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Michaels v. Youth Services for Oklahoma County, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

July 17, 2019

BRITNI MICHAELS, Plaintiff,
v.
YOUTH SERVICES FOR OKLAHOMA COUNTY, INC. Defendant.

          ORDER

          SCOTT L. PALK, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Compel Plaintiff's Counseling and Mental Health Records [Doc. No. 19]. The motion is at issue. See Resp., Doc. No. 26.

         I. Background

         Per Plaintiff's Second Amended Petition, Plaintiff, while a minor, was removed from her home by the City of Edmond's police department in September 2015. Plaintiff was taken to Defendant's Community Intervention Center, which was a youth-specific 24hour holding facility operated (at the time) by Defendant pursuant to a contract with the Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs. While at the Center, Plaintiff was raped by Defendant's employee. The employee later pleaded guilty to a criminal charge in state court. Plaintiff sued Defendant, and Plaintiff's sole remaining claim against Defendant is one made pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         Plaintiff asserts violations of her due process and equal protection rights via § 1983. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant “[f]ail[ed] to enact and implement adequate policies concerning sexual harassment, misconduct and abuse of adolescents in its facility, ” “[f]ail[ed] to remove [the employee at fault] from its facility, ” “[f]ail[ed] to prevent adolescents from being alone with [the employee], ” “[f]ail[ed] to investigate [the employee] properly, before and after these referenced allegations, ” “[f]ail[ed] to hire, train, supervise, and retain [the employee] properly, ” “[f]ail[ed] to adequately train and supervise . . . its staff and employees, ” and “[e]xhibit[ed] deliberate indifference to the sexual misconduct directed at Plaintiff.” Second Am. Pet. ¶ 17, Doc. No. 2-13. Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant had unconstitutional customs or policies of “[f]ailing to investigate criminal misconduct, ” “[d]iscounting the credibility of adolescent[s'] allegations, ” and “[f]ailing to adequately train and supervise employees with regard to the investigation and reporting of sexual abuse of adolescents.” Id. ¶ 18. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant's actions and omissions caused her to “suffer[] severe emotional distress and/or psychological damage and/or significant pain and suffering and/or personal humiliation.” Id. ¶ 32. She seeks “[c]ompensatory damages [for her] physical damages as well as [for] psychological and emotional distress.” Id. ¶ 52(a).

         Defendant asks the Court to compel Plaintiff to answer two interrogatories to which she objected. One interrogatory asked for “[identifying information for] every health care provider providing an assessment, care, and/or treatment (including state agency) to [Plaintiff] for any physical injuries, mental anguish, emotional distress, and/or mental disability allegedly resulting from Defendant's acts or omissions that are the subject matter of this litigation.” Def.'s Interrog. No. 7, Doc. No. 19-1. Another interrogatory asked for the same information, but for the past ten years instead of in relation only to the incident at issue in this lawsuit. See Id. at Interrog. No. 8. As to the latter, broader, interrogatory, Defendant only asks the Court to compel identification of “mental health professionals who have provided medical or counseling services regarding the incident at issue and any treatment received thereafter.” Mot. 7, Doc. No. 19. Plaintiff objects to both interrogatories based on lack of relevance.

         Defendant also seeks Plaintiff's execution of authorizations for the release of her health information and records by three mental health care providers identified by Plaintiff in her deposition, as well as any additional providers identified by Plaintiff in response to the above-indicated interrogatories. See Email from Jessica Dark to Cameron Spralding (June 14, 2019, 11:11 AM), Doc. No. 19-3; see also Resp. 2-3, Doc. No. 26 (indicating that Defendant requested medical authorizations from Plaintiff as part of Defendant's Request for Production No. 11).[1] Plaintiff again objects based on lack of relevance.[2]

         II. Relevant discovery standard

          Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) applies to Plaintiff's motion, and it provides in relevant part:

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.

“When requested discovery appears relevant, the party objecting to production has the burden of establishing the lack of relevance by demonstrating that the request falls outside the scope set forth in Rule 26(b)(1), or that the requested discovery is of such marginal relevance that the potential harm occasioned by discovery would outweigh the ordinary presumption in favor of broad disclosure.” Shotts v. Geico Gen. Ins. Co., No. CIV-16-1266-R, 2017 WL 4681797, at *1 (W.D. Okla. Oct. 17, 2017) (citation omitted).

         III. Discussion and analysis

          Plaintiff makes two arguments in opposition to Defendant's motion. First, Plaintiff asserts that Defendant cannot ask the Court to compel additional answers and responses to the discovery requests at issue because the requests were made by Defendant and responded to by Plaintiff in state court before this case was removed to this Court. Plaintiff relies on Local Civil Rule 81.2(c), which states that “[i]n the absence of a contrary stipulation or court order” (neither of which is in play here), “discovery pending in state court at the time of removal is considered void.” Plaintiff's mistake is that there was no discovery “pending”-i.e., propounded by one party and not yet objected or responded to by the other party-at the time of removal because Plaintiff had already issued her answers and responses to Defendant's requests at the time of removal. L. Cv. R. 81.2(c). The Court therefore finds this local rule not to be applicable in this scenario. Defendant's pre-removal discovery requests to Plaintiff, as well as Plaintiff's pre-removal responses thereto, are not void.[3]

         Second, Plaintiff argues that the information and medical authorizations requested by Defendant are not relevant to this case because “[a]sserting a claim for pain, suffering or mental anguish does not inject . . . Plaintiff's physical or mental condition into the case or permit Defendant to discover Plaintiff's medical, counseling and psychological records.” Resp. 4, Doc. No. 26. Plaintiff continues by asserting that she has not waived any privileges she has with her health care providers “simply because [she] state[d] a claim for mental pain, suffering, or anguish associated with Plaintiff's personal injuries sustained in the subject incident” because her alleged injuries are based in “[g]eneric claims for mental anguish or suffering . ...


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