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Doe v. Dist. of Columbia

July 5, 2005

JOHN DOE, A MINOR, THROUGH NEXT FRIEND, BOB DOE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John M. Facciola United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM ORDER

This case was referred to me by Judge Kessler to resolve all discovery disputes. Currently pending and ready for resolution is Plaintiff's Motion to Compel Defendant District of Columbia to Produce Documents ("Pl.'s Mot.") [#124]. For the reasons stated herein, it is, hereby, ORDERED that the motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff John Doe, a minor child, alleges, through his next friend Bob Doe, that he was physically and sexually abused while in the care and control of the District of Columbia, in violation of defendant's duties under the United States Constitution, federal law, and District of Columbia law. In particular, plaintiff brings claims of negligence and of civil rights violations under the Fifth Amendment and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The incidents of abuse centrally at issue in this case allegedly involved three other minors and occurred in April 2002 while plaintiff resided at a group home called Columbia House II ("CH II"), operated by Associates for Renewal in Education, Inc. ("ARE"), a private, not-for-profit foster care contractor for the District of Columbia's Child and Family Services Agency ("CFSA").

On March 23, 2004, plaintiff served defendant District of Columbia with a Request for Production of Documents pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ("Rules") 26 and 34. On May 13, 2004, defendant produced documents and interposed objections to several of plaintiff's requests. With one exception, defendant objected on the grounds that plaintiff's requests were "vague, overly broad, and not limited in time or scope." Pl.'s Mot., Ex. B, at 2-4. The remaining objection called plaintiff's request "vague and ambiguous." Id., Ex. B, at 2.

After plaintiff informed defendant of deficiencies in its first production, defendant produced additional documents on September 30, 2004 and supplemented this production on October 6, 2004. Plaintiff once again informed defendant of deficiencies and, on November 19, 2004, informed defendant of his intent to file a motion to compel production. Defendant's counsel acknowledged the deficiencies and stated that she was waiting for more documents to arrive from the CFSA. Defendant failed to produce additional documents by the time this motion was filed on December 1, 2004.

Following plaintiff's filing of the instant motion, on December 27, 2004, defendant filed Defendant's Response and Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion to Compel Discovery ("Def.'s Opp'n"), in which defendant asserted additional objections to certain requests. On that date, defendant also produced additional documents. Still, in his January 10, 2005 reply, plaintiff claimed that both defendant's production and its objections remained inadequate. Finally, in an April 14, 2005 supplemental memorandum, defendant asked that plaintiff's motion to compel discovery with respect to Request Number 6 be denied on grounds that it sought documents outside the scope of the initial request.

II. DISCUSSION

Plaintiff filed this motion to compel the District of Columbia to produce documents pursuant to Rules 37(a)(1), 37(a)(2), and 45(c)(2)(B). In so doing, plaintiff certified that he made a good faith attempt to confer with defendant to secure the documents in question, thereby complying with Rule 37(a).

A. Legal Standards

Generally, a party is entitled to discover information if the information sought appears "reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). Additionally, a party may discover only that information that is not privileged and "is relevant to the claim or defense of any party." Id.; Krieger v. Fadely, 199 F.R.D. 10, 13 (D.D.C. 2001). Relevance for discovery purposes is broadly and liberally construed. See, e.g., Burlington Ins. Co. v. Okie Dokie, Inc., 368 F. Supp. 2d 83, 86 (D.D.C. 2005) (citing Food Lion, Inc. v. United Food & Comm'l Workers Int'l Union, 103 F.3d 1007, 1012 (D.C. Cir. 1997); Smith v. Schlesinger, 513 F.2d 462, 473 n. 37 (D.C. Cir. 1975) (citations omitted)). When objecting to document requests, the objecting party must establish his or her basis for refusing to respond to the other's requests, and it bears the burden of showing why discovery should not be allowed. See Alexander v. FBI, 194 F.R.D. 299, 302 (D.D.C. 2000) (citations omitted).

To support his negligence claim, plaintiff must show that: (1) defendant had a duty to plaintiff while he was in its care; (2) defendant breached this duty; and (3) the breach proximately caused damage to plaintiff's interests. See Turner v. District of Columbia, 532 A.2d 662, 666 (D.C. 1987). To support his section 1983 claim, plaintiff must show that a person acting under color of state law subjected him or caused him to be subjected to a deprivation of a right under the Constitution. See City of Oklahoma City v. Tuttle, 471 U.S. 808, 829 (1985). Plaintiff must also show that defendant had a policy or practice that led to the deprivation of plaintiff's civil rights. See Carter v. District of Columbia, 795 F.2d 116, 122 (D.C. Cir. 1986). Therefore, plaintiff is entitled to any documents that would support such claims, as long as those documents are not privileged or otherwise excepted from Rule 26(b)(1). Plaintiff is also entitled to documents relating to his own case history, again, so long as those documents are not privileged or otherwise excepted from Rule 26(b)(1). As in many discovery disputes, I shall seek to strike a balance between unduly restrictive and overbroad production.

B. Substance of Plaintiff's Motion

In his motion to compel, plaintiff asserts that defendant District of Columbia has failed to comply with seven separate requests for production and that its objections are insufficient. He has also limited his requests for production to the time frame beginning five years before the alleged April 2002 incident. In response, defendant asserts that it has in good faith ...


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