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Nix v. Holbrook

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Orangeburg Division

February 13, 2015

William Montague Nix, Jr., Plaintiff,
v.
Bennie Glenn Holbrook and Stevens Transport, Inc., Defendants.

ORDER AND OPINION

J MICHELLE CHILDS, District Judge.

Plaintiff William Montague Nix, Jr. ("Plaintiff"), filed this action against Defendants Bennie Glenn Holbrook ("Holbrook") and Stevens Transport, Inc. ("STI"), (collectively "Defendants"), seeking to recover damages for injuries suffered when the car Plaintiff was driving collided with a tractor-trailer operated by Holbrook and owned by STI. (ECF No. 41.)

This matter is before the court on STI's Motion for Protective Order as a result of objections made during the deposition of Bill Tallent ("Tallent"), the company's designated representative pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 30(b)(6) ("Rule 30(b)(6)"). (ECF No. 26.) Plaintiff opposes STI's Motion for Protective Order. (ECF No. 31.) For the reasons set forth below, the court GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART STI's Motion for Protective Order.

I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND TO PENDING MOTION

Plaintiff alleges that on January 29, 2013, he was injured while driving "south on Interstate 95 when suddenly and without warning the tractor-trailer owned by... [STI] and operated by the... Holbrook, began backing up in the emergency lane then suddenly and without warning extended into the lanes of travel on Interstate 95, causing the trailer of the Defendants' tractor-trailer to improperly obstruct both south-bound lanes of Interstate 95 and causing the Defendants' trailer to collide with the Plaintiff's vehicle." (ECF No. 41 at 2 ¶ 8.) As a result of the injuries he sustained, Plaintiff commenced a negligence action against Defendants on July 12, 2013 in the Orangeburg County (South Carolina) Court of Common Pleas. (ECF No. 1-1.) On August 12, 2013, Defendants removed the action to this court asserting "diversity of citizenship between the party Plaintiff and the party Defendants pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1332" and that "the amount in controversy, exclusive of interest and costs, exceeds the sum of $75, 000.00." (ECF No. 1 at 2 ¶¶ 4, 6.)

On May 23, 2014, Plaintiff served STI with a Notice of Rule 30(b)(6), FRCP, Video Deposition, which set the Rule 30(b)(6) deposition of Tallent for July 9, 2014. (ECF No. 23-1.) At Tallent's deposition, "[c]ounsel for the Defendants objected to certain questions posed by David Whittington, counsel for the Plaintiff, to the extent that the questions required the deponent/corporate designee to disclose matters which would be protected by the attorney-client privilege and/or the work product doctrine, and instructed the deponent not to answer any portion of the questions that would involve a disclosure of attorney-client privileged matters...." (ECF No. 26 at 1.) STI then filed a Motion for Protective Order on July 16, 2014. (Id.) Plaintiff filed a Memorandum in Opposition to STI's Motion for Protective Order on August 4, 2014. (ECF No. 31.) On December 16, 2014 and January 5, 2015, the court heard argument from the parties on the pending Motion for Protective Order. (ECF Nos. 73, 77.)

II. LEGAL STANDARD

A. Discovery Generally

Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1) provides that "[p]arties 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.... [r]elevant information need not be admissible at the trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." Id. "For purposes of discovery, then, information is relevant, and thus discoverable, if it bears on, or... reasonably could lead to other matter[s] that could bear on, any issue that is or may be in the case.'" Amick v. Ohio Power Co., No. 2:13-cv-06593, 2014 WL 468891, at *1 (S.D. W.Va. Feb. 5, 2014) (citing Kidwiler v. Progressive Paloverde Ins. Co., 192 F.R.D. 193, 199 (N.D. W.Va. 2000)). "Although the pleadings are the starting point from which relevancy and discovery are determined... [r]elevancy is not limited by the exact issues identified in the pleadings, the merits of the case, or the admissibility of discovered information.'" Id. (citing Kidwiler, 192 F.R.D. at 199). "Rather, the general subject matter of the litigation governs the scope of relevant information for discovery purposes." Id. "Therefore, courts broadly construe relevancy in the context of discovery." Id.

B. Motions for Protective Order

A court may grant a protective order to restrict or prohibit discovery that seeks relevant information if necessary "to protect a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense...." Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c). "The party moving for a protective order bears the burden of establishing good cause." Webb v. Green Tree Servicing LLC, 283 F.R.D. 276, 278 (D. Md. 2012). "Normally, in determining good cause, a court will balance the interest of a party in obtaining the information versus the interest of his opponent in keeping the information confidential or in not requiring its production." UAI Tech., Inc. v. Valutech, Inc., 122 F.R.D. 188, 191 (M.D. N.C. 1988). In other words, "the Court must weigh the need for the information versus the harm in producing it." A Helping Hand, LLC v. Baltimore Cnty., Md., 295 F.Supp.2d 585, 592 (D. Md. 2003) (internal quotation marks omitted). The standard for issuance of a protective order is high. Minter v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 258 F.R.D. 118, 125 (D. Md. 2009). However, trial courts have broad discretion "to decide when a protective order is appropriate and what degree of protection is required." Seattle Times Co. v. Rhinehart, 467 U.S. 20, 36 (1984).

C. Deposition Objections Based Upon Privilege

"When a party withholds information otherwise discoverable by claiming that the information is privileged..., the party must: (i) expressly make the claim; and (ii) describe the nature of the documents, communications, or tangible things not produced or disclosed-and do so in a manner that, without revealing information itself privileged or protected, will enable other parties to assess the claim." Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(5)(A). Generalized objections asserting the protection of the attorney-client privilege or the work product doctrine do not comply with the Federal Rules ...


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