United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Cedar Rapids Division
Williams, United States District Judge.
matter is before the Court on plaintiff's Motion to
Compel. (Doc. 81). Defendant timely filed its
resistance (Doc. 89), plaintiff timely filed a reply (Doc.
96; see also Docs. 94-95), and with leave of the
Court, defendant filed a sur-reply. (Doc. 99). For the
following reasons, plaintiff's motion is granted
in part and denied in part.
plaintiff and defendant are trucking companies that rely upon
drivers to transport goods. These drivers must either hold or
obtain commercial driver's licenses. Plaintiff alleges
that it has established a driver training program to allow
individuals to obtain such licenses. (Doc. 43, at 2).
Plaintiff further alleges that in exchange for plaintiff
training its drivers, the drivers sign a contract in which
they agree to a ten-month exclusive employment term with
plaintiff. (Id., at 2-3). The contract also appears
to contain a liquidated damages provision. (Doc. 2-1, at
2-3). Plaintiff alleges that defendant has
wrongfully recruited-and continues to recruit-plaintiff's
drivers to breach their contracts with plaintiff in favor of
working for defendant. (Doc. 43, at 4). As such, plaintiff
brought claims against defendant for intentional interference
with prospective economic advantage, unjust enrichment, and
intentional interference with contract, and seeks a permanent
injunction enjoining defendant “from any further or
continued interference with [plaintiff's] prospective
economic advantage and/or contracts with its drivers.”
(Doc. 43). The parties have encountered a number of discovery
disputes, and plaintiff now seeks to compel responses to
certain of plaintiff's requests for production and
answers to certain of plaintiff's interrogatories.
Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b) provides the scope and
limitations of discovery:
Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged
matter 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.
a discovery context, relevancy ‘has been construed
broadly to encompass any matter that bears on, or that
reasonably could lead to other matter that could bear on, any
issue that is or may be in the case.'” In re
Motion to Quash Subpoena to Bergan, Paulsen & Co.,
Nos. 7:10-cv-00434, 11-mc-00072-JSS, 2012 WL 117120, at *1
(N.D. Iowa Jan. 13, 2012) (quoting Oppenheimer Fund, Inc.
v. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 351 (1978)). The scope of
discovery is liberal in nature, and the party resisting
discovery bears the burden of showing, specifically,
“that the requested documents either do not come within
the broad scope of relevance defined pursuant to [Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1)] or are of such marginal
relevance that the potential harm occasioned by discovery
would outweigh the ordinary presumption in favor of broad
disclosure.” St. Paul Reinsurance Co. v. Comm. Fin.
Corp., 198 F.R.D. 508, 511-12 (N.D. Iowa 2000). In spite
of the broad scope of discovery, however, the propounding
party must make “[s]ome threshold showing of relevance
. . . before parties are required to open wide the doors of
discovery and to produce a variety of information which does
not reasonably bear upon the issues in the case.”
Hofer v. Mack Trucks, Inc., 981 F.2d 377, 380 (8th
served interrogatories and requests for production on
defendant on June 6, 2018. (Doc. 81, at 1). Defendant
provided objections to the requests for production on July
10, 2018, and provided unverified interrogatory answers and
objections on July 26, 2018. (Id.). Plaintiff
asserts that defendant has yet to provide verified answers,
and defendant does not dispute this contention. (Doc. 81-1,
at 2). Plaintiff now makes a number of arguments regarding
defendant's allegedly deficient discovery responses.
First, plaintiff argues that defendant waived any right to
object to plaintiff's third set of interrogatories by
failing to timely make such objections. Further, plaintiff
argues that certain discovery requests are relevant to
damages, certain are relevant to defenses defendant may
raise, and that plaintiff's attempts to expand the
electronically stored information (“ESI”)
protocol are proper. As will be discussed infra,
plaintiff made certain other discovery requests with which
defendant has since agreed to comply. Notably, plaintiff has
not sought to compel verification of defendant's
Waiver of Objections
first argues that defendant “waived its untimely
objections to interrogatories because [defendant] cannot show
good cause for the late response.” (Doc. 81-1, at 10).
Although it is unclear whether defendant's answers to
plaintiff's third set of interrogatories have been
verified at the present time, the parties agree that the
objections were untimely. (Docs. 81-1, at 11; 89, at 7-8).
