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Cerrato v. Nutribullet, LLC

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division

November 2, 2017




         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Entry of Order Authorizing Release of James Haley Veterans Hospital Records of Plaintiff (“Motion to Compel Medical Records”) (Dkt. 47), Defendants' Motion to Compel Execution of Authorization for Employment Records (“Motion to Compel Employment Records”), and Plaintiffs' Response in Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Compel Authorization (Dkt. 60). On October 31, 2017, the Court held a hearing on the Motions. For the reasons stated at the hearing and that follow, the Motions are granted.


         Plaintiffs Phyllis and German Cerrato filed this products liability action against Defendants for injuries allegedly sustained by Plaintiff Phyllis Cerrato while using a blender designed and manufactured by Defendants. (Dkt. 1.) Plaintiffs allege that the blender exploded and resulted in hot liquids burning Plaintiff Phyllis Cerrato and causing property damage to Plaintiffs' kitchen. (Dkt. 1 at ¶ 4.) Plaintiff Phyllis Cerrato alleges personal injuries, lost wages, and impaired earning capacity as a result of the accident. (Dkt. 1.)

         On January 4, 2017, the Court entered its Case Management and Scheduling Order (“Scheduling Order”). (Dkt. 16.) Pursuant to the Scheduling Order, the deadline for discovery in this case was August 1, 2017. (Dkt. 16.) In March 2016, Defendants subpoenaed records from Plaintiff Phyllis Cerrato's primary care physician at the James Haley Veterans Hospital (“Veterans Hospital”) as well as from Plaintiff's employer, the United States Army (“Army”). (Dkt. 47 at 3; Dkt. 48 at 2.) Plaintiffs did not object to the subpoenas. (Dkt. 47 at 3; Dkt 48 at 4.) To date, neither the Veterans Hospital nor the Army has filed an objection to the subpoenas. (Dkt. 47; Dkt. 48.) Nevertheless, Defendants maintain that the Veterans Hospital and Army require a court order or signed authorization from Plaintiff Phyllis Cerrato to release the documents requested in the subpoenas. As a result, Defendants now seek an order authorizing the release of Plaintiff's records from the Veterans Hospital and compelling Plaintiff Phyllis Cerrato to execute an authorization for records from the Army.


         Courts maintain great discretion to regulate discovery. Patterson v. U.S. Postal Serv., 901 F.2d 927, 929 (11th Cir. 1990). The court has broad discretion to compel or deny discovery. Josendis v. Wall to Wall Residence Repairs, Inc., 662 F.3d 1292, 1306 (11th Cir. 2011). Through discovery, parties may obtain materials that are within the scope of discovery, meaning they are nonprivileged, relevant to any party's claim or defense, and proportional to the needs of the case. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). The U.S. Supreme Court held that the term “relevant” in Rule 26 should encompass “any matter that bears on, or that reasonably could lead to other matter that could bear on, any issue that is or may be in the case.” Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 351-52 (1978).

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16(b)(3)(A), a case management and scheduling order must limit the time to complete discovery. Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(b)(3)(A). This deadline “may be modified only for good cause and with the judge's consent.” Id. at 16(b)(4). “To establish good cause, the party seeking the extension must establish that the schedule could not be met despite the party's diligence.” Ashmore v. Sec'y, Dep't of Transp., 503 Fed. App'x 683, 685 (11th Cir. 2013); M.D. Fla. Local R. 3.09(b) (“Failure to complete discovery procedures within the time established . . . shall not constitute cause for continuance unless such failure or inability is brought to the attention of the Court at least sixty (60) days in advance of any scheduled trial date and is not the result of lack of diligence in pursuing such discovery.”).


         A. Motion to Compel Medical Records

         Defendants contend that the medical records sought from the Veterans Hospital are discoverable. (Dkt. 47.) However, Defendants filed their Motion to Compel Medical Records past the August 1, 2017 discovery deadline designated in the Scheduling Order. (Dkt. 16.) Defendants must show good cause to modify the Scheduling Order. Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(b)(4). Specifically, Defendants must show that they could not meet the August 1, 2017 discovery deadline despite their diligence. Ashmore, 503 Fed. App'x at 685.

         Defendants were made aware of the Veterans Hospital's objection to producing the documents without a signed authorization or court order in April 2017. (Dkt. 47-1.) Further, Defendants were notified in an email dated May 18, 2017 that Plaintiffs objected to signing the authorization. (Dkt. 47-2.) On July 14, 2017, Defendant conferred with Plaintiffs requesting their agreement to seek an order from the Court authorizing the release of the records. (Dkt. 47-2.) Plaintiffs' counsel's office indicated that it was reviewing Defendants' proposed order and would respond shortly. (Dkt. 47-2.) During the hearing, Defendants' counsel explained that Defendants did not file a motion to compel earlier because they were communicating with Plaintiffs to obtain the records and believed they could resolve the issue without judicial intervention. Defendants' counsel further argued that he believed the issue would be resolved because Plaintiffs did not object to the subpoena.

         With regard to the relevance of the requested documents, Defendants argue that they seek Plaintiff Phyllis Cerrato's medical records from the Veterans Hospital as Plaintiff has placed her medical condition at issue. (Dkt. 47 at 1.) Plaintiff Phyllis Cerrato is alleging bodily injury, pain and suffering, mental anguish, and aggravation of pre-existing conditions as a result of the subject accident. (Dkt. 1 at ¶ 9.) It is well settled that “when a plaintiff places [her] medical condition at issue, [her] pertinent medical records will be relevant and discoverable by defendants.” Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach, 08-80134-CIV, 2014 WL 12692766, at *1 (S.D. Fla. May 2, 2014) (quoting Graham v. Witalec, 2011 WL 1335808 (N.D. Fla. Apr. 7, 2011)). Further, a party may be compelled to sign an authorization for the release of medical records when the records are relevant and signing the authorization furthers the “just, speedy, and inexpensive determination” of the case. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 1, 26(b)(1); see also Hairston v. ED Nelson Transp., 3:13-CV-1457-J-32JBT, 2015 WL 12843868, at *2 (M.D. Fla. Nov. 24, 2015); Hodge v. Orlando Utilities Comm'n, 609CV1059ORL19DAB, 2010 WL 11507295, at *3 (M.D. Fla. Apr. 28, 2010); Zaffis v. City of Altamonte Springs, Florida, 6:06CV385 ORL31DAB, 2007 WL 646959, at *2 (M.D. Fla. Feb. 27, 2007).

         Here, Defendants properly served the Veterans Hospital with a subpoena pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 45, and the Veterans Hospital notified Defendants that it required a court order or signed patient authorization. (Dkt. 47-1.) Under Rule 45, if the person commanded to produce documents objects to the subpoena, then “[a]t any time, on notice to the commanded person, the serving party may move the court for the ...

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