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Marshall v. University of Maryland Medical Center

United States District Court, D. Maryland

August 6, 2018



          Stephanie A. Gallagher United States Magistrate Judge.

         This matter has been referred to me for discovery disputes and related scheduling matters. ECF 16. Presently pending is Defendant University of Maryland Medical Center's (UMMC's) Motion to Compel Plaintiff's Discovery Responses and Request for Attorneys' Fees (Motion). ECF 12. The issues have been fully briefed, ECF 12, 12-19, 12-27, and no hearing is necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons stated below, UMMC's Motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On September 19, 2017, Plaintiff (Marshall) filed suit against her former employer, UMMC, alleging disability discrimination, failure to accommodate, retaliation, and wrongful discharge in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. (ADA), Maryland's Fair Employment Practices Act, Md. Ann. Code (1957, 2003 Repl. Vol.) Art. 49B §§ 7, 16, and Maryland's common law of wrongful discharge. ECF 1 ¶ 1. Marshall worked as a Senior Clinical Nurse I at UMMC from September 10, 2009 through her termination on April 12, 2017. Id. ¶¶ 5, 7, 10. According to Marshall, on July 8, 2014, she “sustained an on the job injury to her back while she was restraining a combative patient[, ] causing her to become physically impaired.” Id. ¶ 11. As a result of her injury, Marshall filed a worker's compensation claim, and also alleges that she developed: (1) depression due to the pain and suffering and subsequent lifestyle changes; and (2) psychiatric trauma stemming from UMMC's “harassment, increase [sic] manipulation, and retaliatory behavior . . . .” Id. ¶ 11.

         According to Marshall, after a “few weeks of absence, ” she returned to work in the Medical Intermediate Care Unit, subject to light duty work restrictions ordered by her doctor. Id. ¶ 12. The Unit's Nurse Manager, Ruth Borkoski, however, informed Marshall that “she did not had [sic] a continuous light duty position on the unit, ” and Marshall was transferred to the Bariatric Surgical Office in a non-nurse position. Id. Marshall alleges that after “complaining of unwelcoming behavior by one of her coworkers, ” she was then reassigned to the Liver Transplant Department (“LTD”). Id. Marshall alleges that UMMC subjected her to a hostile work environment upon returning to work, failed to properly train her for work in the LTD, and failed to accommodate her medical restrictions. Id. ¶ 13. For instance, Marshall alleges that, despite being aware that cold temperatures “interfered with [her] injuries, ” Linda Ridge (the LTD Manager) moved Marshall's work station “where the air conditioner would blow directly on [her]” and “intentionally ignored [Marshall's] request to adjust the temperature. Id. ¶ 15. Moreover, Marshall contends that, in September 2015, her orthopedic surgeon prescribed her a standing desk, ergonomic chair, and a headphone set, but UMMC failed to provide said equipment for more than six months. Id. ¶ 16.

         Thereafter, on September 28, 2015, Marshall was transferred to a Case Management Department/Utilization Review position, where Marshall alleges she continued to be subjected to a hostile work environment. Id. ¶ 17. According to Marshall, on May 27, 2016, she was involuntarily placed on leave until January 13, 2017, when she was cleared to return to a Nurse Audit position, beginning on February 6, 2017. Id. ¶¶ 18-19. Prior to returning, however, Marshall contends that UMMC: (1) informed her that the Nurse Audit position was no longer available; (2) failed to identify any other positions that accommodated her medical restrictions; and (3) involuntarily terminated her on April 12, 2017. Id. ¶ 19. Importantly, Marshall seeks damages as a result of “mental anguish” allegedly caused by UMMC. Id. at 9.

         UMMC now seeks discovery regarding Marshall's medical history. Specifically, UMMC contends that Marshall placed “her medical condition at issue in this case” by claiming that she: (1) is a qualified individual with a disability; and (2) suffered “mental anguish” because of UMMC's conduct. ECF 12-1 at 2. UMMC has moved to compel Responses to its Requests for the Production of Documents, including medical records, regarding Marshall's entire medical history from the date of her eighteenth birthday through the present. Id. Additionally, UMMC contends that Marshall's answers to certain Interrogatories are deficient. ECF 12-1 at 10-17.


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) permits discovery of “any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case.” In determining proportionality, the Court must consider “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).

