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Anderson v. Buena Board of Education

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

March 19, 2019

SUZANN ANDERSON, individually and M.D., a minor by her mother and natural guardian Plaintiffs
v.
BUENA BOARD OF EDUCATION, et al., Defendant.

         [Doc. Nos. 45, 47]

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Joel Schneider, United States Magistrate Judge.

         While plaintiff M.D. was a minor and high school student at Buena Regional High School, she had sexual relations with an adult teacher.[1] This Opinion addresses defendants' request for copies of plaintiff's gynecological records.[2]

         This matter is before the Court on defendants' “Motion to Compel Plaintiffs Execution of Medical Authorization” [Doc. Nos. 45, 47]. The Court received plaintiffs' opposition [Doc. No. 48], defendants' reply [Doc. No. 49] and supplemental submission, and held oral argument. The Court also reviewed the complete depositions of plaintiff, her mother and plaintiff's close girlfriend. For the reasons to be discussed, defendants' motion is denied. Plaintiff's gynecological records are irrelevant to the claims and defenses in the case.

         Background

         The background facts of the case are not complicated. While plaintiff was a 17-year-old junior in high school she engaged in oral sex with a school teacher (William Jacobs) on several occasions.[3] The teacher was suspended, pleaded guilty to criminal charges, and is serving a jail sentence. Plaintiff's complaint filed on September 6, 2017 generally alleges the school failed to take timely actions to protect her. Plaintiff allegedly suffered emotional distress.

         Plaintiff was deposed on August 16, 2018. Plaintiff's transcript reflects that she answered all questions posed to her including questions directed to her most intimate and private affairs. Plaintiff testified she was raped several times when she was 13-14 and first engaged in consensual sex when she was 15. Plaintiff started taking birth control pills at 13 to regulate her period. Plaintiff has seen a “therapist” for several years with whom she talked about Jacobs. Plaintiff has also been seeing the same gynecologist for many years. Despite numerous visits there is no testimony reflecting that plaintiff spoke with her gynecologist about Jacobs.

         Defendants argue plaintiff's records are relevant for various reasons. These include: (1) to find out about plaintiff's prior sexual history, (2) to find out if plaintiff is telling the truth about taking birth control pills at 13 because she had an irregular cycle, (3) to find out if plaintiff discussed Jacobs with her gynecologist, and (4) to determine the nature of the treatment rendered. Defendants argue plaintiff's records:

[M]ay also contain relevant information about the Plaintiff's sexual history, comments and statements from M.D. to the gynecologist about Defendant Jacobs or other sexual partners, thoughts about her sexuality and the use of birth control pills.

         September 25, 2018 Letter Brief at 2. Defendants also argue that without plaintiff's records, “it is impossible to determine the nature of the treatment rendered, what statements were made to the medical provider that would be relevant, or any other information about [her] visits that might bear on plaintiff's claims.” Id. In addition, defendants argue:

The relevance of the inquiry is to determine not only the nature of any prior injuries or conditions, but also to gauge credibility since it is reasonable to assume there could be an indication of Plaintiff's thoughts as to the prior encounters in the records.

         October 17, 2018 Letter Brief at 4.

         In opposition plaintiff argues her records are not relevant to any facts, injuries or circumstances she alleges, nor are the records relevant to defendants' defenses. In sum, defense counsel argues:

There is no reason to further exacerbate my client's embarrassment by allowing Defendants to partake in [a] fishing expedition through my client's personal, private medical records -- that ...

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