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A.G. v. Oregon Department of Human Services

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division

April 7, 2015

A.G.; et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES (

OPINION AND ORDER

JOHN V. ACOSTA, Magistrate Judge.

Introduction

Plaintiffs filed a motion (Dkt. No. 282) to compel defendants to answer plaintiffs' second set of interrogatories. The court grants in part and denies in plaintiffs' motion.

Background

The court's prior opinions and orders contain detailed descriptions of the factual allegations at issue in this case. Thus, only a brief factual summary as context here is necessary.

Plaintiffs are minor children who allege they suffered sexual abuse by defendant James Mooney, a state-certified foster parent. Some or all of the plaintiffs suffer from developmental, emotional, or physical disabilities which render them especially vulnerable. The Oregon Department of Human Services ("DHS") is the state agency responsible for delivering and administering programs and services regarding child adoption, child welfare, child protective services, and foster care in Oregon. DHS certified Mooney and his wife to be foster parents. Between February 2007 and May 2011, DHS placed each of the plaintiffs in the Mooneys' care. While in the Mooneys' care, Mooney sexually abused each of the plaintiffs and did so on multiple occasions. In April 2011, one of those children reported Mooney's abuse, and DHS subsequently learned of the child's report. DHS removed all children from the Mooneys' care and investigated Mooney's conduct. In June 2011 Mooney confessed to law enforcement authorities that between 2007 and 2011 he committed multiple acts of sexual abuse against the children in his care and children in the care of other foster parents. In January 2012 Mooney was sentenced to prison on charges of sexual abuse against one of the plaintiffs. As relevant to the current motion, plaintiffs allege DHS knew or should have known of Mooney's behavior toward them, negligently supervised and monitored Mooney's behavior, and utilized inadequate or inappropriate foster parent certification and supervision processes and practices.

Standards

Rule 26 provides that "[f]or good cause, the court may order discovery of any matter relevant to the subject matter involved in the action." FED. R. CIV. P. 26(b)(1). The scope of discovery in a case is defined by those matters "relevant to any party's claim or defense[.]" Id. Thus, Plaintiffs' Third Amended Complaint (Dkt. No. 148) and the defenses asserted in defendants' currently operative answer, its Amended Answer (Dkt, No. 32), establish the scope of discovery, "Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense - including the existence, description, nature, custody, condition, and location of any documents or other tangible things and the identity and location of persons who know of any discoverable matter." Id. Also, "[Relevant information need not be admissible at the trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discoveiy of admissible evidence." Id.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37 controls plaintiffs' motion to compel. A propounding party may "move for an order compelling an answer, designation, production, or inspection" if:

(I) a deponent fails to answer a question asked under Rules 30 or 31;
(ii) a corporation or other entity fails to make a designation under Rule 30(b)(6) or 31 (a)(4);
(iii) a party fails to answer an interrogatory submitted under Rule 33, or
(iv) a party fails to respond that inspection will be permitted - or fails to permit inspection - as requested under Rule 34.

Fed. R. CIV, P. 37(a)(3)(B). Rule 37(a)(4) provides that "an evasive or incomplete disclosure, answer, or response must be treated as a failure to disclose, ...


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