United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
PATRICK MICHAEL DUFFY United States District Judge.
matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Jody Holcombe's
motion to compel (ECF No. 44), his motion to amend his
complaint (ECF No. 34), and Defendant Helena Chemical
Co.'s motion to compel (ECF No. 36). For the reasons
stated herein, Holcombe's motion to compel is denied
without prejudice, his motion to amend is granted, and Helena
Chemical's motion to compel is granted.
negligence action arises out of a 2012 collision between a
tractor-trailer driven by Holcombe and another driven by
Michael Rogers, a Helena Chemical employee. Holcombe seeks
damages from Helena Chemical, asserting theories of
respondeat superior liability and negligent
Holcombe's Motion to Compel
seeks punitive damages. Because “the wealth of a
defendant is a relevant factor in assessing punitive damages,
” Branham v. Ford Motor Co., 701 S.E.2d 5, 24
(2010) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted),
Holcombe asked Helena Chemical to produce records of its
assets, profits, losses, and net worth over the past ten
years. Holcombe sought those records through five requests
for production. Helena Chemical objected to all of them on
the grounds that the requests were overly broad, were
improperly unlimited in time and scope, sought information
that would cause undue annoyance, and were not calculated to
lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. The parties
were unable to resolve their dispute, so Holcombe now asks
the Court to compel production of the requested records.
Chemical contends it has no obligation to produce evidence of
its wealth unless and until Holcombe establishes a prima
facie case that he is entitled to punitive damages. The Court
agrees that Holcombe must make such a showing. See Nix v.
Holbrook, No. 5:13-cv-2173-JMC, 2015 WL 791213, at *3
(D.S.C. Feb. 25, 2015) (adopting the prima-facie standard and
declining to compel production of defendant's financial
records until after plaintiff established the factual
viability of his claim for punitive damages). The Court also
agrees with Helena Chemical that Holcombe has not done so.
Therefore, the Court denies Holcombe's motion.
Court notes, however, that Holcombe has not yet been
challenged to make that showing. Often, that challenge comes
in the form of defense motions for summary judgment on
punitive damages. See, e.g., Taylor v. McGill
Envtl. Sys. of N.C., Inc., No. 7:13-CV-00270-D, 2015 WL
1125108, at *8 (E.D. N.C. Mar. 12, 2015) (denying motion to
compel production of financial records, with leave for
plaintiff to renew motion if the court denied a then-pending
motion for summary judgment on punitive damages);
Nix, 2015 WL 791213, at *3 (declining to consider
compelling production of financial records until either
plaintiff's punitive-damages claim survived a summary
judgment motion or defense declined to file such a motion).
Here, Helena Chemical has never specifically challenged
Holcombe's demand for punitive damages. It would be
illogical to fault Holcombe for not crossing a hurdle that no
one ever placed in his way.
the denial is without prejudice. Holcombe may file another
motion to compel within seven days of the date of this Order.
In the motion, Holcombe should state with particularity the
law and facts that he believes would enable a reasonable jury
to award him punitive damages. See Robinson v. Quicken
Loans Inc., No. 3:12-0981, 2013 WL 1704839, at *4 (S.D.
W.Va. Apr. 19, 2013); Hoskins v. King, 676 F.Supp.2d
441, 450 (D.S.C. 2009). If Holcombe files such a motion,
Helena Chemical shall have seven days thereafter to file a
response. No reply brief may be filed unless the Court
requests one later.
the case's procedural posture on this issue, the Court
finds it would be unjust to award Helena Chemical the
expenses it incurred resisting this motion. See Fed.
R. Civ. P. 37(a)(5)(iii).
Helena Chemical's Motion to Compel
Chemical has sought information about Holcombe's
employment history, with a focus on his prior experience
driving tractor-trailers. At his deposition, Holcombe
provided the names of some of his prior employers. However,
his memory of his career was incomplete. That prompted Helena
Chemical to later serve Holcombe with an interrogatory and
three requests for production regarding his past employment.
Helena Chemical argues Holcombe inadequately answered the
interrogatory and improperly responded to two of the