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 to Compel Rule
30(b)(6) Deposition Regarding Document Production by
Plaintiffs, Estate of Austin Patterson and Amanda Patterson
(hereinafter “Patterson”). (Docket # 25).
Defendant Contract Freighters, Inc. (hereinafter
“Contract Freighters”) filed a Response in
opposition, styled as a “Response to Plaintiffs'
Motion to Compel the Disclosure of Confidential
Attorney-Client Communications” arguing primarily that
the documents requested are not relevant and proportional to
the needs of the case. (Docket # 26). Plaintiff filed a Reply
on June 10, 2019. (Docket # 27). Fully briefed, this matter
is ripe for adjudication.
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, and it was subsequently removed to
this Court. (Id.).
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).
filed a Motion to Compel on February 13, 2019, (Docket # 14).
The Court entered an Opinion and Order granting the Motion
and requiring Defendants to produce Rhee's driver's
logs for the period from September 1, 2017 to February 28,
2018, a six-month time-frame. (Docket # 21 at 5-6).
Thereafter, Contract Freighters supplemented its discovery
responses, providing Rhee's driver logs from the period
of January 1, 2018 to February 28, 2018. (Docket # 26 at 2).
Following the production, the parties attempted to resolve
the dispute and contacted the Court to schedule a telephonic
status conference with Magistrate Judge King. (Docket # 23).
During that conference, the Court granted leave for the
Plaintiffs to file the present Motion to Compel a deposition
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30(b)(6) with regard to
document production. (Docket # 24).
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permit parties to
“obtain discovery regarding any non-privileged matter
that is relevant to any party's claim or defense. . .
.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). The purpose behind such broad
discovery is to eliminate surprise in civil litigation.
Davis v. Marathon Oil Co., 528 F.2d 395, 404 (6th
Cir. 1975). Thus, “[i]n this Circuit, the scope of
discovery is extremely broad under the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure and ‘is ... within the broad discretion of
the trial court.'” Clark Const. Group, Inc. v.
City of Memphis, 229 F.R.D. 131, 137 (W.D. Tenn. 2005)
(quoting Lewis v. ACB Business Servs. Inc., 135 F.3d
389, 402 (6th Cir.1998)).
party resisting discovery has the burden to “show that
the material sought either falls beyond the scope of
relevance, or is so marginally relevant that the potential
harms of production outweigh the presumption in favor of
broad disclosure.” Bentley v. Highlands Hosp.
Corp., No. 7:15-CV-97-ART-EBA, 2016 WL 762686, at *1
(E.D. Ky. Feb. 23, 2016). In assessing proportionality, the
Court must weigh “‘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.'” Albritton v. CVS Caremark
Corp., No. 5:13-CV-00218-GNS-LLK, 2016 WL 3580790, at *4
(W.D. Ky. June 28, 2016) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1)).
a plaintiff should not be denied access to information
necessary to establish her claim, neither may a plaintiff be
permitted to ‘go fishing' and a trial court retains
discretion to determine that a discovery request is too broad
and oppressive.” Surles ex rel Johnson v. Greyhound
Lines, Inc., 474 F.3d 288, 305 (6th Cir. 2007). A
discovery request for otherwise relevant documents may be too
broad or otherwise overly burdensome when it applies to a
generally broad category or group of documents or a broad
range of information, see Transamerica Life Inc. Co. v.
Moore, 274 F.R.D. 602, 609 (E.D. Ky. 2011), or where it
requires the producing party to incur excessive costs that
outweigh the benefits to the requesting party (Fed. R. Civ.
Civ. P. 30 permits parties to conduct discovery through use
of depositions. When a corporation is the party to be
deposed, a party must name the entity and “describe
with reasonable particularity the matters for
examination.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 30(b)(6). “The named
organization must then designate one or more officers,
directors, or managing agents, or designate other persons who
consent to testify on its behalf; and it may set out the
matters on which each person designated will testify.”
Id. A corporate designation under this Rule serves
to distinguish the testimony of a fact witness from the
testimony of the representative of the corporate entity
itself. Jecker v. Monumental Life Ins. Co., No.
3:12-CV-219-S, 2014 WL 4063568, at *1 (W.D. Ky. Aug. 15,
2014) (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 30(b)(6)).
Opinion solely addresses the need for a deposition under Rule
30(b)(6) and the ability of the designated deponent to assert
the attorney-client privilege on behalf of Defendant Contract
Freighters. For the reasons below, the Court finds
that Plaintiffs are entitled to conduct a deposition pursuant
to Rule 30(b)(6) on the retention policy, specifically as
relates to the logs and their destruction, but any ruling on
the applicability, scope, and waiver of the attorney-client
privilege is premature until ...