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De Rossitte v. Correct Care Solutions, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Hot Springs Division

November 9, 2018

CHRISTOPHER EUGENE DE ROSSITTE PLAINTIFF
v.
CORRECT CARE SOLUTIONS, INC.; DR. NANETTE VOWELL; and NURSE MELISSA L. GIFFORD DEFENDANTS

          ORDER

          SUSAN O. HICKEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is an Appeal to the District Court Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 72 as to the Magistrate Judge's Order Granting Plaintiff's Motion to Compel filed by Separate Defendants Correct Care Solutions, Inc. (“CCS”); Dr. Nanette Vowell; and Nurse Melissa L. Gifford (collectively the “Medical Defendants”).[1] ECF No. 90. Plaintiff has filed a response.[2] ECF No. 108. The Court finds this matter ripe for consideration.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed the instant action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged constitutional violations related to his medical care while incarcerated. On July 9, 2018, the Honorable Barry A. Bryant, United States Magistrate Judge for the Western District of Arkansas, issued an order granting a motion to compel filed by Plaintiff. ECF No. 80. The Medical Defendants now appeal portions of Judge Bryant's order.

         DISCUSSION

         A. Timeliness of the Present Appeal

         As an initial matter, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“FRCP”) 72 requires that a party who wishes to appeal a magistrate judge's order must file objections to the order within fourteen days of being served with a copy of the order. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a). Here, the challenged order was filed on July 9, 2018. ECF No. 80. On July 23, 2018, the Medical Defendants filed a Motion for Extension of Time to Respond to the Court's Order Granting Plaintiff's Motion to Compel and for Extension of Time Within to Appeal to the District Court Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 72. ECF No. 86. Judge Bryant granted that motion on July 24, 2018, giving the Medical Defendants up to and including August 6, 2018, to file objections to the order. ECF No. 87. The Medical Defendants filed the instant appeal on August 6, 2018. ECF No. 90. Accordingly, although the Medical Defendants did not file the instant appeal within fourteen days of the challenged order, they did file it within the extended time allowed by Judge Bryant. Therefore, the Court finds that the appeal was timely filed.

         B. Merits of the Present Appeal

         The Court now turns to the merits of the present appeal. In the challenged order, Judge Bryant granted a motion to compel filed by Plaintiff and ordered the production of specific information and materials. The Medical Defendants appeal Judge Bryant's order to produce the following information and documents: (1) “[i]nternal responses or other documents related to [] Plaintiff's August 2016 letter to CCS;” (2) “[i]nternal and external communication[s] concerning Plaintiff's medical care from November 1, 2013 until the present;” and (3) a “[l]ist of state or federal sanctions, fines, criminal charges or other court imposed settlements or injunctions against or involving CCS over the last 3 years which are based on similar allegations made by Plaintiff in the prison setting for denial of medical care.”[3] ECF No. 90, pp. 4-5.

         Rule 72 provides that when timely objections are made to a magistrate judge's written order concerning a non-dispositive pretrial motion, the district judge in the case must consider those objections and “modify or set aside any part of the order that is clearly erroneous or is contrary to law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a). Rule 72 likewise states that “[a] party may not assign as error a defect in the order not timely objected to.” Id. The Medical Defendants assert that Judge Bryant's order was “contrary to law” in regard to the three sections at issue. “A decision is contrary to law when it fails to apply or misapplies relevant statutes, case law or rules of procedure.” Shukh v. Seagate Tech., LLC, 295 F.R.D. 228, 235 (D. Minn. 2013) (quoting Knutson v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Minn., 254 F.R.D. 553, 556 (D. Minn. 2008)).

         The Medical Defendants assert that Judge Bryant's order as to the three above-quoted sections is “contrary to law as those sections . . . fail to properly weigh the issue of whether Plaintiff's requests are proportional to the needs of this case, in light of the factors listed in [FRCP] 26(b)(1)[.]” ECF No. 90, p. 5. The Medical Defendants argue that-in weighing the importance of the issues at stake, the amount in controversy, the importance of the materials in resolving the issues presented by this case, and whether the burden or expense of production outweighs the materials' likely benefit[4]-the Court “should have found that the voluminous material” requested was not proportional to the needs of the present case and, accordingly, should not be produced. Id.

         The Medical Defendants further argue that, in regard to the challenged three groupings of information, Judge Bryant's order was “overly broad and ambiguous as to the content of what is to be produced.” Id. at 5. The Medical Defendants contend that it is unclear whether the order directed the Medical Defendants “to disclose confidential settlements, attorney-client privileged material or if the material should be produced on a nationwide scale.” Id. at 5-6. Finally, the Medical Defendants assert that due to the scope and number of Plaintiff's alleged symptoms, they are unsure as to how they “would be able to assess every case, nationwide, for a span of years to determine if allegations similar” to Plaintiff's had been addressed and that, regardless, the time and associated costs of producing such information would be “staggering and cannot be proportional to the needs of this case” in light of the relevant factors to be considered. Id. at 6. Accordingly, the Medical Defendants request that the Court find that the above-quoted groupings of information and materials to be produced are not proportional to the needs of the case and that the Medical Defendants should not be required to produce the ordered information and materials. Id. at 6-7.

         Plaintiff has filed a response asserting that Judge Bryant rightly decided the present issues.[5]Plaintiff notes, inter alia, that this litigation concerns alleged constitutional violations and, further, that he is substantially limited in his abilities to discover the material at issue. Likewise, as to the third grouping of ordered information and materials-a “[l]ist of state or federal sanctions, fines, criminal charges or other court imposed settlements or injunctions against or involving CCS over the last 3 years which are based on similar allegations made by Plaintiff in the prison setting for denial of medical care”-Plaintiff asserts that this is “obviously intended to be national in scope” and that it is “obviously not intended to include privileged material[.]” ECF No. 108, p. 6. Plaintiff likewise appears to argue that notwithstanding the Medical Defendants' arguments otherwise, they are not tasked with compiling information from cases where a plaintiff alleged specific symptoms similar to Plaintiff's, but simply where a plaintiff alleged a denial of medical care in the prison context. Id. Finally, Plaintiff asserts that the Medical Defendants have failed to show how the discovery at issue would be unduly burdensome and that they rely, instead, on broad conclusory statements. Id.

         The issue before Judge Bryant concerned a discovery dispute. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26 governs the scope and limits of discovery in a ...


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