Plaintiff served its interrogatories on defendant on June 6,
2018, making defendant's responses due on July 9, 2018.
(Doc. 81-3, at 24). Fed.R.Civ.P. 6(a)(1), 33(b)(2).
Defendant, however, served its answers and objections on July
26, 2018, which was seventeen days after the deadline to
timely answer and object. (Doc. 81-3, at 40). Although the
answers do not appear to have been verified by July 26, 2018,
the objections were signed by defendant's counsel in
compliance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 33(b)(5).
Rule of Civil Procedure 33(b)(4) provides that “[a]ny
ground not stated in a timely objection is waived unless the
court, for good cause, excuses the failure.” In
determining whether good cause exists to excuse a failure to
timely respond, the Court considers: 1) the length of the
delay; 2) the reason for the delay; 3) whether the responding
party acted in bad faith or engaged in any dilatory action;
4) whether the requesting party has been prejudiced; 5)
whether the request was overly burdensome; and 6) whether
waiver would impose a harsh result on the defaulting party.
E. Iowa Plastics, Inc. v. PI, Inc., No. C12-2088,
2014 WL 2121502, at *3 (N.D. Iowa May 21, 2014). Further,
modern cases trend toward allowing trial courts great
discretion in determining whether a waiver of discovery
objections has been effected. See id.; Cargill,
Inc. v. Ron Burge Trucking, Inc., 284 F.R.D. 421, 425-26
(D. Minn. 2012).
instant case, five of the six factors weigh in favor of
excusing defendant's failure to timely object to
plaintiff's interrogatories. The delay was seventeen
days, which, although not insignificant, is not extreme. It
does not appear as though defendant acted in bad faith in
delaying, as is evidenced by defendant's communication
with plaintiff throughout the process of responding to the
interrogatories. (See Doc. 81-1, at 10-11).
Likewise, the interrogatories propounded were thorough, and
defendant's responses encompassed fifty-six double-spaced
pages, with twelve-point font. This, together with
defendant's statements that defendant required more time
to respond, indicate that the delay was due to the scope of
the interrogatories and of defendant's responses thereto.
(Doc. 81-3, at 41-96).
Court has not been called upon to individually assess the
burden on defendant in responding to each interrogatory
propounded, and the Court will, therefore, decline to
determine whether the burden was undue. The Court notes,
however, that the burden defendant would incur in responding
to the interrogatories is not so minimal as to preclude any
finding of good cause for defendant's delay.
time plaintiff filed its motion, discovery was set close on
August 22, 2018, approximately one month after defendant
served its interrogatory answers and objections. (Doc. 40).
Since plaintiff filed its motion, however, the Court has
continued the trial and all then-existing deadlines,
including the deadline for completing discovery. (Docs. 86,
87). As such, discovery is now set to close on January 14,
2019, which allows plaintiff approximately six months from
the date defendant served its answers and objections to
evaluate and contest defendant's objections. Plaintiff
does not assert any basis for its claim of prejudice aside
from the then-impending discovery deadline. (See
Doc. 81-1, at 10-11). As such, the Court finds that plaintiff
has not been prejudiced by defendant's delay in objecting
to plaintiff's interrogatories.
if the Court were to hold that defendant waived its
objections by virtue of its untimely responses, such a
holding would result in an impermissibly harsh remedy. The
Court recognizes that this has been a contentious litigation
with delays on both sides and that the sheer scope of this
case has made compliance with deadlines difficult, though not
impossible. Based on the nature of this case and the course
of litigation thus far, the Court finds that it would be too
harsh a penalty to strike all of defendant's objections
to plaintiff's third set of interrogatories, especially
where the Court has not imposed such sanctions on plaintiff
for similar delays. The Court therefore declines to strike
defendant's objections to plaintiff's third set of
interrogatories. (see Doc. 81-3, at 41-96).
now to the first of plaintiff's more specific arguments,
plaintiff seeks to compel the production of financial
information sought in Interrogatory Number Eighteen, and
Request for Production Numbers Fifty-One through Fifty-Four.
The discovery requests at issue are as follows:
Interrogatory [Eighteen]: For the 2016 calendar year, state
[defendant's] average profit per driver in its fleet,
including the identification of all driver counts and revenue
and expense descriptions ...