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Johnson v. Rogers

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

May 23, 2018



          Hon. Jane Magntts-Stinson, Chief Judge

         Mr. Johnson brought this lawsuit in September 2016, alleging a variety of state-law and federal claims after Defendant Michael Rogers allegedly kicked and broke his leg while he was handcuffed. [Filing No. 1-1.] Among other things, Mr. Johnson seeks “[d]amages for emotional distress” and “pain and suffering” as a result of the incident. [Filing No. 71 at 1-2.] Seeking discovery on Mr. Johnson's emotional distress claim, Defendants moved to compel Mr. Johnson to provide signed HIPPA consent forms to allow Defendants to obtain medical records concerning Mr. Johnson's mental health treatment. [Filing No. 68.] Magistrate Judge Matthew Brookman granted Defendants' Motion to Compel, finding that Mr. Johnson had waived his psychotherapist-patient privilege by placing his mental and emotional health at issue. [Filing No. 77.] Mr. Johnson objects to Magistrate Judge Brookman's Order, arguing that the order violates his privilege protection.[1] [Filing No. 79.] But Mr. Johnson's Objections gloss over the deferential standard that applies to review of a Magistrate Judge's nondispositive decision. Mr. Johnson has fallen far short of demonstrating that Magistrate Judge Brookman's decision was the product of clear or legal error. To the contrary, the Court finds Magistrate Judge Brookman's Order to be thorough and well-reasoned, and therefore OVERRULES Mr. Johnson's Objections thereto.


         Standard of Review

         Review of a magistrate judge's decision on a nondispositive motion is deferential, and the Court may sustain an objection to such an order only where it is “clearly erroneous or is contrary to law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a); 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A). An order is clearly erroneous “only if the district court is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made.” Weeks v. Samsung Heavy Industries Co., Ltd., 126 F.3d 926, 943 (7th Cir. 1997). “An order is contrary to law when it fails to apply or misapplies relevant statutes, case law, or rules of procedure.” Pain Center of SE Ind., LLC v. Origin Healthcare Solutions, LLC, 2014 WL 6674757, *2 (S.D. Ind. 2014) (citations and quotation marks omitted).

         “District courts have broad discretion in discovery matters.” Packman v. Chi. Tribune Co., 267 F.3d 628, 646 (7th Cir. 2001). The scope of discovery is broad, with a “strong public policy in favor of disclosure of relevant materials.” Patterson v. Avery Dennison Corp., 281 F.3d 676, 681 (7th Cir. 2002). But it is limited from the outset to relevant, “nonprivileged matter.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). Evidentiary privileges, however, are narrowly construed because they withhold relevant information from the trier of fact. Mem'l Hosp. for McHenry Cty. v. Shadur, 664 F.2d 1058, 1061 (7th Cir. 1981).



         Mr. Johnson filed his Complaint in state court on September 9, 2015, alleging that Mr. Rogers kicked and broke his leg while he was handcuffed. [Filing No. 1-1 at 4.] Mr. Johnson pursues several legal theories, including an excessive force claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Mr. Johnson, Monell claims against Chief Troy Riggs and the City of Indianapolis, and state-law negligence and battery claims against Mr. Rogers and the City. [Filing No. 1-1 at 5-8.] Mr. Johnson's Notice of Tort Claim, incorporated by reference into his Complaint, [Filing No. 1-1 at 4], alleges that he has “sustained certain . . . emotional injuries” and seeks damages for “emotional distress.” [Filing No. 1-1 at 10.] Defendants removed this matter on October 10, 2016 on the basis of this Court's federal question jurisdiction. [Filing No. 1.]

         On June 2, 2017, Mr. Johnson filed his Preliminary Witness and Exhibit List, which included as potential witnesses “[a]ny and all of Plaintiff's treating physicians and healthcare providers [who] will testify as to his injuries, emotional condition[, ] and treatment, including but not limited to those identified in the medical records and those listed below.” [Filing No. 53 at 3.]

         On March 9, 2018, Defendants filed their Motion to Compel, requesting among other things that Mr. Johnson be compelled to sign HIPPA consent forms to allow Defendants to obtain Mr. Johnson's medical records. [Filing No. 68.] On March 20, 2018, contemporaneous with his response brief, Mr. Johnson filed an “Amended Statement of Special Damages, ” stating that he was seeking “[d]amages for emotional distress . . . . The Plaintiff is not making a claim that his injuries in the present case resulted in a mental disease. He is simply making general claims for pain and suffering and emotional distress which would typically accompany this type of injury for anyone.” [Filing No. 71 at 1-2.] The Statement continues: “After conferring with his mental health professionals, the Plaintiff has decided to withdraw his claim for loss of past and future earnings in order to avoid the psychological harm and potential relapse which would occur if personal and private mental health issues were dredged up during the course of discovery.” [Filing No. 71 at 2.]

         On April 20, 2018, Magistrate Judge Brookman issued his Order granting Defendants' Motion in relevant part and ordering Mr. Johnson to sign and return HIPPA authorization forms for Community Health Services, Eskenazi Hospital, and the Martindale-Brightwood Health Center for October 30, 2014 to the present.[2] [Filing No. 77 at 14.] On May 4, 2018, Mr. Johnson filed his Objections to the portion of the Magistrate Judge's Order requiring him to provide the signed authorization forms. [Filing No. 79.] Mr. Johnson's Objections are fully briefed and ripe for decision.



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