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Karrani v. Jetblue Airways Corp.

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

May 28, 2019

JETBLUE AIRWAYS CORPORATION, a Delaware Corporation, Defendant.



         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant JetBlue Airways Corporation (“JetBlue”)'s Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a) motion to compel responses to Interrogatory No. 6 and Request for Production No. 11. Dkt. #16. Plaintiff Abdikarim Karrani brought this suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1981, challenging JetBlue's removal of Mr. Karrani from a flight traveling from New York to Seattle. Mr. Karrani requests, among other relief, “nonmedical damages for emotional harm, including, but not limited to, loss of enjoyment of life, pain and suffering, mental anguish, emotional distress, injury to reputation, fear, and humiliation.” Dkt. #1 at 7. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         JetBlue deposed Mr. Karrani on February 28, 2019 seeking information about the emotional harm damages. Specifically, JetBlue sought information related to whether Mr. Karrani went to a doctor or therapist to talk about the incident that gave rise to this lawsuit. Plaintiff responded: “I did not go to a particular doctor, but I did go to my regular doctor.” Dkt. #17-1 at 3. Before Mr. Karrani continued, his counsel objected on the basis that Mr. Karrani only seeks “garden variety emotional harm damages” and did not intend to present medical testimony or medical evidence but would instead “maintain the physician-patient privilege.” Dkt. #17-1 (“Karrani Dep.”) at 51:6-13.

         On March 22, 2019, JetBlue served Defendant's Second Interrogatories and Requests for Production on Mr. Karrani, seeking the following documents related to Plaintiff's emotional harm damages:

INTERROGATORY NO. 6: Please identify all health care providers, including without limitation all physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, and mental health professionals with whom you consulted or from whom you received treatment in the 5 years prior to the Incident and give the dates and reasons for such treatment and indicate with an asterisk (*) all providers who treated for any injuries or conditions you claim were sustained as a result of the Incident.
REQUEST FOR PRODUCTION NO. 11: Produce all medical reports, healthcare records, summaries, and healthcare bills relating to care provided to you (including from mental health providers) since January l, 2013. Alternatively, you may sign the attached release to allow JetBlue to obtain your medical or healthcare records and bills.

Def.'s Mot. to Compel, Dkt. #16 at 2-3. In response to Interrogatory No. 6, Plaintiff agrees to disclose the occurrence and dates of any psychotherapy, including those occurring before the incident. Dkt. #25 at 3. Plaintiff objects to the remainder of these discovery requests. Counsel conferred on March 27, 2019 in an effort to resolve the disputes. Dkt. #16 at 3. The instant motion followed.


         A. Legal Standard

         “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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). Information within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable. Id. “District courts have broad discretion in determining relevancy for discovery purposes.” Surfvivor Media, Inc. v. Survivor Prods., 406 F.3d 625, 635 (9th Cir. 2005) (citing Hallett v. Morgan, 296 F.3d 732, 751 (9th Cir. 2002)). If requested discovery is not answered, the requesting party may move for an order compelling such discovery. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(1). The party that resists discovery has the burden to show why the discovery request should be denied. Blankenship v. Hearst Corp., 519 F.2d 418, 429 (9th Cir. 1975).

         Because JetBlue has requested all of Mr. Karrani's medical records since January 1, 2013, there are two types of records at issue: “pure” medical records, and psychological/psychiatric records. Any medical records involving physical conditions tied to emotional distress or mental health are considered psychological or psychiatric records for the purposes of this motion. See Equal Employment Opportunity Comm'n v. Big Five Corp., No. C17-1098RSM, 2018 WL 2317613, at *3 (W.D. Wash. May 22, 2018). All the remaining records are considered “pure” medical records. Id. With respect to “pure” medical records, Mr. Karrani has not requested any damages for bodily injury. See Dkt. #1. For that reason, “pure” medical records are irrelevant and not subject to discovery. This leaves the remaining issue of Mr. Karrani's psychological/psychiatric records.

         B. Physician-Patient and Psychotherapist-Patient Privilege

         JetBlue contends that Mr. Karrani has put his mental condition at issue in this lawsuit by claiming damages for emotional distress. Dkt. #16 at 4-7. Mr. Karrani opposes the motion to compel by asserting he has alleged mere “garden variety” emotional distress, which does not waive the physician-patient privilege. Dkt. #24 at 7-11. He is not seeking compensatory damages for medical treatment or care, will not use medical testimony or records at trial, and does ...

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