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Tavares v. Enterprise Rent-A-Car Co. of Rhode island

United States District Court, District of Rhode Island

June 27, 2014



PATRICIA A. SULLIVAN United States Magistrate Judge

Before the Court for determination (28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A), DRI LR Cv 72(a)) are the following motions:

1. Rhode Island Hospital’s Motion to Quash And/Or For Protective Order. ECF No. 40.
2. Lifespan Physician Group, Inc., Department of Psychiatry’s (“Lifespan”) Motion to Quash And/Or Protective Order. ECF No. 41.
3. Plaintiff Rogerio S. Tavares’ Objections and Motion to Quash Defendant’s Deposition Subpoenas. ECF No. 42.

This is an employment discrimination case alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Plaintiff, who is proceeding pro se, claims that his former employer Enterprise Rent-A-Car Company of Rhode Island (“Enterprise”) discriminated and retaliated against him, and eventually fired him, based on his national origin, religion and disability. These Motions place at issue five subpoenas issued by Enterprise that seek employment records from Plaintiff’s current employer, FedEx Ground Package System, Inc. (“FedEx”), his prior employer, Brooks Pharmacy, Inc. (“Brooks Pharmacy”), as well as medical records from Rhode Island Hospital, Lifespan and Dr. Arianna Iannuccilli. Rhode Island Hospital and Lifespan have moved to quash based on the Confidentiality of Health Care Information Act, R.I. Gen. Laws § 5-37.3-1, et seq. Plaintiff’s motion is based, inter alia, on the overbreadth of the subpoenas, which he contend seek the production of documents that are not relevant to his claims and would result in the unnecessary and harmful disclosure of confidential information in violation of his right of privacy.

Because the determination of these motions depends on the scope of the claims that Plaintiff has placed in issue by the filing of the Amended Complaint, [1] which is somewhat confusing and imprecise, and mindful of Plaintiff’s pro se status, [2] the Court engaged in a colloquy with Plaintiff at the June 24, 2014, hearing on the Motions to better understand his theory of the case. In response to questions, Plaintiff advised that, throughout his employment at Enterprise beginning in 2008, he suffered from a mental health condition that constitutes a disability and that, because of it, as well as his national origin and religion, Enterprise refused appropriate accommodations, harassed him and ultimately fired him, exacerbating his mental health, and causing ongoing injury. He also advised that he claims that he has been suffering and continues to suffer from ongoing and worsening physical conditions that were originally caused by incidents that were the fault of Enterprise; a workers compensation claim made against FedEx, his current employer, is related to injuries that he claims were caused by Enterprise. In addition, he contends that, based on his national origin, religion and disability, Enterprise refused to give him appropriate work assignments or promotions consistent with his educational background and prior management experience at Brooks Pharmacy. Finally, he intends to seek compensation for lost income as a result of his wrongful termination, a claim that will be affected by the timing of his initiation of employment at FedEx and his total income package at FedEx.

Relevancy is also limned by the defenses – Enterprise represents that it will seek to present evidence that Plaintiff reacts unreasonably to workplace stress and innocuous behavior by others and that his claims about what happened to him at Enterprise are consistent with a pattern that will be revealed by discovery from both Brooks Pharmacy and FedEx regarding complaints he made while employed by each.

Focusing first on employment records, Plaintiff’s description of his claim confirms that his experience, job performance and positions held during his past employment at Brooks Pharmacy are relevant so that both documents in his personnel file and documents related to his termination are pertinent; similarly, his resume and application to FedEx are relevant because they pertain to his claim of management experience not recognized by Enterprise as a result of discrimination. Also from FedEx, because Plaintiff’s damage claim will be directly affected by his compensation, documents sufficient to show when he commenced working and the amount of his salary, wages and benefits at FedEx are relevant. In addition, Plaintiff acknowledged that part of his claim against Enterprise is related to the workers compensation claim he filed against FedEx, so that the request for FedEx’s workers compensation file is appropriate. Finally, Enterprise’s defense based on a pattern of complaints regarding his work environment makes relevant any documents reflecting such complaints at FedEx and Brooks Pharmacy. To the extent that the subpoenas to Brooks Pharmacy and FedEx reach more broadly, they are over broad and should be quashed.

Turning to Plaintiff’s medical records, Plaintiff claims discrimination based in part on his mental health disability and claims damages arising from both mental harm and physical injury suffered while working at Enterprise; he contends that his mental health issue was preexisting, was exacerbated by Enterprise and is ongoing, while the physical injury caused by Enterprise has also worsened and is ongoing. These claims directly place in issue his treatment at Lifespan, Rhode Island Hospital and with Dr. Iannuccilli. See Rankin v. Liberty Mut. Ins., 50 F.3d 1, at *2 n.3 (1st Cir. 1995) (per curiam) (unpublished table decision) (allegation of continuing psychiatric disability places mental condition in controversy). Further, Plaintiff’s claims arising from his mental health issues are far beyond a “garden variety” assertion of emotional distress arising from discrimination and retaliation; accordingly, any privilege he might have had is forfeit. Stark v. Hartt Transp. Sys., Inc., 2:12-CV-195-NT, 2013 WL 358266, at *9 (D. Me. Jan. 28, 2013) (garden variety claims refer to what a healthy person would likely feel as a result of being victimized).

While Plaintiff’s claims have placed his mental and physical health in issue and render them bulls-eye relevant, the subpoenas for medical records are overly broad because there is no time limitation; in light of Plaintiff’s commencement of employment at Enterprise in 2008 and affixing a three-year buffer, I find that records from January 1, 2005, to the present should be produced. In addition, Plaintiff represents that the subpoenaed records may refer to his wife or daughter, who are not litigants in this case. Any such references should be redacted before the produced records may be used in this litigation.

A final point: in light of the sensitivity of the records covered by these subpoenas, a protective order to ensure that their confidentiality is protected is required. Since this Court has already entered such an order protecting similar documents produced in this case, I enter the same order to protect these records.

For the reasons stated at the hearing, Plaintiff’s Objections and Motion to Quash (ECF No. 42), and Rhode Island and Lifespan’s Motion to Quash and/or For Protective Order (ECF Nos. 40, ...

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