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Wilson v. Fairfield Inn Suites - Marriott, RDU

United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina

April 25, 2017

NATHAN E. WILSON, Plaintiff,
v.
FAIRFIELD INN SUITES-MARRIOTT, RDU, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          L. Patrick Auld United States Magistrate Judge.

         This matter comes before the Court on “Defendant's Motion to Compel Plaintiff's Responses to Defendant's Discovery Requests” (Docket Entry 37 (the “Motion to Compel”)) and Plaintiff's “Motion [for an] Extension of Time to Answer Defendant Discovery Demands and Serve Discovery Requests for Answer” (Docket Entry 39 (the “Extension Motion”)). For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant the Motion to Compel and deny the Extension Motion.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff's pro se Amended Complaint alleges disability discrimination by Defendant in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. (See Docket Entry 7 at 1.)[1] At the Initial Pretrial Conference, the Court set a discovery deadline of April 30, 2017. (See Text Order dated Oct. 31, 2016 (adopting, in relevant part, Docket Entry 18); see also Docket Entry 18 at 2 (“The date for the completion of all discovery (general and expert) should be April 30, 2017.”).) On December 30, 2016, Defendant served on Plaintiff its first set of interrogatories and first request for production of documents (the “Discovery Requests”). (Docket Entry 38-2 at 2; see also Docket Entry 38-1 (providing copy of the Discovery Requests).) On January 19, 2017, Plaintiff moved for an indefinite extension of time to respond to the Discovery Requests (Docket Entry 26), but the Court denied that motion on January 27, 2017 (Text Order dated Jan. 27, 2017).

         On February 10, 2017, Defendant emailed Plaintiff to inquire about the status of the Discovery Requests (Docket Entry 38-2 at 2; see also id. at 5)). On February 13, 2017, Plaintiff responded to Defendant's email, stating, inter alia, that he “request[ed] a specific time-frame to answer discovery after 2/17/17.” (Id. at 7 (emphasis in original) (all-caps font omitted); see also id. at 2-3.) On February 20, 2017, Defendant emailed Plaintiff, requesting that he respond within ten days to the Discovery Requests or, in the alternative, schedule a telephone conference to discuss discovery issues. (Id. at 3; see also id. at 13.)

         On February 27, 2017, Plaintiff filed another motion seeking a lengthy extension of time to respond to Defendant's Discovery Requests. (Docket Entry 31.) On March 3, 2017, the Court denied that motion (Docket Entry 34), and, that same day, Defendant emailed Plaintiff asking that he provide either responses to the Discovery Requests by March 10, 2017, or a time when he could discuss discovery issues (Docket Entry 38-2 at 3; see also id. at 15). In that same email, Defendant advised Plaintiff that it would pursue a motion to compel if he did not respond. (See id. at 15.) Plaintiff failed to respond to either Defendant's email or the Discovery Requests. (Id. at 3; see also Docket Entry 38 at 1 (“Plaintiff has steadfastly failed and refused to provide any response to Defendant's [Discovery Requests].”).)

         As a result, Defendant filed the Motion to Compel. (Docket Entry 37; see also Docket Entry 38 (supporting memorandum).)[2] In response, Plaintiff filed the Extension Motion (Docket Entry 39) requesting an additional 90 days from April 6, 2017, to respond to the Discovery Requests (see id. at 1). Defendant has opposed any further extension. (See Docket Entry 40.)

         DISCUSSION

         A. Motion to Compel

         “The purpose of discovery is to provide a mechanism for making relevant information available to the litigants.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26 advisory committee's note, 1983 amend. Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (the “Rules”), “[u]nless otherwise limited by court order, . . . [p]arties 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 . . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). Traditionally, the party opposing discovery bears the burden in a discovery dispute. See Hughes v. Research Triangle Inst., No. 1:11CV546, 2014 WL 4384078, at *2 (M.D. N.C. Sept. 3, 2014) (observing that “district judges and magistrate judges in the Fourth Circuit (including members of this Court) have repeatedly ruled that the party or person resisting discovery, not the party moving to compel discovery, bears the burden of persuasion” (citing Kinetic Concepts, Inc. v. ConvaTec Inc., 268 F.R.D. 226, 243-44 (M.D. N.C. 2010))).[3]

         Under the Rules, “a party may serve on any other party . . . written interrogatories.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(a)(1). “Each interrogatory must, to the extent it is not objected to, be answered separately and fully in writing under oath.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(b)(3). “The responding party must serve its answers and any objections within 30 days after being served with the interrogatories.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(b)(2).

         In addition, the Rules authorize any party to “serve on any other party a request . . . to produce and permit the requesting party or its representative to inspect, copy, test, or sample [designated documents or electronically stored information] in the responding party's possession, custody, or control.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(a). “The party to whom the request is directed must respond in writing within 30 days after being served.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(b)(2)(A). “For each item or category, the response must either state that inspection and related activities will be permitted as requested or state with specificity the grounds for objecting to the request, including the reasons.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(b)(2)(B). The Rules further authorize “[a] party seeking discovery [to] move for an order compelling an answer, designation, production, or inspection” to discovery requests if “a party fails to answer an interrogatory submitted under Rule 33” or “fails to produce documents or fails to respond that inspection will be permitted -or fails to permit inspection - as requested under Rule 34.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(3)(B).

         In this case, the Court has reviewed the Discovery Requests (Docket Entry 38-1) and found no obvious defects or improprieties. However, Plaintiff's Extension Motion contains numerous statements, arguments, and/or requests that the Court construes as objections to the Discovery Requests. First, the Extension Motion “requests the Court order referral of this case to the E.E.O.C. for further review and representation for Discovery Demands and trial.” (Docket Entry 39 at 2 (emphasis in original) (citing E.E.O.C. v. Sappyann Inc., No. 1:16CV104 (M.D. N.C. 2016)); see also id. at 3.) In that regard, the Court generally does not refer cases to the E.E.O.C., and the E.E.O.C. elected not to pursue Plaintiff's ADA claim(s) (see Docket Entry 2-1 at 1 (“Dismissal and Notice of Rights”)). Rather, the E.E.O.C.'s Dismissal and Notice of Rights permits Plaintiff to pursue his ADA claims in federal court. (See id. (“You may file a lawsuit against [Defendant] under federal law based on this charge in federal or state court.”).)

         Second, the Extension Motion asserts that Plaintiff “will surrender all economic recovery in this action to E.E.O.C. . . . with the exception of $100 dollars for fuel and expenses” and “consider donation to a qualified charity to benefit[] victims of domestic violence.” (Docket Entry 39 at 2.) Given that the E.E.O.C. has declined to litigate this case, Plaintiff's position on this point does not alter his obligation to respond to the Discovery Requests.

         Third, the Extension Motion “objects to Defendant['s] demands for discovery until such time as professional counsel i[s] available to avoid the fatal compromise of this case due to Plaintiff's difficulties with disability, experience and education” and Defendant's superior financial capabilities. (Id.; see also id. at 3-4.) Importantly, Plaintiff has requested appointment of counsel on three prior occasions (see Docket Entries 3, 26, 31), and the Court has sufficiently addressed (and denied) each of those requests (see Text Orders dated Oct. 31, 2016, and Jan. 27, 2017; Docket Entry 34). The Extension Motion does not contain ...


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