New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

PETTUS v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2006-015-134, Claim No. 112064, Motion No. M-71987


Synopsis


Discovery demands were palpably improper as overly broad and irrelevant to the issues in the case. Motion to compel discovery was denied.

Case Information

UID:
2006-015-134
Claimant(s):
JAMES PETTUS
Claimant short name:
PETTUS
Footnote (claimant name) :

Defendant(s):
THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
112064
Motion number(s):
M-71987
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Claimant’s attorney:
James Pettus, Pro Se
Defendant’s attorney:
Honorable Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General
By: Michael W. Friedman, EsquireAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
November 2, 2006
City:
Saratoga Springs
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

Claimant's motion to compel discovery is denied. This claim is premised on the contention that the claimant is "a non-violent inmate placed in the care, custody, control of D.O.C. [state] who placed my person in a maximum security prison where petitioner was beaten, robbed, assaulted, extorted and sexually harassed, denying petitioner [reasonable safety] as a non-violent inmate who has no violence on his criminal rap sheet...."

The claimant served five demands for discovery, many of which were repetitive[1]. The defendant provided responses to most of these demands, but objected to others. To the extent the defendant has complied with the discovery demands, the motion is moot. The outstanding demands and the defendant's objections thereto are as follows:
DEMAND: Rules and conduct and behavior of an employee who works for "D.O.C." [Department of Correctional Services], in its entirety.

RESPONSE: Defendant objects to this demand as improper form, overly broad, unduly burdensome, vague and ambiguous. It seeks documents neither relevant to the subject matter involved in this litigation nor reasonably calculated to lead to discovery of admissible evidence.

DEMAND: All records, documents, files, reports from medical department and any other department concerning stabbings, cuttings and assaults at Elmira Correctional Facility, Great Meadow Correctional Facility and Cayuga Correctional Facility from June 1, 2004 to present/current.

RESPONSE: Defendant objects to this demand as overly broad and unduly burdensome. It seeks documents neither relevant to the subject matter involved in this litigation nor reasonably calculated to lead to discovery of admissible evidence.
In yet a third demand, the claimant requested records pertaining to "all and any assaults, stabbings, cuttings" occurring at five different correctional facilities. The defendant objected to this demand by reference to its prior response.

The defendant's objections to the aforementioned discovery demands were made more than twenty days after the demands were served as required by CPLR 3122. In such circumstances, production of the material requested is required unless the demands were privileged or palpably improper (Velez v South Nine Realty Corp., 32 AD3d 1017; McMahon v Aviette Agency, 301 AD2d 820). The demands to which the defendant objected fall within this exception.

CPLR 3101 provides for the disclosure of all material that is "material and necessary in the prosecution or defense of an action". Although discovery statutes are liberally construed,

"' competing interests must always be balanced; the need for discovery must be weighed against any special burden to be borne by the opposing party' " (Andon v 302-304 Mott Street Assocs., 94 NY2d 740,747). Thus, it is incumbent on the party seeking disclosure to demonstrate that the discovery sought "is reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of information bearing on the claims" ( Vyas v Campbell, 4 AD3d 417, 418 quoting, Crazytown Furniture v Brooklyn Union Gas Co., 150 AD2d 420, 421).

The first demand to which the defendant objected required the production of rules addressing the conduct of employees of the Department of Correctional Services. This demand is palpably improper as overly broad and irrelevant to the issues in this case (Velez v South Nine Realty Corp., 32 AD3d 1017, supra; Alford v Progressive Equity Funding Corp., 144 AD2d 756).

The second, third, fourth and fifth demands required the production of all records from the medical department, and any other department, of various correctional facilities related to stabbings and assaults. The demand is similarly overly broad and palpably improper (Id.).

Claimant's motion to compel discovery is denied.



November 2, 2006
Saratoga Springs, New York

HON. FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Judge of the Court of Claims


The Court considered the following papers:
  1. Notice of motion dated June 30, 2006;
  2. Unsworn "affidavit"/affirmation of James Pettus undated with exhibits;
  3. Affirmation of Michael W. Friedman dated September 15, 2006 with exhibits;
  4. Reply of James Pettus dated September 18, 2006.

[1]. Letters written by this pro se inmate were denominated as a good faith follow-up on demands previously served. The discovery requested in these letters, however, deviated from the previously served demands and the letters were treated as discovery demands by the defendant. The court will therefore treat these letters as if they were discovery demands as well.