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Clayton v. Tri City Acceptance, Inc.

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

October 24, 2019



          Lanny King, Magistrate Judge.

         Judge David J. Hale 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 is before the Court on Defendant Trans Union, LLC's (hereinafter “Trans Union”) Motion for Protective Order. (Docket # 31). Plaintiff Christopher Clayton has filed a Response (Docket # 39) and Trans Union has filed a Reply. (Docket # 41). This matter is ripe for adjudication.

         For the reasons detailed below, Trans Union's Motion for Protective Order is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART. (Docket # 31).

         Factual and Procedural History

         On May 8, 2018, Plaintiff filed this suit in Jefferson Circuit Court, alleging Trans Union violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq. (Docket # 1-2 at 6-7). The suit stems from a request by Defendant Tri-City Acceptance for Plaintiff's Trans Union consumer report. (Id. at 4). Plaintiff alleges that Trans Union violated 15 U.S.C. § 1681b(a) by “furnishing the consumer report to a person it knew or should have known did not have a permissible purpose to use the information.” (Docket # 39 at 2).

         Discovery began and Plaintiff requested several documents from Defendant Trans Union. Three requested categories of documents are the subject of this Motion: (1) Trans Union's “Journal 20” Records[1]; (2) Trans Union subscriber agreement with Defendant Tri City Acceptance, Inc. (hereinafter “Tri City”); and (3) Trans Union's FRCA compliance procedures and policies. (Docket # 31 at 3). Defendant believes these documents are not relevant to the case at hand but has agreed to produce them if Plaintiff agrees to maintain confidentiality regarding the documents, or if the Court enters a stipulated protective order. (Id.). Plaintiff has refused these terms.

         On July 23, 2019, the Court held a telephonic status conference, during which the parties brought this dispute to the Court's attention. (Docket # 26). The Court granted leave for Defendant to file its Motion for Protective Order (Docket # 31).

         Legal Standard

         Relevance Standard

         Under 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 the 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)).

         Standard for Entry of Protective Orders

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(c)(1)(G) provides that a court may, for good cause, issue an order to protect a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense, by requiring that a trade secret or other confidential research, development, or commercial information not be revealed or be revealed only in a specified way. Thus, to satisfy Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(c)(1)(G), the movant must show that: (1) the interest for which the protection is sought is an actual trade secret or other confidential business information that is protected under the rule; and (2) there is good cause for the entry of the protective order. Borum v. Smith, No. 4:17-CV-00017-JHM, 2017 WL 2588433, at *1-2 (W.D. Ky. June 14, 2017) (citing Mitchell v. Home Depot U.S.A., No. 3:11-CV-332, 2012 WL 2192279, at *2 (W.D. Ky. June 14, 2013).

         Generally, “pretrial-discovery proceedings are conducted in public unless compelling reasons exist to deny access.” Waelde v. Merck, Sharp & Dohme, 94 F.R.D. 27, 28 (E.D. Mich. 1981).[2] Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(c) allows the Court to enter a protective order “for good cause shown” to protect a party's information from the public eye or shield it to the point that disclosure may only occur in a proscribed manner. When a business seeks the protection of trade secrets or confidential information under this rule, it must show that disclosure would cause “clearly defined and very serious injury.” Id. “[V]ague and conclusory allegations of confidentiality and competitive harm are insufficient. The movant must make ‘a particularized showing that the information sought is confidential' and come forth with ‘specific examples' of competitive harm.” Id. (quoting Parsons v. General Motors Corp., 85 F.R.D. 724, 726 (N.D.Ga. 1980)).

         To demonstrate an entitlement to protection, a party must identify a particular document and connect disclosure of that document to a specific negative economic repercussion. See Ingalsbe v. Henderson Health Facilities, L.P., No. 4:16-CV-00070-JHM, 2017 WL 1147492, at *2-3 (W.D. Ky. March 27, 2017. Owens v. Liberty Life Assur. Co., 4:15-CV-00071-JHM-HBB, 2016 WL 7238816, at *3-4 (W.D. Ky. Dec. 14, 2016).


         Trans Union seeks a protective order pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(c) as to: 1) its record capturing report request information stored on its internally developed computer programs (Trans Union refers to them as “OIOL”, and Clayton refers to them as “Journal 20” records); 2) Trans Union's ...

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