         III. ANALYSIS

         UMMC's Motion seeks information that can be categorized into two general categories: (1) Marshall's medical history; or (2) other allegations contained in the Complaint, including damages, Marshall's income, and the identification of persons with knowledge of the facts alleged. ECF 12-1 at 10-18. With respect to the second category of requests, Marshall has agreed to supplement some of her responses. See ECF 12-19 at 10-15 (agreeing to supplement her Answers to Interrogatories 1 and 2, but not Interrogatories 16 and 17).[1] Thus, the crux of the pending dispute revolves around the scope of Marshall's obligation to produce information relating to her medical history. Despite initially agreeing to provide the requested medical information (See ECF 12-4 at 2 (Counsel for Marshall stating that, though he believed UMMC's requests for medical information should be narrowed, “rather than risk offending the rules, we'll provide the requested information . . . .”)), Marshall now objects on the grounds that: (1) UMMC's Motion is untimely; (2) not all of the requested documents are within her possession; and (3) UMMC's request for “any and all” medical records dating back to her eighteenth birthday is excessive and seeks privileged documents not relevant to the pending litigation, ECF 12-19 at 7-19.

         A. UMMC's Motion is Timely

         As an initial matter, Marshall's argument that UMMC's Motion is untimely is without merit. Pursuant to the Local Rules, if “a party who has propounded [discovery requests] is dissatisfied with the response to them and has been unable to resolve informally . . . any disputes with the responding party, that party shall serve a motion to compel within thirty (30) days of that party's receipt of the response.” Loc. R. 104.8(a). Though Marshall served her initial Document Responses and Answers to Interrogatories on March 22, 2018 and March 24, 2018, respectively (ECF 12-1 at 2), and UMMC did not file its Motion until June 21, 2018 (ECF 12-1 at 22), Marshall made repeated assurances that she would supplement her allegedly deficient discovery responses. Marshall admits, for example, that on April 23, 2018, she “agreed to an extension of [UMMC's] deadline to file a motion to compel . . . until the parties had an opportunity to discuss the matter . . . .” ECF 12-19 at 7. Thereafter, on April 24, 2018 and April 26, 2018, Marshall agreed to supplement her discovery responses regarding her medical history since the date of her eighteenth birthday. ECF 12-2 at 2-3, 12-4 at 2. According to UMMC, Marshall waited about a month to inform UMMC that she no longer intended to produce all documents regarding her medical history. ECF 12-1 at 5; see also ECF 12-10 at 3 (counsel for Marshall stating on May 26, 2018 via email that Marshall is only “willing to release the medical records related to the injury she suffered at UMMC and emotional distress.”). Upon learning of Marshall's changed position, UMMC filed its Motion on June 21, 2018, just twenty-seven (27) days later. Accordingly, UMMC's Motion is not untimely, and the Court will reach the merits. See Kidwiler v. Progressive Paloverde Insurance Co., 192 F.R.D. 193, 198 (N.D. W.Va. 2000) (concluding that a motion to compel is not untimely when the delay in bringing it stems from assurances by the non-moving party that a response would be forthcoming); Patrick v. Teays Valley Trustees, LLC, 297 F.R.D. 248, 255 (N.D. W.Va. 2013), aff'd sub nom. Patrick v. PHH Mortg. Corp., 298 F.R.D. 333 (N.D. W.Va. 2014) (holding that the motion was not untimely because “any delay in filing the Motion to Compel was the direct result of Defendant's repeated assurances that further responses would be forthcoming” and that “Plaintiffs went out of their way to avoid bringing this matter to the Court, which is exactly what the Rules require.”) (citation omitted); Eshelman v. Puma Biotechnology, Inc., No. 7:16-CV-18-D, 2018 WL 1702773, at *3 (E.D. N.C. Apr. 6, 2018) (“While the motion to compel was filed after the discovery deadline, the court finds Defendant nonetheless acted diligently in bringing the motion [], as evidenced by numerous emails and letters exchanged between counsel spanning from September 25-October 27, 2017, attempting to resolve the disputes presented in the motion.”) (citation omitted).

         B. Discovery Requests Regarding Marshall's Medical History

         UMMC's Interrogatories 22 and 23 and Request for Production of Documents Number 15 seek information regarding Marshall's medical history from the date of her eighteenth birthday through the present, including the identity of each and every health care provider from who Marshall sought treatment, the reason for any such treatment, and the documents created in ...

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