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Accolla v. Speedway LLC

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Rock Hill Division

November 17, 2017

Elaine Accolla, Plaintiff,
v.
Speedway, LLC d/b/a Wilco Hess, John Doe No. 1, John Doe No. 2, John Doe Company No. 1 and John Doe Company No. 2, Defendants.

          ORDER

         Plaintiff Elaine Accolla (“Accolla” or “Plaintiff”) filed this action seeking damages from Defendants Speedway, LLC d/b/a Wilco Hess, John Doe No. 1, John Doe No. 2, John Doe Company No. 1 and John Doe Company No. 2 (collectively “Defendants”) for injuries Plaintiff suffered when she slipped and fell on September 9, 2014, while walking though the parking lot of premises located at State Hwy 200 in Winnsboro, South Carolina. (See ECF No. 1-1 at 3 ¶ 8- 4 ¶ 9.)

         This matter is before the court by way of Plaintiff's Motion to Compel Discovery filed on October 4, 2017. (ECF No. 19.) Defendant Speedway, LLC d/b/a Wilco Hess (“Speedway”) opposes Plaintiff's Motion in its entirety. (ECF No. 22.)

         I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND TO PENDING MOTION

         On July 27, 2017, Plaintiff served Interrogatories and Requests for Production on Speedway. (ECF No. 19-1 at 1.) On September 18, 2017, Speedway provided Plaintiff with responses to her discovery requests. (ECF No. 19-4.) Upon review of Speedway's discovery responses and/or objections, Plaintiff found deficient Speedway's Answers to Interrogatory Nos. 8, 9 and 11 and Responses to Requests for Production Nos. 13, 23, 24 and 26. (ECF No. 19-2.)

         After the parties were unable to resolve the discovery dispute resulting from the alleged deficiencies in Speedway's production, Plaintiff timely filed a Motion to Compel on October 4, 2017.[1] (Id.) On October 18, 2017, Speedway filed its Memorandum in Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion to Compel. (ECF No. 22.) Plaintiff did not file a reply in support of her Motion.

         II. JURISDICTION

         The court has subject matter jurisdiction over this action, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332, because the parties are citizens of different states and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.00. Plaintiff is a citizen and resident of the State of Florida. (ECF No. 1-1 at 2 ¶ 1.) Speedway is a Delaware limited liability company with a sole member, MPC Investment LLC, which is also a Delaware limited liability company. (ECF No. 1 at 2 ¶ 4.) Moreover, the court is satisfied that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.00 in accordance with the parties' representations. (ECF Nos. 1-1 at 7 & 1 at 1 ¶ 9.)

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         A. Discovery Generally

         Amended Rule 26 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that “[p]arties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case, . . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). “Information within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.” Id.

         The scope of discovery permitted by Fed.R.Civ.P. 26 is designed to provide a party with information reasonably necessary to afford a fair opportunity to develop its case. Nat'l Union Fire Ins. Co. of Pittsburgh, P.A. v. Murray Sheet Metal Co., Inc., 967 F.2d 980, 983 (4th Cir. 1992) (“the discovery rules are given ‘a broad and liberal treatment'”) (quoting Hickman v. Taylor, 329 U.S. 495, 507 (1947)). That said, discovery is not limitless and the court has the discretion to protect a party from “oppression” or “undue burden or expense.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c).

         B. Motions to Compel

         “If a party fails to make a disclosure” required by Fed.R.Civ.P. 26, “any other party may move to compel disclosure and for appropriate sanction” after it has “in good faith conferred or attempted to confer with the person or party failing to make disclosure or discovery in an effort to obtain it without court action.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a). Specifically, a party “may move for an order compelling an answer, designation, production, or inspection.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(3)(B). Broad discretion is afforded a district court's decision to grant or deny a motion to compel. See, e.g., Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon, Inc. v. Alpha of Va., Inc., 43 F.3d 922, 929 (4th Cir. 1995) (“This 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); Erdmann v. Preferred Research Inc., 852 F.2d 788, 792 (4th Cir. 1988); LaRouche v. Nat'l Broad. Co., 780 F.2d 1134, 1139 (4th Cir. 1986) (“A motion to compel discovery is addressed to the sound discretion of the district court.”).

         IV. ANALYSIS

         A. Overview of Discovery

         The court adheres to the basic premise that the scope of discovery under Rule 26 is defined by whether the information sought is (1) privileged, (2) relevant to a claim or defense and (3) proportional to the needs of the case. E.g., Gordon v. T.G.R. Logistics, Inc., Case No. 16-cv-00238-NDF, 2017 WL 1947537, at *2 (D. Wyo. May 10, 2017). “While the party seeking discovery has the burden to establish its relevancy and proportionality, the party objecting has the burden of showing the discovery should not be allowed and doing so through ‘clarifying, explaining and supporting its objections with competent evidence.'” Wilson v. Decibels of Or., Inc., Case No. 1:16-cv-00855-CL, 2017 WL 1943955, at *2 (D. Or. May 9, 2017) (quoting La. Pac. Corp. v. Money Mkt. 1 Institutional Inv. Dealer, 285 F.R.D. 481, 485 (N.D. Cal. 2012) (internal citations omitted). A discovery request is relevant “if there is any possibility that the information sought might be relevant to the subject matter of [the] action.” Wilson, 2017 WL 1943955, at *5 (quoting Jones v. Commander, Kan. Army Ammunitions Plant, 147 F.R.D. 248, 250 (D. Kan. 1993)). Whether a discovery request is proportional is determined by “considering the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties' relative access to the relevant information, the parties' resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1).

         With the foregoing as a backdrop, Plaintiff has filed a Motion to Compel seeking supplemental answers to Interrogatory Nos. 8, 9 and 11 and supplemental responses to Requests for Production Nos. 13, 23, 24 and 26. (ECF No. 19-1 at 2-4.) Speedway opposes the instant Motion. In their filings, the parties generally dispute the relevance and proportionality of the information considered to be responsive to the aforementioned discovery requests. Upon review and consideration of the parties' respective positions, the court adjudicates each disputed discovery request as follows:

         B. Interrogatories

         Interrogatory No. 8: List the names, last known addresses, job titles, and telephone numbers of all ...


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