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Evans v. International Paper Company

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

April 4, 2017

Deanna Evans, Plaintiff,
International Paper Company, Defendant.


          Kaymani D. West United States Magistrate Judge

         This matter is before the court on Plaintiffs Motion to Compel. ECF No. 33. After conducting a brief informal discovery conference with counsel and having considered the Motion and Memorandum, ECF Nos. 33, 33-1; Defendant's Response, ECF No. 38; and applicable law, the court grants in part and denies in part Plaintiffs the Motion to Compel.[1]

         I. Background

         Plaintiffs Complaint in this employment matter includes claims of race and gender discrimination, unequal pay, and retaliation against Defendant International Paper ("Defendant" or "IP"). Compl, ECF No. 1-1. Plaintiff filed the Motion to Compel on January 3, 2017, which was the last day of the discovery period under the Second Amended Scheduling Order, ECF No. 31. Defendant opposes Plaintiffs Motion on both timeliness and substantive grounds. ECF No. 38. At the parties' request the court held additional scheduling deadlines in abeyance pending the parties' mediation and the ruling on the instant Motion. ECF Nos. 40, 42. The parties' mediation did not result in resolution, and, on March 28, 2017, the court conducted an informal status conference to discuss the pending Motion to Compel and other scheduling matters. At that conference counsel advised that portions of the issues raised in the Motion had been resolved, but two issues require the court's ruling.

         II. Applicable Law

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37 provides that if a party fails to respond to discovery, the party seeking discovery may move for an order compelling production. The decision to grant or to deny a motion to compel discovery rests within the broad discretion of the trial court. See Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon, Inc. v. Alpha of Va., Inc., 43 F.3d 922, 929 (4th Cir. 1995) (holding the "Court affords a district court substantial discretion in managing discovery and reviews the denial or granting of a motion to compel discovery for abuse of discretion.") (internal citation omitted); LaRouche v. Nat'l Broad. Co., Inc., 780 F.2d 1134, 1139 (4th Cir. 1986) (holding "[a] motion to compel discovery is addressed to the sound discretion of the district court."). Rule 37(d)(3) provides that when a party fails to serve written responses, "the court must require the party failing to act, the attorney advising that party, or both to pay the reasonable expenses, including attorney's fees, caused by the failure, unless the failure was substantially justified or other circumstances make an award of expenses unjust." Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(d)(3). The party opposing the discovery-here Defendant-bears the burden of demonstrating why discovery should be denied. E.g., Beazer Homes Corp. v. Hartford Fire Ins. Co., No. 4:10- cv-2419-RBH-TER, 2012 WL 6210323, at *4 (D.S.C. Dec. 13, 2012) ("The party opposing a motion to compel bears the burden [of] showing why it should not be granted."). Guided by these principles, the court considers Plaintiff's Motion.

         III. Analysis

         A. The discovery at issue

         As narrowed by Plaintiff during the informal conference, the two issues identified in Plaintiff's Motion that require the court's consideration are:

         1. Plaintiffs request that Defendant provide documents in response to Plaintiff's Second Set of Requests for Production ("2d RFPs"); and

         2. Plaintiffs request that the discovery deadline be extended to permit Plaintiff to depose IP employee Hai Ninh.

         Defendant's response to Plaintiff's 2d RFPs raised several objections, and Defendant did not produce any additional documents in response to Plaintiffs 2d RFPs. Defendant's responses include objections that the requests in the 2d RFPs were largely repetitive of Plaintiff s First Set of Requests for Production ("1st RFPs"), as to which Defendant had produced numerous documents. See Def. Resp. 2d RFPs, ECF No. 33-4. Further, Defendant objected to Plaintiff's request for electronically stored information ("ESI"), claiming the search terms prescribed by the RFPs were overly broad and ambiguous. Id.

         In opposing the Motion to Compel, Defendant first argues the Motion should be denied in its entirety because it was not timely filed based on the requirements of this District's Local Civil Rule 37.01. In addition, Defendant argues the Motion should be denied based on objections raised in responding to Plaintiffs 2d RFPs and because Defendant has already produced "all documents pertaining to the subject matter of the case that it located in its original search for documents, " except those withheld and noted on the privilege log. See Nov. 11, 2016 Letter from defense counsel Kristen Gray to Plaintiff's counsel Shannon Polvi, ECF No. 38-4. Defendant further represented it was performing an additional search of ESI within the parameters of its objections and would provide any additional documents as appropriate. Def. Mem. 2.[2] Defendant also argues Plaintiff's request to depose IP employee Ninh should be denied because it was raised far too late without a "plausible explanation for this late request." Def. Mem. 18.

         B. Communications of counsel regarding discovery at issue

         In considering Defendant's argument that Plaintiffs Motion should be denied as untimely pursuant to Local Civil Rule 37.01(A), this synopsis of the ...

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