United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah Division
ESTATE OF AUSTIN PATTERSON, et al. PLAINTIFFS
CONTRACT FREIGHTERS, INC., et al. DEFENDANTS
OPINION AND ORDER
KING, MAGISTRATE JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
Judge Thomas B. Russell referred this matter to Magistrate
Judge Lanny King for ruling on all discovery motions. (Docket
matter is before the Court on the motion of Plaintiffs,
Estate of Austin Patterson and Amanda Patterson, to Compel
Defendant Contract Freighters, Inc. (“Contract
Freighters”) to supplement responses to interrogatories
and to produce information. (Docket #14). Defendant Contract
Freighters filed a Response in opposition, arguing primarily
that the documents requested are not relevant and
proportional to the needs of the case. (Docket #15). This
motion is now ripe for adjudication. For the reasons detailed
below, the Plaintiffs' Motion is GRANTED in part and
DENIED in part. (Docket #14).
case arises from a wrongful death action regarding a motor
vehicle accident that occurred on March 15, 2018 in McCracken
County, Kentucky. (Docket #1). The accident involved Mr.
Austin Patterson, who was killed in the accident, and Mr.
John S. Rhee, a driver for Contract Freighters, Inc. Mr. Rhee
and Contract Freighters are both defendants in this action.
(Id.). Mrs. Amanda Patterson (Mr. Patterson's
widow), along with Mr. Michael Gibson, as the administrator
of Mr. Patterson's estate, brought this action in
McCracken Circuit Court on October 26, 2018. (Id.).
This action was subsequently removed to this Court.
the removal of the case to this Court, the parties agreed to
continue the discovery process initiated in the state court.
(Docket #15 at 2). Plaintiffs served Defendants with their
first set of discovery requests along with the Complaint, and
Defendant Contract Freighters responded to those requests on
January 10, 2019. (Id.). Senior Judge Russell
entered a Scheduling Order in this case on January 11, 2019.
(Docket #9). On February 1, 2019, Plaintiffs propounded
another set of discovery requests upon Defendants, to which
Defendants responded. (Docket #15 at 2). Disputes arose over
Defendants' responses to the discovery requests, and a
telephonic status conference was held before Judge King.
(Docket #12). During that conference, Judge King granted
leave for Plaintiffs to file a Motion to Compel regarding the
disputed discovery requests. Plaintiffs filed a Motion to
Compel on February 13, 2019. (Docket #14). Defendant Contract
Freighters responded on February 18, 2019. (Docket #15).
their Motion to Compel, Plaintiffs seek information requested
in five particular discovery requests. (Docket #14).
Plaintiffs seek Defendant Rhee's routes in the six months
preceding the wreck (Interrogatory 26), copies of reviews
performed on Defendant Contract Freighters by the Federal
Motor Carrier Safety Administration (“FMCSA”)
under 49 C.F.R. § 385.5 (Request for Production 10),
dispatch records and load reports for the truck at issue
during February 2018 (Request for Production 14), Defendant
Rhee's driver log books for the past six months (Request
for Production 19), and Defendant Rhee's trip receipts
(Request for Production 21). (Id.). Defendant
broadly responds that Plaintiffs' requests are not within
the scope of discovery, based on the concepts of relevance
and proportionality. (Docket #15 at 2).
Rule 26(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,
“[p]arties may obtain discovery regarding any
nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's
claim or defense ….” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1).
Relevance is to be “construed broadly to encompass any
matter that bears on, or that reasonably could lead to other
matter that could bear on” any party's claim or
defense. Albritton v. CVS Caremark Corp., No.
5:13-CV-00218-GNS-LLK, 2016 WL 3580790, at *3 (W.D. Ky. June
28, 2016) (citing Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v. Sanders,
437 U.S. 340, 351 (1978) (citation omitted)). However, the
scope of discovery is not unlimited. “On motion or on
its own, the court must limit the frequency or extent of
discovery … if it determines that … the burden
or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely
benefit, considering the needs of the case, the amount in
controversy, the parties' resources, the importance of
the issues at stake in the action, and the importance of
discovery in resolving the issues.” Id.
(quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2)(C)(iii)). The
determination of “the scope of discovery is within the
sound discretion of the trial court.” Cooper v.
Bower, No. 5:15-CV-249-TBR, 2018 WL 663002, at *1 (W.D.
Ky. Jan. 29, 2018), reconsideration denied, 2018 WL
1456940 (W.D. Ky. Mar. 22, 2018) (quoting Chrysler Corp.
v. Fedders Corp., 643 F.2d 1229, 1240 (6th Cir. 1981)).
Rule of Civil Procedure 33 governs interrogatories while Rule
34 governs requests to produce. Rule 33(b)(3) requires the
responding party to answer each interrogatory “to the
extent it is not objected to.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(b)(3).
Similarly, Rule 34(b)(2)(B) requires a response to a document
request to “either state that inspection and related
activities will be permitted as requested or state an
objection to the request, including the reasons, ” and
Rule 34(b)(2)(C) requires “[a]n objection to part of a
document [request] must specify the part and permit
inspection of the rest.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(b)(2)(B), (C).
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 33 and 34 are structured
such that, in combination with Rule 26(g)(1), both the
requesting party and the court may be assured that
all responsive, non-privileged materials are being
produced, except to the extent a valid objection has been
made. Heller v. City of Dallas, 303 F.R.D. 466, 487
(N.D. Tex. 2014) (citing Evans v. United Fire & Cas.
Ins. Co., 2007 WL 2323363 at *1, *3 (E.D. La. Aug. 9,
2007) (emphasis in original)). Federal Rule 33 requires that
objections be made with specificity. Janko Enterprises,
Inc. v. Long John Silver's, Inc., 2013 WL 5308802 at
*7 (W.D. Ky. Aug. 19, 2013) (“Unexplained and
unsupported ‘boilerplate' objections are clearly
party fails to answer an interrogatory submitted under Rule
33 or a request to produce submitted under Rule 34, the
discovering party may move for an order compelling an answer,
or a designation, or an order compelling inspection in
accordance with the request. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(2)(B).
Pursuant to Rule 37 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,
“a party may move for an order compelling disclosure or
discovery, ” provided that the party certifies to the
Court that 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)(1); see id. at
(a)(3)(B)(iii)-(iv) (providing that a party may move to
compel answers to interrogatories submitted under Rule 33 or
to compel an inspection requested under Rule 34). The party
who files a motion to compel discovery “bears the
burden of demonstrating relevance.” Albritton v.
CVS Caremark Corp., No. 5:13-CV-00218-GNS-LLK, 2016 WL
3580790 at *3 (W.D. Ky. June 28, 2016).
for Production 19: Defendant Rhee's Driver's
request Defendant Rhee's driver log books from September
1, 2017 to February 28, 2017. (Docket #14 at 7). Defendant
Contract Freighters argues that it has produced ten days of
Defendant Rhee's log books, from February 18, 2018 to
February 28, 2018, which is sufficient to meet the discovery
requirements of this case. (Docket #15 at 6).
argue that Defendant Rhee's log books are imperative to
their case, as they show his hours of service, whether he
drove in compliance with FMCSA safety regulations, whether he
altered his log books, and whether he had a practice or
pattern of doing so. (Docket #14 at 8). Defendant argues that
the only conceivable use of these log books is to show
Defendant Rhee's hours of service, so as to determine his
levels of fatigue at the ...