Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

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

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

September 18, 2018

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

          ORDER

          C.J. Williams, United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on plaintiff's Motion to Compel.[1] (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.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Both 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).[2] 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.

         II. APPLICABLE LAW

         Federal 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.

         “In 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 Cir. 1993).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff 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 interrogatory answers.

         A. Waiver of Objections

         Plaintiff 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).

         Federal 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).

         In the 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).

         The 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.

         At the 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.

         Finally, 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).

         B. Financial Information

         Turning 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 ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.