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White v. Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P.

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah Division

October 17, 2018

HOBART WHITE as Administrator of the Estate of Cladie Hollis, Deceased PLAINTIFF
v.
WAL-MART STORES EAST, L.P. DEFENDANT

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Lanny King, Magistrate Judge.

         Judge Greg N. Stivers referred this matter to Magistrate Judge Lanny King for resolution of all litigation planning issues, entry of scheduling orders, consideration of amendments thereto, and resolution of all non-dispositive matters, including discovery issues. (Docket # 4). This matter was reassigned to Senior Judge Thomas B. Russell. (Docket # 11). Defendant Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P. (“Wal-Mart”) filed this Motion to Quash Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Deposition Notice or to Stay Discovery. (Docket # 22). Plaintiff Hobart White[1] (“Plaintiff”) filed his opposition and Wal-Mart filed its Reply. (Docket # 28, 29). This matter is ripe for adjudication. For the reasons set forth below, Wal-Mart's Motion to Quash Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Deposition Notice or to Stay Discovery is granted in part and denied in part. (Docket # 22).

         Background

         This matter arises from an alleged slip and fall on the property of Wal-Mart stores. The parties have exchanged written discovery, and the fact discovery period closed on August 30, 2018 (Docket # 10). On August 17, 2018, Plaintiff filed Notice of its Rule 30(b)(6) deposition, which was scheduled to take place on August 20, 2018. (Docket # 16). The initial 30(b)(6) deposition notice listed 34 areas of inquiry and 14 document requests. (Id.). On August 17, 2018, Magistrate Judge King held a telephonic conference and granted Wal-Mart's oral motion to quash the 30(b)(6) deposition notice for August 20, 2018. (Docket # 18). In light of the discovery deadline on August 30, 2018 (Docket # 10), Magistrate Judge King granted Plaintiff leave to file a renewed 30(b)(6) deposition notice but required Plaintiff to limit the matters of examination to those with supporting authority. (Id.). On August 24, 2018, Plaintiff filed his renewed 30(b)(6) Notice, which listed eighteen areas of inquiry and five document requests. (Docket # 19). On September 4, 2018, Magistrate Judge King held a telephonic status conference to discuss Plaintiff's renewed 30(b)(6) deposition notice. (Docket # 26). During the conference, Plaintiff narrowed his deposition topics to the following areas of inquiry: 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8. (Id.). Plaintiff withdrew the other areas of inquiry. (Id.). Plaintiff also narrowed his document requests to items to 1 and 3 and withdrew the other items. (Id.).

         Defendant still objects to the narrowed deposition notice and asks the Court to order that Plaintiff's 30(b)(6) Deposition Notice of August 24, 2018, be quashed or, in the alternative, that all discovery be stayed until Defendant files a motion for summary judgment. In Response to the Motion to Quash, Plaintiff limited his deposition topics to areas of inquiry 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8, and his document request to the first item.

         Wal-Mart's basis for quashing the 30(b)(6) deposition is a two-fold. First, Wal-Mart contends that it has already provided the requested information by other means. Wal-Mart asserts that the taking of the noticed deposition would be unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, disproportionate, oppressive, burdensome, and harassing. Second, Wal-Mart contends that there is a clearly presented legal issue upon which the case may be resolved on summary judgment. Wal-Mart asserts that even responding to all of the areas of inquiry in the 30(b)(6) deposition notice will not support Plaintiff's claim and belief that Ms. Hollis is not the person in the video that Wal- Mart provided. Thus, Wal-Mart also argues that discovery should be stayed and Wal-Mart should be allowed to file a motion for summary judgment.

         Plaintiff's overarching argument is that the two fact witnesses that Wal-Mart provided do not bind the corporation the same way that a 30(b)(6) corporate representative can. Additionally, Plaintiff argues that the answers provided during Wal-Mart's fact-witness depositions regarding video creation, retention and destruction policies were insufficient because the fact-witnesses either did not know any answer to the questions or did not provide enough detailed answers to the questions.

         Legal Analysis

         Rule 26(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure guides the evaluation of any discovery request. Rule 26(b) 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). In assessing whether the discovery is “proportional to the needs of the case, ” courts should consider “the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties' relative access to 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.” Id.; Advisory Committee Notes 2015 Amendment. The Rule also directs that “[i]nformation within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.” Id.

         Rule 26(b)(2) addresses limitations on the frequency and extent of discovery. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2). Subpart (b)(2)(A) provides courts with the discretion to alter the limits in Rule 30 on the number and length of depositions, and the limits in Rules 34 and 36 on the number of interrogatories and requests for admissions. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(2)(A). Subpart (b)(2)(C) provides courts with the discretion to limit the frequency or extent of discovery. Specifically, Rule 26(b)(2)(C) reads as follows:

(C) When Required. On motion or on its own, the court must limit the frequency or extent of discovery otherwise allowed by these rules or by local rule if it determines that:
(i) the discovery sought is unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or can be obtained from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive;
(ii) the party seeking discovery has had ample opportunity to obtain the information by ...

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