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Rucker v. Lindamood

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Columbia Division

March 28, 2018

CHERRY LINDAMOOD, et al. Defendants.




         Pending before the Court in this prisoner civil rights action are four discovery-related motions filed by Plaintiff Morris Rucker (Doc. Nos. 57, 58, 61, 104), as well as one filed by Defendant Vanessa McClain (Doc. No. 50). For the reasons that follow, Rucker's motions to subpoena or compel production of documents (Doc. Nos. 57, 58, and 61) are FOUND MOOT, and the motions to compel of Rucker (Doc. No. 104) and McClain (Doc. No. 50) are GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         I. Background

         On October 24, 2016, Plaintiff Rucker, a Tennessee Department of Corrections (TDOC) prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging civil rights violations by his health care providers at the South Central Correctional Facility (SCCF) in Clifton, Tennessee. After the Court's initial screening of Rucker's complaint under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, the only claims allowed to proceed were Rucker's claims of deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment against Corizon Health, Inc., and Amy Franks, and his claims of retaliation and racial discrimination against McClain. (Doc. No. 3.) Rucker subsequently amended his complaint to add Chris May as a party (Doc. No. 7), and his Eighth Amendment claim against May survived initial screening based on the allegation that May and McClain denied him necessary medical treatment on one occasion. (Doc. No. 63, PageID# 465.)

         Defendants McClain, Franks, [1] and May are or were members of the medical staff at SCCF who Rucker claims were responsible for the denial of adequate treatment of his chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma. He claims that his treatment was inadequate because he was given less-effective inhaler medications at SCCF than what he had been prescribed by a specialist and because he was not given a breathing treatment unless his oxygen level fell below a certain point. He further claims that this denial of adequate medical care is due, at least in part, to discrimination on the basis of his race. (Doc. No. 66, PageID# 476.)

         II. Analysis

         A. Rucker's Early Discovery Motions

         Rucker filed his first three discovery motions before the addition of May as a party and sought from McClain (who was the only served defendant at the time) the same production in each motion. His Motion for Subpoena Du[c]es Tecum Production of Medical Records and Documents (Doc. No. 57) seeks production that he also asks the Court to compel in his Motion to Compel Discovery (Doc. No. 58). He then filed another motion to subpoena medical records and documents (Doc. No. 61) that is identical to the first. All three filings were made in the span of three days, September 8-11, 2017, and all sought to have the Court order the production of Rucker's medical records and associated documents, despite the fact that the time in which McClain could produce such documents had not yet passed. (Doc. No. 68, PageID# 640 (“On September 11, 2017, Defendant received the first set of ‘Requests for Production' from Plaintiff that she has received in this entire case. Defendant is currently in the process of responding to said discovery requests.”).)

         Rucker's first three motions sought the production of pertinent medical records, grievances, logbook entries, policies, and investigative documents in SCCF's possession. McClain and May have produced documents responsive to Rucker's requests. Rucker's fourth discovery motion-- his second Motion to Compel Discovery (Doc. No. 104)--challenges the sufficiency of that production. Accordingly, Rucker's motions to subpoena or compel production of these documents (Doc. Nos. 57, 58, and 61) are FOUND MOOT.

         B. Rucker's Motion to Compel Discovery (Doc. No. 104)

         The Court now turns to Rucker's motion addressing the sufficiency of McClain and May's production (Doc. No. 104). That motion is supported by a brief (Doc. No. 105) and Rucker's affidavit (Doc. No. 106), which attaches all of his written discovery requests and Defendants' responses. Defendants McClain and May have responded in opposition to Rucker's motion (Doc. No. 110), and Rucker has filed a reply to their response (Doc. No. 117).

         As a preliminary matter, Rucker characterizes Defendants' discovery responses as “belated” and argues that their objections should be deemed waived based on their untimeliness. (Doc. No. 105, PageID# 1055-56.) “As a general rule, failure to object to discovery requests within the thirty days provided by Rules 33 and 34 constitutes a waiver of any objection.” Baker v. Cty. of Missaukee, No. 1:09-CV-1059, 2013 WL 5786899, at *18 (W.D. Mich. Oct. 28, 2013). However, Rules 33 and 34 require a response within 30 days “after being served, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(b)(2), 34(b)(2)(A), not after the requests are mailed. The Court finds only one set of discovery requests that could raise a possible timeliness issue: the requests for production of documents “given to the [SCCF] prison mailroom authorities” on September 7, 2017 (Doc. No. 106, PageID# 1074), to which Defendants responded by mail on October 10, 2017 (id. at PageID# 1080). Allowing three additional days for Defendant's response due to Rucker's service of his requests by mail, Fed.R.Civ.P. 6(d), and without knowing whether the requests were in fact mailed on the day that they were given to prison mailroom authorities, there is insufficient evidence that Defendants' responses were untimely. Therefore, there is no waiver of their objections to the requested production.

         Rucker takes issue with Defendants' objections to his discovery requests and with the limited production they made without waiving those objections. Rucker's position with respect to the objected-to information is summarized in paragraph 23 of his affidavit in support of his motion to compel (Doc. No. 106, PageID# 1069, ¶ 23), and in his supporting brief (Doc. No. 105, PageID# 1056-57). Consistent with these descriptions, Defendants have addressed Rucker's discovery requests under eight categories (Doc. No. 110, PageID# 1158-1164), and Rucker replied to their arguments in the same framework (Doc. No. 117, PageID# 1193-1202).

         Seven of the eight disputed categories involve requests for production. Under Rule 34, a party may request “any designated documents or electronically stored information--including . . . images, and other data or data compilations”-that are “in the responding party's possession, custody, or control.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(a)(1).

         1.The PELCO Footage

         Rucker has requested a copy of the PELCO video footage from April 28, 2016, which he asserts will show that he “fel[l] out and was laying on the ground in front of medical and inside of medical on the waiting room floor having an ‘asthmatic attack' . . . for a long period of time without any medical care, until Nurse Kelly Mills, LPN . . . help[ed] the Plaintiff[].” (Doc. No. 117, PageID# 1193.) He seeks this footage to rebut McClain's assertion that he did not “fall out, ” but “intentionally laid on the floor in front of the medical department because he was ‘mad' at the medical department, ” and that he received appropriate medical care on that occasion. (Doc. No. 106, PageID# 1097, ¶ 5.) Defendants have responded to this request by repeatedly asserting that “no such video footage exists because any such video footage was looped over long before Plaintiff even filed a lawsuit.” (Doc. No. 110, PageID# 1158.) Rucker insists that this is not true ...

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