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Ouellette v. Gaudette

United States District Court, D. Maine

April 5, 2019

LAWRENCE ROLAND OUELLETTE, Plaintiff
v.
NORMAN GAUDETTE, et al., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER ON DISCOVERY DISPUTE

          JOHN H. RICH III, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         At the request of defendant Roger Beaupre, I held a teleconference in this section 1983 civil rights action on January 29, 2019, to resolve disputes over the adequacy of plaintiff Lawrence Roland Ouellette's responses to Defendant Beaupre's contention interrogatories and related document requests. See ECF No. 116 at [1]; ECF No. 123. I determined that I required further information and ordered simultaneous letter-briefs to be filed on the docket by the parties by February 8, 2019, with simultaneous letter-brief responses to be filed by February 14, 2019. ECF No. 123. The City of Biddeford, noting that it had served virtually identical discovery requests on the plaintiff and received essentially identical responses, joined in Defendant Beaupre's letter brief. See ECF No. 125.

         For the reasons that follow, treating Defendant Beaupre's request as a motion to compel, I grant the motion in part, to the extent that I direct the plaintiff to supplement his answer to both defendants' Interrogatory No. 3 no later than April 15, 2019, and otherwise deny it.

         I. Background

         This section 1983 civil rights action has been ongoing for more than three years. The parties have conducted extensive discovery practice, including taking more than 75 depositions in this action and related cases. See Plaintiff's Letter Brief dated Feb. 8, 2019 (“Ptf's Letter Br.”) (ECF No. 124) at 1. More than a year ago, Defendant Beaupre served the plaintiff with contention interrogatories. See Defendant Beaupre's Letter Brief dated Feb. 7, 2019 (“Def's Letter Br.”) (ECF No. 122) at 2. The plaintiff argued that it was too early in the discovery process to respond and requested an extension, which Defendant Beaupre provided. See Id. The plaintiff eventually served responses to the contention interrogatories in December 2018 and to related contention-styled document requests in November 2018. See Plaintiff's Responses to Defendant Roger Beaupre's First Set of Interrogatories (“Ptf's Interrog. Resp.”) (ECF No. 122-1), attached to Def's Letter Br., at 15; Plaintiff's Responses to Defendant Roger Beaupre's First Request for Production of Documents (“Ptf's RFP Resp.”) (ECF No. 122-2), attached to Def's Letter Br., at 9.

         Defendant Beaupre takes issue with the plaintiff's answers to 26 of his 29 interrogatories, all but those numbered 1, 2, and 20, see Interrogatories (“Interrog. Chart”) (ECF No. 122-3), attached to Def's Letter Br, and the plaintiff's responses to 26 of his 31 requests for production of documents, all but those numbered 1 through 5, see Requests for Production of Documents (“RFP Chart”) (ECF No. 122-3), attached to Def's Letter Br.

         The plaintiff responded to the interrogatories at issue by (i) writing several narrative accounts of the evidence, see Ptf's Interrog. Resp. Nos. 3-4, 13, 16, 19, (ii) providing caveats that his answers did not contain all of the requested information, which I construe as objections as to scope and proportionality, see id. Nos. 4-5, 14, [1] and (iii) referencing other answers, see id. Nos. 3-12, 15, 17-18, 21-29.

         The plaintiff served similar responses to the requests for production of documents at issue, (i) directing Defendant Beaupre to relevant sources (typically deposition transcripts), see Ptf's RFP Resp. Nos. 6-8, 17-20, (ii) including caveats like those found in his interrogatory responses and making blanket references to discovery materials “already in [the] possession of Defendant, ” which I construe as objections as to scope and proportionality, id. Nos. 7-8, and (iii) referencing other responses, usually his responses to RFP Nos. 7 and 8, see id. Nos. 8-16, 21-31.

         Defendant Beaupre now argues that the plaintiff's responses to his contention interrogatories and document requests are deficient. See generally Def's Letter Br.; Defendant Beaupre's Letter Response dated Feb. 12, 2019 (“Def's Letter Resp.”) (ECF No. 126). Some, according to Defendant Beaupre, are “[i]nadequately answered”; others contain an “overbroad loophole”; still others allegedly suffer both problems. See Interrog. Chart; RFP Chart. To illustrate, Defendant Beaupre methodically analyzes the plaintiff's answers to Interrog. Nos. 3 and 4 and responses to RFP Nos. 7 and 8, all of which he deems inadequate. See Def's Letter Br. at 3-7. He also objects to the plaintiff's caveats regarding completeness, arguing that answers and responses containing such a “loophole” are not “helpful or adequate[.]” Id. at 3, 7. Finally, he argues that the plaintiff's references to other responses merely incorporate the inadequacies of those underlying responses. See Id. at 4, 7.

         The plaintiff rejoins that, because discovery in this case comprises a set universe of documents and depositions known to both sides, his responses are adequate, and requiring further explication would be “unfair, unreasonable, and plainly disproportionate.” Plaintiff's Letter Response dated Feb. 14, 2019 (“Ptf's Letter Resp.”) (ECF No. 127) at 1. The plaintiff relies on the principles of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26, my ruling in Gemini Ins. Co. v. Branch River Plastics, Inc., No. 2:15-cv-343-NT, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 75675 (D. Me. Jun. 9, 2016), and caselaw from other jurisdictions in arguing that Defendant Beaupre's motion should be denied. See generally Ptf's Letter Br.

         II. Discussion

         Rule 26(b)(1) outlines the general scope of discovery: “[p]arties 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[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). As outlined below, I find that most of Defendant Beaupre's interrogatories and document requests are overbroad, not proportional to the needs of this case, and otherwise answered adequately.

         As to Interrog. No. 3, however, I grant Defendant Beaupre's motion. The plaintiff's narrative is unclear on the issue of what admissions he believes Defendant Beaupre has made. The plaintiff states that Defendant Beaupre has “testified about those events, in whole or in part[, ]” but does not clarify which events he believes Defendant Beaupre to have testified about. The plaintiff could be referencing the testimony of Robert Devou or Robert Poisson or any other portion of his narrative responding to Interrog. No. 4, which he incorporates by reference to his answers to Interrog. Nos. 5 and 6 (which, in turn, incorporate by reference his answer to Interrog. No. 4). Consequently, I direct the plaintiff to supplement his answer to Interrog. No. 3 no later than April 15, 2019.

         As to the remaining interrogatories in dispute and all of the disputed requests for production, I sustain the plaintiff's objections and, ...


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