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Brandon v. County of Muskingum

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

November 2, 2017

RONALD BRANDON, Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF MUSKINGUM, et al., Defendants.

          Edmund A. Sargus, Jr., Chief Judge

          OPINION AND ORDER

          ELIZABETH A. PRESTON DEAVERS, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court for consideration of Plaintiff's Motion to Compel Discovery (ECF No. 25), Defendants' Response (ECF No. 27), Plaintiff's Reply (ECF No. 28), and the parties' supplements to this briefing (ECF Nos. 36, 39, 40). For the reasons that follow, the Motion to Compel is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         I.

         This is a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against two deputy sheriffs, Steven Welker and Randy Wilson, and the County of Muskingum for alleged violations of his rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. (ECF No. 6.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendants had no articulable suspicion to conduct a pat-down or probable cause to search him or his car. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that, by their misconduct, Defendants caused him to be wrongfully imprisoned and denied the companionship of his family. (Id.) Among other defenses, Defendants assert they are entitled to qualified immunity. (ECF No. 11.)

         Plaintiff previously served requests for admission, interrogatories, and requests for production of documents on Defendants. (Certification of Compliance of Constance A. Gadell-Newton, ¶ 4, ECF No. 25-1.) Plaintiff later advised Defendants that their responses were inadequate. (Id. at ¶ 5; ECF No. 25-2 (copy of discovery requests and Defendants' responses).) Unable to resolve their dispute, Plaintiff filed the Motion to Compel pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(a) and Local Rule 37.2, seeking an order compelling Defendants to “fully answer” and “fully comply with” multiple discovery requests. (ECF No. 25.) Defendants responded to the Motion to Compel (ECF No. 27) and Plaintiff filed a reply memorandum (ECF No. 28).

         On August 25, 2017, the parties advised the Court during a status conference that they had resolved some of the issues raised in the Motion to Compel. (ECF No. 35 at 1.) The Court determined that the parties' dispute about other outstanding issues would benefit from additional discussion. (Id.) The Court therefore directed the parties to meet and attempt to resolve any remaining disputed discovery requests and ordered Plaintiff to file, no later than September 1, 2017, a notice supplementing the Motion to Compel that indicated whether all of the disputed requests had been resolved or, if not resolved, specifically identifying by number which requests remain outstanding. (Id.)

         On September 1, 2017, Plaintiff advised that Defendants amended some of their responses and that the parties had resolved additional requests, but that disputes regarding other requests remained. (ECF No. 36.) Thereafter, Defendants responded to Plaintiff's supplement, representing, inter alia, that they had produced all documents responsive to Plaintiff's discovery requests. (ECF No. 39 at 1-2.) Defendants also provided their amended responses to the remaining disputed requests. (Id. at 3-7.)

         On September 29, 2017, Plaintiff filed a second notice supplementing the Motion to Compel and updating the status of the parties' discovery dispute. (ECF No. 40.) Plaintiff specifically complained that Defendants' objections to Request for Admission No. 18 (“RFA No. 18”) were unacceptable and that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 36(a)(6) “compels a finding that defendants have admitted RFA No. 18.” (Id. at 4.) The Court therefore construed Plaintiff's second notice as advising that only the dispute regarding RFA No. 18 remained outstanding. (ECF No. 41 at 1.) Although the Court provided Defendants until October 12, 2017, to respond to Plaintiff's second notice (id.), Defendants did not file a response. This matter is now ripe for resolution.

         II.

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 36 permits a party to, inter alia, “serve on any other party a written request to admit, for purposes of the pending action only, the truth of any matters within the scope of Rule 26(b)(1) relating to . . . facts, the application of law to fact, or opinions about either[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 36(a)(1)(A). Therefore, “[r]equests for admission may relate to [facts and] the application of law to fact. Such requests should not be confused with pure requests for opinions of law, which are not contemplated by the rule. Nor are requests seeking legal conclusions appropriate when proceeding under Rule 36.” United States v. Petroff-Kline, 557 F.3d 285, 293 (6th Cir. 2009) (quoting 7 Moore's Federal Practice § 36.108 at 36-26 (3d ed. 2008)).

         Rule 36 also governs responses and objections to requests to admit:

(4) Answer. If a matter is not admitted, the answer must specifically deny it or state in detail why the answering party cannot truthfully admit or deny it. A denial must fairly respond to the substance of the matter; and when good faith requires that a party qualify an answer or deny only a part of a matter, the answer must specify the part admitted and qualify or deny the rest. The answering party may assert lack of knowledge or information as a reason for failing to admit or deny only if the party states that it has made reasonable inquiry and that the information it knows or can readily obtain is insufficient to enable it to admit or deny.
(5) Objections. The grounds for objecting to a request must be stated. A party must not object solely on the ground that the request presents a ...

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