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Bortolotti v. Gracepoint

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

November 20, 2019

ERIKA BORTOLOTTI, Plaintiff,
v.
GRACEPOINT, ST. JOESPH'S HOSPITAL, INC, PAMELA TROUTMAN, individually, and AGENCY FOR COMMUNITY TREATMENT SERVICES, INC., Defendant,

          ORDER

          AMANDA ARNOLD SANSONE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         The defendant, Gracepoint, seeks better responses to interrogatories from the plaintiff, Ms. Erika Bortolotti, production of documents requested from Ms. Bortolotti, and updated information about Ms. Bortolotti's damages as required in Rule 26 disclosures. (Doc. 45). Ms. Bortolotti opposes Gracepoint's motion. (Doc. 47). For the reasons explained below, Gracepoint's motion to compel is GRANTED-IN-PART and DENIED-IN-PART.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         Ms. Bortolotti met her friend to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. (Doc. 1, ¶ 10). At some point during the evening, Ms. Bortolotti's friend grew concerned Ms. Bortolotti did not look well and took her to St. Joseph's Hospital. (Id. at ¶ 12). While at St. Joseph's Hospital, the emergency room doctors determined Ms. Bortolotti met the requirements for involuntary commitment under the Marchman Act. (Id. at ¶¶ 15, 19). St. Joseph's Hospital transferred Ms. Bortolotti to a facility run by Agency for Community Treatment Services (ACTS) (Id. at ¶ 22) and then to Gracepoint, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility (Id. at ¶¶ 27-28). Ms. Bortolotti was committed for seventy-two hours. (Id. at ¶ 58).

         Ms. Bortolotti now sues St. Joseph's Hospital, ACTS, Gracepoint, and Pamela Troutman for claims under Florida common law from a 2017 Marchman Act involuntary commitment. (Doc. 1). As to Gracepoint, only Ms. Bortolotti's Florida common law causes of actions for false imprisonment and assault and battery survived Gracepoint's motion to dismiss. (Doc. 40, pp. 20-22).

         On July 9, 2019, Gracepoint served Ms. Bortolotti with interrogatories. (Doc. 45, p. 4). On August 8, 2019, Ms. Bortolotti answered those interrogatories but raised objections and refused to answer several interrogatories. (Id.). On July 9, 2019, Gracepoint also served Ms. Bortolotti with document requests. (Id. at p. 8). On August 8, 2019, Ms. Bortolotti also responded to Gracepoint's document requests but raised objections and refused to produce some documents. (Id.). Gracepoint seeks better responses to its discovery requests and an update to Ms. Bortolotti's calculation of her damages. (Doc. 45).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A party may obtain discovery about any nonprivileged matter relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). Discovery helps parties ascertain facts that bear on issues in the case. ACLU of Fla., Inc. v. City of Sarasota, 859 F.3d 1337, 1340 (11th Cir. 2017) (citations omitted). However, requests for production should be clear, concise, and reasonably particularized. Middle District Discovery (2015) at III(A)(1).

         A party may move for an order compelling discovery from the opposing party. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a). The party moving to compel discovery has the initial burden of proving the requested discovery is relevant and proportional. Douglas v. Kohl's Dep't. Stores, Inc., No. 6:15-CV-1185-Orl-22TBS, at *2 (M.D. Fla. Apr. 25, 2016) (quotation and citation omitted). The responding party must then specifically show how the requested discovery is unreasonable or unduly burdensome. Panola Land Buyers Ass'n v. Shuman, 762 F.2d 1550, 1559-60 (11th Cir. 1985).

         III. ANALYSIS

         Gracepoint moves for Ms. Bortolotti to provide complete answers to interrogatories asking about Ms. Bortolotti's employment and criminal history, medical, mental health, and substance abuse records, and social media accounts. (Doc. 45, pp. 4-9; 45-1). And Gracepoint moves for Ms. Bortolotti to produce responsive documents, including Ms. Bortolotti's criminal records, photos and videos from social media accounts, HIPAA authorizations, and medical, mental health, and substance abuse records. (Doc. 45, pp. 9-12; 45-1). Gracepoint also moves to have the court require Ms. Bortolotti to update her damages in her Rule 26 Initial Disclosures. (Id. at pp. 12-13).

         As an initial matter, Ms. Bortolotti states in her response to Gracepoint's motion that “she will not be seeking damages from Gracepoint or the other defendants for harm to her reputation.” (Doc. 47, p. 1). However, the operative complaint contains a claim for damages based on harm to Ms. Bortolotti's reputation, and also seeks damages for loss of liberty, mental anguish, loss of capacity for enjoyment of life, great humiliation, and mental suffering. The complaint controls what discovery is relevant and proprortional to this case. If Ms. Bortolotti wishes to remove her claim for harm to her reputation and no longer seeks damages for loss of liberty, mental anguish, loss of capacity for enjoyment of life, great humiliation, and mental suffering, she must seek leave to file an amended complaint with this court. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2).

