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Crst Expedited, Inc. v. Swift Transportation Co. of Arizona, LLC

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Cedar Rapids Division

July 24, 2018

CRST EXPEDITED, INC, Plaintiff,
v.
SWIFT TRANSPORTATION CO. OF ARIZONA, LLC, Defendant.

          ORDER

          C.J. WILLIAMS CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter is before the Court pursuant to plaintiff's Motion to Compel. (Doc. 57). Plaintiff seeks to obtain information pertaining to commercial truck drivers hired by defendant while under contract with plaintiff. (Doc. 57, at 6-12). Defendant timely filed its resistance to the motion. (Doc. 60). Defendant objected to the initial interrogatory and requests for information on the grounds that they were unduly burdensome, irrelevant, and not proportional to the needs of the case. (Doc. 60, at 7-12). For the following reasons, plaintiff's Motion to Compel Discovery is granted in part and denied in part.

         II. APPLICABLE LAW

         Rule 26(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides:

Unless otherwise limited by court order, the scope of discovery is as follows: Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged 1matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case, considering 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. Information within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.

Rule 26(b) is widely acknowledged as “liberal in scope and interpretation, extending to those matters which are relevant and reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.” Hofer v. Mack Trucks, Inc., 981 F.2d 377, 380 (8th Cir. 1992) (citation omitted). In the context of discovery the standard of relevance is broader than in the context of admissibility. Id. (citing Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340 (1978)). A discovery request “should be considered relevant if there is any possibility that the information sought may be relevant to the claim or defense of any party.” Catipovic v. Turley, No. C11-3074, 2013 WL 1718061, at *2 (N.D. Iowa Apr. 19, 2013) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). A broad understanding of admissibility in this context, however, “should not be misapplied so as to allow fishing expeditions in discovery.” Hofer, 981 F.2d at 380.

         The burden of making a threshold showing of relevance is on the party requesting discovery. See Seger v. Ernest-Spencer Metals, Inc., No. 8:08CV75, 2010 WL 378113, at *2 (D. Neb. Jan. 26, 2010). Once a requesting party makes a threshold showing of relevance, the burden shifts to the party objecting to the motion to compel. See Continental Ill. Nat'l Bank & Tr. Co. of Chi. v. Caton, 136 F.R.D. 682, 684-85 (D. Kan. 1991) (“All discovery requests are a burden on the party who must respond thereto. Unless the task of producing or answering is unusual, undue or extraordinary, the general rule requires the entity answering or producing the documents to bear that burden.” (citation omitted)). The party objecting has the burden to substantiate its objections. St. Paul Reinsurance Co. v. Commercial Fin. Corp., 198 F.R.D. 508, 511 (N.D. Iowa 2000) (citations omitted). A mere statement by the objecting party that the “request for production was overly broad, burdensome, oppressive and irrelevant is not adequate to voice a successful objection.” Id. (alteration, internal quotation marks, and citation omitted). Instead, the objecting party must prove “that the requested documents either do not come within the broad scope of relevance defined pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1) or else are of such marginal relevance that the potential harm occasioned by discovery would outweigh the ordinary presumption in favor of broad disclosure.” Id. (quoting Burke v. New York City Police Dep't, 115 F.R.D. 220, 224 (S.D.N.Y. 1987)).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff seeks to compel defendant to provide information pursuant to plaintiff's Interrogatory Number Five, as well as plaintiff's Requests for Production Number Twenty-Eight, Thirty-Three, and Thirty-Four. (See Docs. 57, 57-1). Defendant resists plaintiff's motion, claiming that defendant has already complied with certain requests made in Interrogatory Number Five (Doc. 60, at 4-7) and that the requests with which defendant has not complied are either overly burdensome (Id., at 7-9), irrelevant (Id.), or not proportional to the needs of the case. (Id., at 9-12).

         Plaintiff also seeks to compel defendant to provide contact information for Mr. Otto Welch, defendant's former Vice President of Recruiting, Academies, and Driver Orientation, so that plaintiff may depose Mr. Welch. Alternatively, plaintiff requests that defendant be ordered to produce Mr. Welch for deposition. (Docs. 57; 57-1, at 10-12). Defendant contends that the production of information regarding Mr. Welch is moot because the deposition of Mr. Welch has already occurred. Defendant likewise contends that plaintiff's alternative request that defendant be compelled to produce Mr. Welch for deposition is moot because this deposition has already occurred. Plaintiff does not challenge these assertions and the Court will therefore accept them as true. Accordingly, plaintiff's motion to compel the production of Otto Welch is denied as moot.

         A. Interrogatory Number Five

         Plaintiff's Interrogatory Number Five reads as follows:

Identify each driver hired by Swift (including company drivers, owner-operators, or independent contractors) who was under contract with CRST at the time of hiring, and further state (i) the date each driver was first recruited or had contact with Swift, (ii) the date each driver began driving for Swift, and (iii) the date each ...

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