Judge: Linda S. Marks, Case: 01184977, Date: 2022-08-01 Tentative Ruling

Plaintiff’s Motion to Quash Deposition Subpoenas

Plaintiff Rene Silva (“Plaintiff”) moves to quash or modify three deposition subpoenas issued by Defendants Hestan Commercial Corporation and Meyer Corporation, U.S. (“Defendants”). The first two subpoenas were issued to Kaiser Permanente and Ihsan Hamoudi, M.D., and seek: “All records reflecting and/or relating to your treatment of Rene Silva . . . .” (Declaration of Dean Chhim, Exs. 1, 2.) The third subpoena was issued to Terra Universal (“Terra”), Plaintiff’s employer subsequent to Defendants, and seeks documents reflecting Terra’s hiring of Plaintiff, any request for accommodations made by Plaintiff, any notice of disability provided by Plaintiff, any accommodation provided by Terra to Plaintiff, and Plaintiff’s earnings during his employment with Terra. (Id., Ex. 3.)

Pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 1987.1(a), “[i]f a subpoena requires the attendance of a witness or the production of books, documents, electronically stored information, or other things before a court, or at the trial of an issue therein, or at the taking of a deposition, the court, upon motion reasonably made by any person described in subdivision (b), or upon the court’s own motion after giving counsel notice and an opportunity to be heard, may make an order quashing the subpoena entirely, modifying it, or directing compliance with it upon those terms or conditions as the court shall declare, including protective orders.”

Medical Subpoenas:

 Plaintiff contends the medical records subpoenas are overbroad and invasive in that they seek all records reflecting or relating to the treatment of Plaintiff from Kaiser Permanente and Dr. Hamoudi without any limitation as to time or type of injury sustained, regardless of whether it is related to the claims in this matter. Defendants argue they are entitled to the records because Plaintiff has placed his medical condition at issue.

Plaintiff alleges he suffered from a sleep disorder, which he was diagnosed with after complaints beginning in late 2017, and requested a reasonable accommodation for the disorder from Defendants, his employers at the time, which Defendants failed to provide. (Compl., ¶¶ 19-20.) He also alleges he suffered a lower back injury in October 2019, which too required a reasonable accommodation that Defendants failed to provide. (Id., ¶¶ 30-32.)

“The right of privacy is an ‘ “inalienable right” ’ secured by article I, section 1 of the California Constitution. [Citation.] The right of privacy protects against the unwarranted, compelled disclosure of private or personal information and ‘extends to one’s confidential financial affairs as well as to the details of one's personal life.’ [Citation.]” (SCC Acquisitions, Inc. v. Superior Court (2015) 243 Cal.App.4th 741, 754.) “The constitutional right of privacy is not absolute; it may be abridged to accommodate a compelling public interest. [Citations.] One such interest, evidenced by California’s broad discovery statutes, is ‘ “the historically important state interest of facilitating the ascertainment of truth in connection with legal proceedings.” ’ [Citation.]” (Moskowitz v. Superior Court (1982) 137 Cal.App.3d 313, 316, disapproved on other grounds in Williams v. Superior Court (2017) 3 Cal.5th 531, 557, fn. 8.)

Williams v. Superior Court (2017) 3 Cal.5th 531, 552, explains: “The party asserting a privacy right must establish a legally protected privacy interest, and objectively reasonable expectation of privacy in the given circumstances, and a threatened intrusion that is serious. [Citations.] The party seeking information may raise in response whatever legitimate and important countervailing interest disclosure serves, while the party seeking protection may identify feasible alternatives that serve the same interest or protective measures that would diminish the loss of privacy. A court must then balance these competing considerations. [Citation.]”

Here, Plaintiff has placed his sleep disorder and back injury of 2019 at issue. On balance, the Court finds that Defendants’ right to documents related to these medical conditions outweighs Plaintiff’s right to privacy. However, the medical records subpoenas as drafted go beyond that scope and seek all documents related to any treatment of Plaintiff from two medical providers, regardless of time and whether the medical care provided relates to the conditions alleged in Plaintiff’s Complaint. Defendants have shown a countervailing interest that would outweigh Plaintiff’s right to privacy in these other medical records. Defendant’s subpoena must be drafted to cover those medical conditions within the scope of relevant issues in this case.

Tentative Ruling: Plaintiff’s Motion to Quash as to the medical records subpoenas as being overbroad is GRANTED.

Employment Subpoena: Plaintiff argues the employment records subpoena should also be quashed or modified because it seeks private and irrelevant documents from Plaintiff’s subsequent employer, Terra Universal. Plaintiff contends this case is about Defendants’ treatment of Plaintiff in the workplace after he disclosed his need for reasonable accommodations. The subpoena seeks irrelevant documents regarding requests for accommodations made by Plaintiff, notices of disability, and any accommodations provided to Plaintiff, from another employer. Plaintiff also contends Defendants cannot argue that the documents are relevant towards establishing patterns of similar conduct, as this is prohibited character evidence under Evidence Code sections 1101(a) and 1104.

Defendants argue the requested employment records are directly relevant to Plaintiff’s claims because Plaintiff has placed his work performance and needs for accommodations at issue here and whether Plaintiff has requested accommodations from his employer after he was employed by Defendants speaks to the severity of Plaintiff’s claimed conditions.

The Court agrees that the documents requested from Terra are relevant here. The subpoena to Terra is limited in time and seeks documents from 2019 to the present. As alleged in Plaintiff’s Complaint, his alleged conditions cover the time period from 2017 to 2019, which is close in time to his employment with Terra. Thus, whether Plaintiff made requests for accommodations to Terra similar to those made to Defendants is relevant to the severity of Plaintiff’s medical conditions and need for such accommodations. The Court finds Plaintiff’s arguments regarding character evidence to be unpersuasive, as the requested documents are not sought for the purpose of demonstrating a pattern of conduct by Plaintiff.

Tentative Ruling: The Motion to Quash as to the employment records subpoena is DENIED.

No sanctions are awarded.

Plaintiff to give notice.