United States District Court, D. New Mexico
MICHAEL GRIEGO, Personal Representative of the Wrongful Death Estate of ALEC J. JARAMILLO, Deceased, ANDREW JARAMILLO and THERESA ROMO, Plaintiffs,
LAMBERTA M. DOUGLAS, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Russell E. Douglas, and STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
H. RITTER U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on Plaintiffs' Motion to
Compel Discovery Responses and for Sanctions (Doc.
56), filed December 22, 2017. Having considered the
parties' positions and all pertinent authority, the Court
will grant the Motion in part.
wrongful death case arises from a collision between Decedent,
Alec J. Jaramillo, and Russell E. Douglas. As stated in
Plaintiffs' Complaint, Mr. Jaramillo was driving his
motorcycle west on Santa Fe Avenue in Grants, New Mexico,
when Mr. Douglas, who was travelling east on Santa Fe Avenue,
made a left hand turn in front of Mr. Jaramillo, causing the
subject collision. Doc. 24 at 2. “According to
the State of New Mexico Crash Report, stemming from the
above-referenced collision, apparent contributing factors to
the collision were Douglas' failure to yield the right of
way, having made an improper turn and his driver
inattention.” Id. The crash resulted in Mr.
Jaramillo's death. Id. at 3.
assert that Mr. Douglas was negligent in the operation of his
vehicle, but do not bring a claim for punitive damages
against him. Id. Nor does Plaintiffs' complaint
specifically reference or place at issue Mr. Douglas'
physical or mental condition at the time of the collision.
See generally Id. Defendant denies liability.
See generally Doc. 25. Defendant furthermore pleads
as an affirmative defense that Mr. Jaramillo's death was
caused by his own “negligent and/or reckless operation
of an unsafe motorcycle[.]” Id. at 3.
present discovery dispute involves Defendant's responses
to Plaintiffs' interrogatories, which seek Mr.
Douglas' financial information; and Defendant's
responses to Plaintiffs' requests for production, which
seek the documents underlying Plaintiffs' interrogatories
as well as copies of witness statements and an executed
medical authorization for Mr. Douglas. See generally Doc.
56-1 at 1-11. Defendant objected to the bulk of these
requests on the grounds of various privileges, but did not
produce a privilege log. See Id. Plaintiffs wrote to
Defendant seeking supplemental responses to all of
their interrogatories and requests, specifically targeting
whether removal in this case was proper as well as
“whether Mr. Douglas had any medical conditions that
should have prevented him from driving etc.” Doc.
56-2. The parties then engaged in a written dialogue as
to two specific topics: (1) Defendant's residency at the
time of removal, and (2) whether Defendant has a legal
obligation to provide a medical authorization for Mr.
Douglas' health records to Plaintiffs. See Doc.
61-1. These discussions were unfruitful, and Plaintiffs
filed the instant Motion.
Motion seeks a variety of relief. First, it asks the Court to
order Defendant to respond fully to requests for production
numbers 7, 8 and 9, which seek Mr. Douglas' financial
information and “a copy of all recorded statements of
any witnesses to the subject collision, including, but not
limited to, Troy Jaramillo.” Doc. 56 at 2;
see Doc. 56-1 at 9-10. Plaintiffs explain that their
requests related to Mr. Douglas' finances are
“paramount in determining the existence of assets
likely necessary to satisfy an excess judgment[.]”
Doc. 56 at 2. Plaintiffs further explain that they
were prejudiced by Defendant's failure to produce Troy
Jaramillo's prior statement before his deposition was
taken. Doc. 56 at 2.
Plaintiffs argue that “Mr. Douglas' medical
condition and especially his quality of vision are matters
reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible
evidence.” Doc. 56 at 3. Plaintiffs explain
that because Mr. Douglas claims to not be at fault for the
collision, “any medical conditions, age-related
cognitive defects such as memory, coordination and vision may
have affected his ability to appreciate and properly respond
to other motorists on the roadway, including Alec Jaramillo
and are highly relevant to Defendant's contested
liability in this case.” Doc. 56 at 4.
Plaintiffs further explain that Mr. Douglas' medical
background is relevant because drivers in New Mexico over the
age of 75 have to provide a report from a physician regarding
any medical conditions that might interfere with driving when
renewing a driver's license. Doc. 56 at 4-5.
Response argues that information regarding Mr. Douglas'
medical condition is privileged and not discoverable. See
Doc. 61 at 1-2. Defendant further argues that Mr.
Douglas' financial condition is irrelevant prior to the
entry of judgment. Doc. 61 at 3. As to
Plaintiff's other requests for production,
Defendant's position is that “Plaintiffs never
requested Defendants to supplement these responses” and
that, while “Defense counsel is open to a good faith
dialogue regarding supplementation[, ]” Plaintiff's
motion should be denied for failure to comply with the meet
and confer requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
37. Doc. 61 at 4. Plaintiffs did not file a Reply.
Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) governs the scope of
discovery, providing that
[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, 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
Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). “Information within this
scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be
discoverable.” Id. “[T]he scope of
discovery under the federal rules is broad and
…discovery is not limited to issues raised by the
pleadings, for discovery itself is designed to help define
and clarify the issues.” Gomez v. Martin Marietta
Corp., 50 F.3d 1511, 1520 (10th Cir. 1995) (quoting
Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 351
may issue interrogatories pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 33, which “may relate to any matter that may
be inquired into under Rule 26(b).” Fed.R.Civ.P.
33(a)(2). “Each interrogatory must, to the extent it is
not objected to, be answered separately and fully in writing
under oath.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(b)(3). A responding party
may object to an interrogatory; however, the grounds for an
objection “must be stated with specificity.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(b)(4). “[A]n evasive or incomplete
disclosure, answer, or response must be treated as a failure
to disclose, answer or respond.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(4).
A party may move to compel the answer to an interrogatory
under Rule 33 if good faith attempts to secure the answer are
unsuccessful. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(3)(B)(iii).
may issue requests for production pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 34 “within the scope of Rule
26(b)[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(a). Each request must be
responded to or addressed by specific objection. Fed.R.Civ.P.
34(b)(2). A party may move to compel a response to a request
for production if good faith attempts to secure the answer
are unsuccessful. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(3)(B)(iv).
movant must confer or attempt to confer with the nonmovant
prior to filing a motion under Rule 37. Fed.R.Civ.P.
37(a)(1). “If the motion is granted … the court
must, after giving an opportunity to be heard, require the
party or deponent whose conduct necessitated the motion, the
party or attorney advising that conduct, or both to pay the
movant's reasonable expenses incurred in making the
motion, including attorney's fees. But the court must not
order this payment if: (i) the movant filed the motion before
attempting in good faith to obtain the disclosure or
discovery without court action; (ii) the opposing party's
nondisclosure, response or objection was substantially
justified; or (iii) other circumstances make an award of
expenses unjust.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(5)(A). If the
motion is denied, the Court may, similarly, assess costs and
fees against the movant. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(5)(B). If the
motion is granted in part and denied in part, the Court
“may, after giving an opportunity to be heard,
apportion the reasonable expenses for the motion.”
briefly mentioned above, Defendant argues in her response
that Plaintiffs failed to informally seek supplementation of
their requests for production before filing the instant
Motion. As such, Defendant asks the Court to deny the Motion
on procedural grounds. Doc. 61 at 4. The Court,
however, finds that, in this case, Plaintiffs adequately put
Defendant on notice that they would move to compel production
of all of Defendant's discovery responses. This
being established, the Court rejects ...