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Wayne J. Jewell v. United States of America

June 19, 2012

WAYNE J. JEWELL
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Landya B. McCafferty United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER

Currently before the court is defendant United States of America's motion to compel discovery (doc. no. 20). For the reasons that follow, the motion is granted.

Background

Plaintiff, Wayne J. Jewell ("Jewell") brings this medical malpractice action against the United States Department of Veterans Affairs ("United States"). Jewell alleges that in "about October 2009," he underwent a colonoscopy at the United States Department of Veterans' Affairs Medical Center in Manchester ("VAMC") which caused him harm ("hereinafter referred to as the "subject colonoscopy"). The VAMC has no record that Jewell underwent a colonoscopy in 2009. According to VAMC records, the last colonoscopy performed on Jewell occurred on November 20, 2008.

On January 10, 2012, the United States served interrogatories on Jewell, seeking to discover factual information related to his claims. See Doc. No. 20-3. On February 13, 2012, Jewell served his answers. See Doc. No. 20-4. He raised no objections regarding any of the interrogatories. The United States argues that those answers are incomplete, and moves to compel Jewell to provide complete responses to interrogatories 2, 3, 5, 13, and 16. The United States also seeks an order compelling Jewell to sign his interrogatory answers. I first address the signature question and then deal with the completeness of Jewell's answers.

Discussion

I. Lack of Signature

Jewell has not placed his signature on his answers to interrogatories. He has used an electronic ("/s/") signature. Rule 33(b)(5) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that the person making answers to interrogatories "must sign them. . . . " As this rule is strictly enforced, see Stanley v. Star Transp., Inc., No. 10-cv-00010, 2010 WL 3417855, at *3 (W.D. Va. Aug. 30, 2010), an electronic signature is not sufficient. Additionally, Rule 26(g)(1) requires an unrepresented party to sign every discovery response. The court grants the United States' request that the court compel Jewell to sign his February 13, 2012, interrogatory answers.

II. Interrogatories

Rule 26(b)(1) allows discovery of any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). Parties seeking broader discovery of matters "'relevant to the subject matter'" in the action are required to show good cause to support the request. In re Subpoena to Witzel, 531 F.3d 113, 118 (1st Cir. 2008) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1)).

The court must limit the scope or frequency of discovery if the information "can be obtained from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive," or if the "burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit, considering the needs of the case, the amount in controversy, the parties' resources, the importance of the issues at stake in the action, and the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues." Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2)(C)(i) and (iii).

Rule 37(a) allows for motions to compel discovery. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(a). The party moving to compel discovery over an adversary's objection bears the burden of showing that the information it seeks is relevant, see Caouette v. OfficeMax, Inc., 352 F. Supp. 2d 134, 136 (D.N.H. 2005), and that an opposing party's answers are incomplete or evasive, see Vaughn v. Bernice A. Roy Elem. Sch., No. 05-cv-223-JD, 2007 WL 1792506, at *1 (D.N.H. June 19, 2007). The party resisting the motion bears the burden of establishing an applicable privilege and showing that it has not been waived. See Lluberes v. Uncommon Prods., LLC, 663 F.3d 6, 24 (1st Cir. 2011); FDIC v. Ogden Corp., 202 F.3d 454, 460 (1st Cir. 2000).

The United States requests an order directing Jewell to provide complete responses to interrogatories 2, 3, 5, 13, and 16, which it served Jewell on January 10, 2012. Each interrogatory is separately discussed below.

A. Interrogatory No. 2 Interrogatory no. 2 asks:

What was the date of the colonoscopy that you allege was not scheduled and occurred without proper preparation, and at what location did it occur ...


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