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Clayton v. TRI City Acceptance, Inc.

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

November 6, 2019




         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).

         On September 16, 2019, Judge King conducted a telephonic status conference in this case regarding multiple discovery disputes. (Docket # 43). On September 27, 2019, Defendants Tri City Acceptance, Inc. (Tri City) and Betty Byrd filed a Motion to Compel. (Docket # 46). Plaintiff Christopher Clayton filed a Response on October 9, 2019. (Docket # 50). Fully briefed, this matter is now ripe for adjudication.

         For the reasons discussed below, the Motion to Compel (Docket # 46) is GRANTED, to the extent that Plaintiff shall produce a copy of the settlement agreement between himself and Turner, Coombs & Malone (“TCM”), and submit to a deposition conducted by Defendants Tri City and Byrd on the settlement agreement and mediation associated with it, unless the Court grants a protective order on motion of TCM.


         This matter arises out of a suit, filed originally by Plaintiff Clayton in Jefferson County Circuit Court, and later removed to this Court. Plaintiff alleges Defendants Tri City and Byrd “unreasonably intruded upon [his] privacy and seclusion” when they “divulge[ed] [his] private financial and credit information to third[]parties . . . and the public at large [] by providing a copy of [his] Trans Union report during [Byrd's] deposition and testifying about the contents of the credit report on the record.” (Docket # 7 at 3). He further alleges that Defendants obtained and used the report without a permissible purpose with a willful, or at least negligent, state of mind, creating noncompliance with the FRCA, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1681b, 1681n, and 1681o. (Id., at 4-5).

         On August 9, 2019, Defendants Tri City and Byrd issued a Notice of Video Deposition of Plaintiff Clayton, to be taken on August 20, 2019. (Docket # 46-1). On August 19, 2019, Plaintiff Clayton provided his written responses to the requests for production attached to the Notice of Deposition. (Docket # 46-2). Defendants describe all of Plaintiff's responses as “deficient” but focus their Motion to Compel on a single response to request for production no. 4. (Docket # 46 at 2). This request asks for “copies of all settlement agreements, and related documents, arising from the settlement of the Plaintiff's lawsuit with TCM in Jefferson Circuit Court No. 16-CI-000087.” (Docket # 46-1 at 6). Defendants refer to a Jefferson Circuit Court Case, in which Mr. Clayton brought suit against the law firm of Turner, Coombs, and Malone for violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. 15 U.S.C. § 1692. (hereinafter “TCM case”). The suit ended in January 2018, with a settlement agreement. (Docket # 50 at 3).

         Plaintiff's deposition took place on August 20, 2019. (Docket # 46 at 2). Tri City and Byrd allege that Plaintiff's counsel instructed Plaintiff not to answer multiple questions which requested non-privileged information, attempted to coach his client, and otherwise instructed his client not to answer questions about the mediation and settlement agreement in the TCM case. (Id.). Specifically, Defendants allege that Plaintiff has placed the contents of this settlement agreement in the TCM case into issue in the present litigation, and is required to produce it. (Docket # 46). Plaintiff disagrees. (Docket # 50).

         Legal 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 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)).

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30 governs oral depositions. A party must obtain leave of Court, consistent with Rule 26(b)(1) and (2) to depose a deponent who has previously been deposed in the case. Fed.R.Civ.P. 30(a)(2)(ii). Rule 30 further provides that the party seeking a deposition may attach a subpoena duces tecum, designating materials for production at the deposition. Fed.R.Civ.P. 30(b)(2). This notice must be accompanied by a request for production, which is governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 34.

         Federal 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 improper.”).

         If a 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, “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).


         The ...

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