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Downey v. Trenary

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

April 11, 2018

DYLAN JAMES DOWNEY, Plaintiff,
v.
TY TRENARY, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTIONS RE: DISCOVERY AND SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          Mary Alice Theiler United States Magistrate Judge

         This is a civil rights action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This matter comes before the Court at the present time for consideration of ten pending motions filed by plaintiff Dylan Downey. The pending motions include two motions challenging the sufficiency of defendants' answers and/or objections to plaintiff's requests for admission (Dkts. 94, 95), four motions to compel the production of documents (Dkts. 96, 97, 98, 99), a motion to extend the discovery deadline (Dkt. 101), a motion for clarification of the Court's prior Order compelling defendants to produce photographs (Dkt. 110), a motion for extension of time to respond to defendants' summary judgment motion (Dkt. 134), and a motion for leave to file an over-length brief in opposition to summary judgment (Dkt. 136).

         The Court, having considered each of these motions, defendants' responses to the pending motions, and the balance of the record, hereby finds and ORDERS as follows:

         (1) Plaintiff's motions challenging the sufficiency of defendants' answers and/or objections to his requests for admission (Dkts. 94, 95) are DENIED. Plaintiff, by way of these motions, challenges the sufficiency of the answers defendants John Hatchell and Tony Aston provided to his requests for admission, claiming that defendants are feigning ignorance, being evasive, objecting on frivolous grounds, and intentionally misconstruing the wording of the requests “so as to feign confusion.” (See id.) Plaintiff asks that defendants Hatchell and Aston be directed to provide complete denials, or complete admissions to his requests.[1] (Id.) Defendants oppose plaintiff's motions, arguing that plaintiff's requests for admission are defective, that his requests for complete denials or admissions are not supported by the rules, and that their objections to the requests are well grounded. (See Dkts. 104, 105.)

         Rule 36 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes a party to serve on any other party a written request to admit the truth of any matters within the scope of Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b) that relate to statements or opinions of fact or of the application of law to fact. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 36(a)(1). Rule 36 is not a discovery device; i.e., a device to discover facts. See Workman v. Chinchinian, 807 F.Supp. 634, 648 (E.D. Wash. 1992). Rather, the purpose of Rule 36(a) “is to expedite trial by eliminating the necessity of proving undisputed issues and thus narrowing the range of issues for trial.” Id. at 647.

Because the purpose of requests for admission is to narrow the issues of the case, The requesting party bears the burden of setting forth its requests simply, directly, not vaguely or ambiguously, and in such a manner that they can be answered with a simple admit or deny without an explanation, and in certain instances, permit a qualification or explanation for purposes of clarification. . . . To facilitate clear and succinct responses, the facts stated within the request must be singularly, specifically, and carefully detailed.

Henry v. Champlain Enterprises, Inc., 212 F.R.D. 73, 77 (N.D.N.Y. 2003) (citations omitted).

         “Requests for admission may not contain compound, conjunctive, or disjunctive (e.g., “and/or”) statements. U.S. ex rel. Englund v. Los Angeles County, 235 F.R.D. 675, 684 (E.D. Cal. 2006) (citation omitted). In addition, requests for admission many not be employed “to establish facts which are obviously in dispute, ” or to demand that the opposing party admit the truth of a legal conclusion. See Lakehead Pipe Line Co. v. American Home Assur. Co., 177 F.R.D. 454, 458 (D.Minn.1997) (citations omitted).

         Defendant Hatchell objected to each of the requests for admission directed to him on the grounds that they were vague and ambiguous. (See Dkt. 94 at 8-10.) Defendant also objected to various requests on the grounds that they called for legal conclusions and sought information outside of his knowledge. (See id.) Defendant Hatchell's objections are well taken as plaintiff consistently failed to define relevant terms in his requests for admission, and most of the requests called for legal conclusions. Despite these deficiencies, defendant Hatchell, without waiving his various objections, did respond to each request with a specific denial. (See id.) Plaintiff fails to establish that defendant Hatchell's responses and/or objections to his requests for admission were improper, and plaintiff's request that defendant Hatchell be directed to provide complete denials or complete admissions must be denied.

         Defendant Aston responded to each of plaintiff's requests for admission by indicating that he could “neither admit nor deny the statement in [the] request for admission . . . because it does not present a fact that can be admitted or denied. Instead the request seeks information which is not appropriate for a request for admission.” (See Dkt. 95 at 14-16.) Defendant Aston further objected on the grounds that the requests were vague and confusing, and that they called for legal conclusions. (See id.) Once again, defendant's objections are well taken. In particular, it appears clear that plaintiff was attempting to use the requests directed to defendant Aston to seek information and not to narrow the issues of the case. (See id.) The requests were also unquestionably confusing and not susceptible of simple admissions or denials. Plaintiff fails to establish that defendant Aston's objections to his requests for admission were improper, and plaintiff's request that defendant Aston be directed to provide complete denials or complete admissions must be denied.

         (2) Plaintiff's motions to compel production of documents (Dkts. 96, 97, 98, 99) are DENIED. Plaintiff seeks an order compelling defendants Hatchell, Huntsinger, Dilley and Dizon to produce certain requested documents. These motions are substantially similar to a series of prior motions to compel which were denied by the Court. (See Dkts. 64, 68-73, 79-82, 108.) Though these motions lack the same clarity as plaintiff's first series of motions to compel, the record makes clear that once again at issue are official Snohomish County documents which plaintiff requested from individual defendants and which the individual defendants indicated they could not produce because they had no responsive documents in their possession or control. (See Dkts. 106, 108.)

         Defendants argue in response to plaintiff's current motions to compel, as they did in response to plaintiff's first series of motions, that the motions fail because plaintiff did not meet and confer, nor did he make a good faith effort to resolve the discovery disputes, prior to filing the motions as required by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Local Rules of this Court. (See Dkts. 106, 108.) Defendants also argue that even if plaintiff did act in good faith and satisfy the procedural requirements set forth in Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(1) and LCR 37(a)(1), his motions fail on the merits. (Id.)

         The Court addressed all of these arguments in ruling on plaintiff's first series of motions to compel and determined, albeit reluctantly, that though plaintiff had failed to fully comply with the procedural requirements before filing his motions, it was nevertheless appropriate to reach the merits of the motions. (See Dkt. 108 at 2-3.) And, with respect to the merits of the motions, the Court concluded that because plaintiff had directed his requests for production to defendants who did not possess the requested documents, his motions were without merit. (See id. at 3-4.) The same reasoning applies here.

         While it once again appears that plaintiff failed to fully comply with the Rule 37 requirements before filing his motions, it also appears likely that full compliance with the rules would not have resulted in any resolution of the issues without court intervention. As to the merits of plaintiff's motions, the Court notes once again that defendants explained to plaintiff while discovery was ongoing that official documents are the property of Snohomish County and not the individual defendants, and that the proper defendant to request official documents from was therefore Snohomish County. (See Dkt. 90, Ex. I.) Rather than re-direct his requests for production of documents to the proper party, plaintiff spent his time and resources filing motions to compel those documents from the wrong parties. As plaintiff makes no showing that ...


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