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Crotty v. Windjammer Village of Little River

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Florence Division

March 14, 2017



          Thomas E. Rogers, III United States Magistrate Judge.


         Plaintiffs, who are proceeding pro se, bring this action alleging violations of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3601 et al. Presently before the court is Defendant's Motion to Compel (Document # 29). All pretrial proceedings in this case have been referred to the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and Local Rule 73.02(B)(2)(e).


         Defendant served Interrogatories and Requests for Production on both Plaintiffs on April 27, 2016. Counsel for Defendant agreed to extend Plaintiffs' deadline to respond to the requests until June 30, 2016. On August 8, 2016, Defendant filed the present motion, noting that Plaintiffs had failed to file any responses to its discovery requests. On September 6, 2016, Plaintiffs filed their response (Document # 30), stating that “[w]e are making progress [on their discovery responses] every day and will forward them to Defendant's attorney as soon as they are complete, whether or not there is a COURT ORDER COMPELLING DISCOVERY.” However, they did indicate that they would be objecting to the production of any medical records. On December 27, 2016, Defendants submitted a letter (Document # 33) stating that Plaintiffs served insufficient discovery responses on November 22, 2016, and attaching a copy of Plaintiffs' responses.


         A. Interrogatories

         1. Interrogatories regarding medical information

         Interrogatories 1 and 2 to Plaintiff Crotty request information regarding all medical service providers who have diagnosed Plaintiff Crotty with PTSD, spinal stenosis, and/or lumbar degenerative disc disease and any treatment she received for those conditions. In addition to these questions, counsel for Defendant requested that Plaintiff complete a VA Form 10-5345, Request for and Authorization to Release Medical Records or Heath Information.

         Plaintiff Crotty objected to producing this information, arguing that it is not necessary for Defendant, or this court or a jury to determine whether she is disabled because “the appropriate Federal authority, acting under current federal law, has already established that fact.”[1] Pl. Crotty Resp. to Int. 1 (Ex. D to Def. Letter). However, Defendants note that Plaintiffs are seeking damages for Plaintiff Crotty's “medical care and professional counseling, ” and “pain and suffering” which includes “emotional distress.” Amended Rule 26(a)(1) Initial Disclosures and Preliminary Personal Damages Worksheet (Ex. 6 to Def. Motion).

         Rule 26 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that evidence is discoverable if it is relevant to any party's claims or defenses and proportional to the needs of the case. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has declared that “[d]iscovery under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is broad in scope and freely permitted.” Carefirst of Md., Inc. v. Carefirst Pregnancy Ctrs., Inc., 334 F.3d 390, 402 (4th Cir.2003) (emphasis added) A plaintiff's medical history and health care records are discoverable when the plaintiff chooses to seek damages for emotional distress. Coffin v. Bridges, 72 F.3d 126, 1995 WL 729489, at *2 (4th Cir.1995); see also Teague v. Target Corp., No. 3:06-cv-191, 2006 WL 3690642, at *1 (W.D. N.C. Dec. 11, 2006) (ordering production of information identifying plaintiff's health care providers, pharmacies, as well as signed authorizations for the release of medical and pharmacy records, stating that “[s]ince Plaintiff is seeking compensatory damages for emotional distress, it is clear that the information and records sought by the Defendant are discoverable”); EEOC v. Smith Bros. Truck Garage, Inc., No. 7:09-CV-00150-H, 2011 WL 102724, at *1-2, 4 (E.D. N.C. Jan. 11, 2011) (unpublished) (finding that, where plaintiff sought compensation for emotional distress, inconvenience, loss of enjoyment of life, humiliation, and loss of self-esteem, defendant had right to explore the party's medical records for other causes of emotional distress damages) (citing EEOC v. Sheffield Fin. LLC, No. 1:06CV00889, 2007 WL 1726560, at *4 (M.D. N.C. June 13, 2007)); Carr v. Double T Diner, No. WMN-10-CV-00230, 2010 WL 3522428, at *1-3 (D.Md. Sept. 8, 2010) (unpublished) (granting defendant's motion to compel discovery of plaintiff's medical records related to her mental health where plaintiff placed mental health at issue by seeking damages grounded in emotional distress); Jimoh v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing P'ship, Inc., No. 3:08-CV-495-RJC-DCK, 2009 WL 4062881, at *1(W.D. N.C. Nov. 20, 2009)(finding that plaintiff's medical records were subject to discovery where she claimed compensatory damages for emotional distress, pain and suffering, and mental anguish thus placing her mental condition at issue) (citing Coffin, 1995 WL 729489, at *3, and Sheffield, 2007 WL 1726560, at *4); Fields v. West Virginia State Police, 264 F.R.D. 260, 263 (S.D.W.Va.2010) (“If a plaintiff has placed his or her mental or physical health in issue, then any records in the plaintiff's possession relating to that issue should be produced.... A party should promptly and without objection answer questions regarding health issues which that party places in issue.” (emphasis added)).

         Because Plaintiff Crotty has placed her health at issue by alleging that Defendant's actions caused her health problems and seeking damages for those health problems, her medical information is relevant and Plaintiff must provide the information sought by Defendants as well as sign a release to allow Defendants to obtain those records within ten days of the date of this order.

         2. Interrogatories requesting information regarding Plaintiff's requests for accommodation

         Interrogatories 3-7 to Plaintiff Crotty request information regarding the oral and written requests Plaintiff made to Defendant for a reasonable accommodation due to her disabilities. Plaintiff Crotty provides a narrative of when she made such requests but does not provide specific information requested by Defendant such as the names, addresses and/or telephone numbers of the individuals to whom she made the requests. Plaintiff Crotty does not make an objection to providing that ...

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