United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Beaufort Division
C. NORTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
following matter is before the court on plaintiff Michelle
Carter's (“Carter”) motion to quash, ECF No.
12. For the reasons set forth below, the court denies the
matter arises from a car accident in which defendant Laura
Hughes (“Hughes”) allegedly rear-ended Carter on
Highway 21 in Beaufort, South Carolina. Carter filed her
complaint against Hughes with this court on December 11,
2018, in which she seeks relief for her physical injuries,
current and future medical expenses, pain and suffering,
financial loss, and punitive damages. On August 7, 2019,
Hughes served a subpoena on a records custodian at the
Research Triangle Park Customer Briefing Center requesting a
copy of Carter's employment file as a Cisco employee. ECF
No. 12-1. On August 21, 2019, Carter filed this motion to
quash, ECF No. 12, to which Hughes responded on September 9,
2019, ECF No. 13. This matter is ripe for review.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 45, a party may serve a subpoena for the
production of discoverable material on a non-party. A
district court must quash a subpoena upon timely motion when
the subpoena “subjects a person to undue burden.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 45(d)(3)(A)(iv). “The determination of
undue burden is within the discretion of the district
court.” United States ex rel. Lutz v. Berkeley
Heartlab, Inc., 2017 WL 5952689, at *1 (D.S.C. Nov. 29,
2017). Although Fed.R.Civ.P. 45 does not list irrelevance as
a ground for quashing a subpoena, the undue burden standard
encompasses situations where the subpoena seeks information
irrelevant to the case. Cook v. Howard, 484
Fed.Appx. 805, 812 n.7 (4th Cir. 2012). The scope of
discovery under a subpoena is the same as the scope of
discovery under Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b). Id. at 812.
Thus, where the basis for a motion to quash is irrelevance,
the court's analysis under Fed.R.Civ.P. 45 is the same
analysis generally applicable to discovery under Fed.R.Civ.P.
26(b). HDSherer LLC v. Nat. Molecular Testing Corp.,
292 F.R.D. 305, 308 (D.S.C. 2013).
Civ. P. 26(b) limits the scope of discovery to those
materials that are “relevant to any party's claim
or defense.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). Relevant
information need not be admissible as evidence at trial but
must appear to be “reasonably calculated to lead to the
discovery of admissible evidence.” Id.
Discoverable material must not only be relevant, but
proportional to the needs of the case as well, considering
whether “the burden or expense of the proposed
discovery outweighs its likely benefit” based on
“the amount in controversy, the parties' resources,
the importance of the issues at stake in the action, and the
importance of the discovery in resolving the issues.”
Id. at 26(b)(2)(C).
motion, Carter argues that the subpoena at issue should be
quashed pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 45(d)(3). She contends that
the subpoena subjects her to an undue burden because her
employment records “are irrelevant and immaterial to
this action, constitute discovery which is not proportional
to the needs of the case, and would be a substantial and
unreasonable invasion of [Carter's] privacy.” ECF
No. 12 at 3. Based on the arguments before the court,
Carter's position is without merit. The court
therefore denies the motion to quash.
contends that her employment records are irrelevant because
she is not claiming lost wages or loss of earning capacity as
damages. While she is not seeking damages that directly arise
out of her employment, Carter's employment records are
nevertheless relevant to her other damages claims, namely
pain and suffering and future expenses. Carter testified that
she missed work to attend physical therapy sessions. ECF No.
12-1, Carter Dep. 14:6-16:1. She further testified that she
stopped seeking physical therapy treatment because of the
demands of her job. Id. Either of Carter's
statements make her employment records relevant.
Carter's assertion that she stopped attending physical
therapy sessions on account of her job puts her employment
records in issue. Carter's decision to abandon medical
treatment has a direct bearing on her claims of pain and
suffering and future expense damages. While Carter asserts
that the car accident is the underlying cause of her damages,
her abandonment of medical treatment may be a contributing
factor thereto. Hughes is entitled to evaluate Carter's
decision to abandon her medical treatment. Carter has claimed
that this decision was based on her work; therefore, her
employment records are relevant because they are reasonably
calculated to reveal evidence of the veracity of that claim.
Additionally, Carter's claim that she missed work to
attend physical therapy sessions similarly makes her
employment records relevant. Carter's employment records
could reveal that Carter was at work when she claimed to be
attending physical therapy, or they could corroborate her
claim by showing she was absent from work. In any event,
Carter's testimony places her employment directly at
issue in analyzing her claims for pain and suffering and
future expenses. Therefore, the employment records are
relevant under Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b).
the scope of the subpoena is proportional to the needs of the
case. Hughes requests Carter's employment records for a
period of three years, starting in January of 2016, five
months before the accident. This request is properly
tailored. Further, the subpoena does not place any burden or
expense on Carter. Therefore, because Carter's employment
records are relevant to her claims and proportional to the
needs of the case, they are within the scope of discovery
under Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b). Thus, there is no basis for the
court to quash the subpoena under Fed.R.Civ.P. 45(d)(3).
foregoing reasons the court DENIES the
motion to ...