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Wright v. Martinez

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

October 7, 2019

SHAMUS WRIGHT, SR., and KENTOINE PENMAN, Plaintiffs,
v.
KEVIN MARTINEZ; RUBEN GASTELUM; and JUAN JAIMES, all officers of the Hobbs Police Department, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO COMPEL AND EXTENDING DISCOVERY

          KEVIN R. SWEAZEA, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Defendants' motion to compel discovery. (Doc. 37). The dispute centers around whether Plaintiff Shamus Wright must answer questions relating to, and provide releases for, his medical history. Defendants maintain they need the information to defend against Wright's claims and, possibly, prove up an affirmative mitigation defense. Wright insists he has only alleged “garden variety” injuries and maintains Defendants should not be allowed unfettered access to his privileged medical history. The Court has considered the parties' submissions along with the record and GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Defendants' motion.

         BACKGROUND

         This case arises from Wright's arrest by Hobbs, New Mexico police officers on June 28, 2018 for allegedly concealing his identity. (Doc. 1). According to the complaint, the Wright family was in the process of planning a reunion for the following day. (Id.). Two family members, Plaintiff Kentoine Penman and De'Aunte Meridyth, were outside standing in the street of a residential neighborhood by a parked car. (Id.). The Wright family had procured a permit to block the road for the reunion. (Id.).

         Officer Jaimes was in the vicinity conducting an unrelated traffic stop and observed Penman and Meridyth in the road. (Id.). At some point, Jaimes approached Penman and Meridyth and detained them for walking in the street instead of on the sidewalk, although Jaimes did not actually observe either man walking in the street. (Id.). Officers Gastelum and Martinez arrived on scene. (Id.).

         As the events were unfolding, Wright was standing on the sidewalk. Wright asked the officers why they were there. (Id.). The officers accused Wright of “interjecting himself” into the investigation and demanded his identification. (Id.). Wright refused, and Martinez told Wright that concealing one's identity is a crime. (Id.). Gastelum and Martinez then told Wright they were arresting him for concealing his identity. (Id.).

         In the process of arresting Wright, Gastelum used a leg sweep causing Wright to fall to the ground. (Id.). As Wright lay on the ground, Gastelum had control of Wright's left arm and Martinez, Wright's right hand. (Id.). Martinez kept Wright pinned to ground while Gastelum handcuffed Wright. (Id.). Wright was then transported to the Hobbs' jail and charged with concealing identity, and resisting, evading, and obstructing an officer. (Id.). Wright “experienced residual pain after the incident.” (Id., 48). This lawsuit followed on December 3, 2018. (Doc. 1). For Wright, the complaint alleges a count of wrongful arrest under the Fourth Amendment. (Id.).

         As part of discovery, Wright verified that he experienced “[p]ain and [s]uffering . . . on [his] body from the arrest” along with “[a]nxiety defending himself from criminal charges.” (Doc. 32-7). Wright also confirmed he would seek compensation for, inter alia, this pain and suffering and anxiety although he had not assigned a dollar amount to these damages. (Id.). Wright further averred he “did not request medical attention” as a result of the arrest, but did not, as Defendants requested, “identify the nature of the [residual] physical pain in detail, including but not limited to the location of the pain, the severity of the pain, the duration of the pain[].” (Id., Pl.'s Ans. Interrog. 12).

         Although Wright seeks “damages for bodily [and] psychological injur[ies], ” he declined to provide Defendants the “name and address of any healthcare providers . . . who provided treatment to [him] for any physical injury, condition, or mental health condition prior to the June 28, 2018 Incident” and a release for his medical records. (Id., Ans. Interrog. 13). Wright objected because “the requested information is overly broad an unduly intrusive of Plaintiff's privacy interest.” Moreover, a “complete medical release . . . . of his complete medical history, ” Wright maintains, would be overly broad, intrusive of his privacy interests and unlikely to reveal any relevant evidence. (Id.).

         For similar reasons, Wright withheld “records relating to any treatment for any physical, psychological or mental injury [he] claim[s] was caused by or exacerbated by the June 28, 2018 Incident” or a “HIPAA Compliant Authorization” to release records “for each such provider who has treated [Wright] within the five (5)-year period prior to the June 28 Incident.” (Doc. 37-3, Resp. Request for Production 8). Wright also did not produce his “medical records from any healthcare providers . . . who treated [him] for any preexisting mental, psychological or physical condition [he] claim[s] was exacerbated by the . . . Incident” or sign releases Defendants provided. (Id., Resp. Request for Production 9). In Wright's view because he sought no “medical or mental health treatment as a result of [his] arrest[]” his “previous treatment is immaterial to their claims and unduly invasive of privacy interests and not proportional to the needs of discovery.” (Id.).

         The instant motion to compel answers to Interrogatories 12 and 13 and Requests for Production 8 and 9 followed. (Doc. 37).

         STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26 allows for the discovery of “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). “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., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 171515, at *1 (W.D. Okla. Oct. 17, 2017) (citation omitted). Likewise, where a ...


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