United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
B. Russell, Senior Judge
matter is before the Court on Defendants Lindy W. Duhon,
Lindy Duhon Trucking, LLC, Forward Air, Inc., Forward Air
Corporation, FAF, Inc. (TN), Forward Air Services LLC,
Forward Air Solutions, Inc., Forward Air Technology and
Logistics Services, Element Financial Corp., Element Fleet
Management Corp., Element Transportation Asset Trust, Element
Transportation, LLC, 19th Capital Group, LLC, and 19th
Capital Group, Inc.'s Objection to Magistrate Judge's
Opinion and Order Compelling Discovery. [DN 66]. Plaintiffs
responded, [DN 102], and this matter is ripe for
adjudication. For the reasons stated herein: Defendants'
Objection to Magistrate Judge's Opinion and Order
Compelling Discovery is SUSTAINED IN PART and OVERRULED IN
approximately 2:00AM on September 30, 2017, Plaintiff J.B.
Burrell Jr. was driving a commercial vehicle westbound on
Interstate 24 while his wife, Plaintiff Marie Burrell, slept
in the vehicle's sleeper compartment. [DN 1-4 at 9].
Further ahead on Interstate 24, Defendant Lindy Duhon was
driving a tractor trailer. Id. At some point, Mr.
Duhon lost control of the tractor trailer, causing the
vehicle to enter the unpaved median and fall on its side.
Id. The tractor trailer landed with its wheels off
the ground and the underside of the vehicle blocking both
lanes of westbound Interstate 24. Id. Mr.
Burrell's vehicle collided with Mr. Duhon's trailer,
resulting in injuries to Mr. and Mrs. Burrell. Id.
addition to Mr. Duhon, Plaintiffs allege the involvement of
fourteen other defendants on the basis that each entity had a
legal relationship with Mr. Duhon at the time of the
collision. Id. at 10. The Complaint contains six
counts, including (1) negligence, (2) negligence per se, (3)
strict liability, (4) vicarious liability, (5) negligent
hiring, retention, supervision, and training, and (6) gross
negligence. Id. at 10-14.
Complaint was filed in Marshall Circuit Court on August 24,
2018, and the case was removed to federal court on September
19, 2018. [DN 1]. Subsequently, the Court referred all
discovery-related disputes to Magistrate Judge King. [DN 23].
Plaintiffs then filed a Motion to Compel certain discovery
from Defendants. [DN 33]. Defendants responded, [DN 34], and
Plaintiffs replied, [DN 35]. Magistrate Judge King issued an
Opinion and Order granting in part and denying in part
Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel. [DN 62]. Defendants then
filed the Objection to the Magistrate Judge's Opinion and
Order currently before the Court. [DN 66].
party timely assigns error to a magistrate judge's
nondispositive order, this Court “has authority to
‘reconsider' the determination, but under a limited
standard of review.” Massey v. City of
Ferndale, 7 F.3d 506, 509 (6th Cir. 1993) (citing 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A)). Under that standard, a
magistrate judge's determination must be affirmed unless
the objecting party demonstrates that the order is
“clearly erroneous or contrary to law.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1)(A); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a)
(implementing statutory directive). “The ‘clearly
erroneous' standard applies only to factual findings made
by the Magistrate Judge, while [his] legal conclusions will
be reviewed under the more lenient ‘contrary to
law' standard.” EEOC v. Burlington N. &
Santa Fe Ry. Co., 621 F.Supp.2d 603, 605 (W.D. Tenn.
2009) (alteration in original) (quoting Gandee v.
Glaser, 785 F.Supp. 684, 686 (S.D. Ohio 1992), aff'd
per curiam, 19 F.3d 1432 (6th Cir. 1994) (unpublished table
disposition)) (internal quotation marks omitted). A factual
finding is clearly erroneous where the Court is left
“with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake
has been committed.” Max Trucking, LLC v. Liberty
Mut. Ins. Corp., 802 F.3d 793, 808 (6th Cir. 2015)
(citing Anderson v. City of Bessemer City, 470 U.S.
564, 573 (1985)). A legal conclusion is contrary to law if it
contradicts or ignores applicable precepts of law.
Sedgwick Ins. v. F.A.B.E. Custom Downstream Sys.,
Inc., 47 F.Supp.3d 536, 538 (E.D. Mich. 2014).
object to the Magistrate Judge's Opinion and Order
regarding Interrogatories 5, 8, 9, 13, 16, 20, and 21. [DN
66]. The Court addresses the merits of those objections
Interrogatory No. 5
Defendants argue that the Magistrate Judge erred when he
ordered Defendants to identify, “the sources(s),
amount(s), manner(s), and extent(s) of all compensation and
payments to Defendants Lindy W. Duhon, [and] Lindy Duhon
Trucking, LLC.” [DN 66 at 804]. Defendants claim that
the Magistrate Judge's purpose in compelling the
production of this information was that it was relevant to
whether Defendants are vicariously liable for Duhon's
actions at the time of the collision. Id. at 805.
However, Defendants argue that they conceded the relationship
necessary to prove vicarious liability in their Answer when
they stated that Duhon was a statutory employee of Defendant
FAF, Inc. (TN) at the time of the accident. Id.; [DN
1-3 at 27]. Thus, Defendants claim that payments made to
Duhon and Lindy Duhon Trucking, LLC are irrelevant and it
“is contrary to law to compel production of a
defendant's sensitive financial information to
‘prove' an uncontested issue.” [DN 66 at
Rule of Civil Procedure 26 allows parties to “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); see also
Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b) Advisory Committee's Note to 2015
Amendment. 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. Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v.
Sanders,437 U.S. 340, 351 (1978). The proponent of a
motion to compel discovery bears the initial burden of
demonstrating relevance. See Gruenbaum v. Werner Enters.,
Inc.,270 F.R.D. 298, 302 (S.D. Ohio 2010); Anderson
v. Dillard's, Inc.,251 F.R.D. 307, 309-10 (W.D.
Tenn. 2008). Considering the spirit and purpose of the Civil
Rules, however, that threshold is relatively low. See
John Wiley & Sons, Inc. v. Book Dog Books, LLC, 298
F.R.D. 184, 186 (S.D.N.Y. 2014); Wrangen v. Pa.
Lumbermans Mut. Ins. Co.,593 F.Supp.2d 1273, 1278 (S.D.
Fla. 2008). The Court has considerable discretion when
handling discovery matters, such as deciding if information
might be relevant. See S.S. v. E. Ky. Univ., 532
F.3d 445, 451 (6th Cir. 2008); Chrysler Corp. v. Fedders
Corp.,643 F.2d 1229, 1240 (6th Cir. 1981); see also
Heathman v. U.S. Dist. Court for Cent. Dist. of Cal.,
503 F.2d 1032, 1035 (9th Cir. 1974)
(“‘Relevance' on discovery has a very broad
meaning, and the question is for the district court.”
(citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1)) (citation omitted)).
Plaintiffs satisfied their burden of demonstrating the
relevance of payments or compensation Defendants made to
Duhon or Lindy Duhon Trucking, LLC. As noted by the
Magistrate Judge, this information is relevant to
Plaintiffs' claim that Defendants are vicariously liable
for Duhon's actions at the time of the collision. The
fact that Defendants conceded in their Answer that Duhon was
a statutory employee of FAF, Inc. (TN) at the time of the
accident does not ...