         Ms. Bortolotti uses boilerplate objections of vague, overbroad, and not calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence and often a combination of these boilerplate objections. (Docs. 45-1, 45-3). As clarified by the 2015 amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, using boilerplate objections is improper. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 34. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 34(b)(2)(B) now requires the responding party “state with specificity the grounds for objection to the request, including the reasons.”

         In her response to Gracepoint's motion, Ms. Bortolotti generally concludes she provided sufficient answers to Gracepoint's interrogatories and sufficient responses to Gracepoint's document requests. (Doc. 47, p. 13). Before reaching that conclusion, Ms. Bortolotti puts forth eight arguments for why she should not have to respond further to Gracepoint's interrogatories and document requests. (Id. at pp. 4-12).

         First, Ms. Bortolotti argues Florida Statute § 397.675 forbids the information Gracepoint seeks. (Id. at p. 4). Ms. Bortolotti asserts Gracepoint's discovery requests are an unlawful attempt to acquire Ms. Bortolotti's prior mental health records, which she refused to give during her commitment under the Marchman Act. (Id.). Second, Ms. Bortolotti argues the information Gracepoint seeks is irrelevant to the decisions made by Gracepoint to commit Ms. Bortolotti under the Marchman Act in May 2017. (Id. at pp. 5-6). Third, Ms. Bortolotti argues Gracepoint already obtained the information sought in its discovery requests through public records requests. (Id. at p. 6). Fourth, Ms. Bortolotti argues no prior or subsequent incidents involved any determinations related to the May 2017 involuntary commitment under the Marchman Act. (Id. at p. 7).

         Fifth, Ms. Bortolotti argues Gracepoint and the other defendants put her mental state at issue by involuntarily committing her under the Marchman Act. (Id. at pp. 8-9). Sixth, Ms. Bortolotti argues discovery about other incidents and her physical and mental health history will annoy, embarrass, and oppress her. (Id. at p. 9). Ms. Bortolotti asserts Florida's precedent prevents the defendants from using prior or subsequent information to justify wrong behavior or to embarrass, annoy, or oppress a victim. (Id. at p. 10). Seventh, Ms. Bortolotti argues discovery related to prior and subsequent incidents is burdensome and a waste of time because Ms. Bortolotti's claims focus on whether Ms. Bortolotti met the criteria for involuntary commitment under the Marchman Act in May 2017. (Id. at pp. 11-12). Last, Ms. Bortolotti argues if the court allows this discovery, the court gives organizations like Gracepoint an incentive to unjustly detain individuals because they can collect the evidence after the commitment to prove their case. (Id. at p. 12).

         A. Interrogatories

         1. Interrogatory Number 2

Interrogatory No. 2: List the names, business addresses, dates of employment and rates of pay regarding all employers, including self-employment, for which you have worked in the past ten (10) years.
RESPONSE: This question is overly broad and remote, and as such, is not calculated to lead to the discovery of information relevant to the subject matter of this action, nor to the discovery of admissible evidence. The question invades the Plaintiff's right to privacy, is impermissibly overbroad and, therefore, oppressive and burdensome, and irrelevant to the subject matter of this action in that seeks disclosure of personal and private information.
Specifically, this case is about the wrongful imprisonment, violation of the Plaintiff's civil rights and the assault and battery (drugging) of the Plaintiff on or about May 5, 2017 to May 8, 2017. The Plaintiff is not making a lost wage claim nor is the Plaintiff seeking damages for her inability to work as a result of the allegation in the complaint.

(Doc. 45, pp. 4-5). Gracepoint argues Ms. Bortolotti puts her employment history directly at issue because she claimed this commitment under the Marchman Act tarnished her professional reputation and will have far reaching professional consequences. (Id. at p. 5). Gracepoint also claims review of Ms. Bortolotti's work history will help determine what her professional reputation might have been both before and after this Marchman Act involuntary commitment. (Id.).

         Basic information about Ms. Bortolotti's past employment is relevant and proportional to the needs of the case. However, information about Ms. Bortolotti's rate of pay at her previous employment is irrelevant and not proportional to the needs of the case because she is not pursuing a lost wage claim. Ms. Bortolotti's general employment history will provide Gracepoint with information about Ms. Bortolotti's professional career and her professional reputation. Thus, Ms. Bortolotti's only must answer Gracepoint's Interrogatory Number 2 with the names, business addresses, and dates of employment for all employers, including self-employment, from May 2012 (i.e., five years prior to the incident) to the present.

         2. Interrogatory Number 4

Interrogatory No. 4: Have you ever been arrested at any time either before or after the subject incident? If so, state the date, location and arresting agency, the charges upon which you were arrested, and the disposition of any such charges.
RESPONSE: This question is overly broad and remote, and as such, is not calculated to lead to the discovery of information relevant to the subject matter of this action, nor to the discovery of admissible evidence. The question invades the Plaintiff's right to privacy, is impermissibly overbroad and, therefore, oppressive and burdensome, and irrelevant to the subject ...

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