request is served. Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(a). A party asserting an objection to a particular request "must specify the part [to which it objects] and permit inspection of the rest." Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(b)(2)(C). "While Rule 34 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure does not contain the same specificity and waiver provisions as Rule 33 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Advisory Committee notes to Rule 34 state that '[t]he procedure provided in Rule 34 is essentially the same as that in Rule 33.'" Mainstreet Collection, 270 F.R.D. at 240-41 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 34 advisory committee notes (1970 Amend.)).

         Rule 37 allows for the filing of a motion to compel discovery responses. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(a)(3)(B). The motion to compel must "include a certification that the movant has in good faith conferred or attempted to confer with the person or party failing to make disclosure or discovery in an effort to obtain it without court action." Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(1). Similarly, Local Civil Rule 7.1(c) requires that "[c]ounsel must also certify that there has been a good faith effort to resolve discovery disputes prior to the filing of any discovery motions." See Jones v. Broadwell, No. 5:10-CT-3223-FL, 2013 WL 1909985, at *1 (E.D. N.C. May 8, 2013) (denying motion to compel which did not state that party complied with Rule 37(a) or Local Civil Rule 7.1(c)).

         2. Analysis

         Evans claims that Capps has failed to answer Requests for Production Nos. 4-5, 7-10, 12, 16, and 21-25. Capps responds that he has produced all documents and items of which he has possession, custody or control or has properly asserted an objection. [DE-127]; [DE-147] at 3. Each of Evans' disputed discovery requests is addressed in turn below.

         Request No. 4. All training manual [sic] used for his training including test scores.

         Capps objected to this request on the grounds that it is vague, overly broad, unduly burdensome, and not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.[2] [DE-150] at 2. Capps responds further that "all training manuals" used in the training of a North Carolina State Highway Patrol ("SHP") trooper would be voluminous and address numerous issues, most of which have nothing to do with Evans' allegations. [DE-127] at 3. However, in his supplementation, Capps provided Evans with a complete copy of the SHP Policy Manual, which addresses, among many other subjects, the use of deadly force and high speed pursuits. Id. Capps explains further that SHP does not conduct diversity/race/national origin training, but that this training is provided by the NC Justice Academy to SHP Troopers. Id. Capps further provided Evans with the outline and training material the NC Justice Academy used to train SHP troopers on diversity/race/national origin issues. Id.

         The request is overly broad, extending to documents not relevant to the claims or defenses at issue. The request fails to define the types of manuals sought and leaves it to Capps or the court to speculate what manuals there may be that are relevant to Evans' claims. Nonetheless, judging from the nature of Evans' claims, SHP manuals corresponding to training Capps received on the use of deadly force and high speed pursuits are relevant. Accordingly, and unless previously produced, within 14 days of this order, Capps is directed to produce all formal training manuals in his possession custody or control related to training he received on the use of deadly force and high speed pursuits.

         Request No. 5. Policy and procedure on excessive force ...

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