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Benjamin v. Sparks

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Eastern Division

April 26, 2017

NICHOLAS SPARKS, et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the court on Defendants' motion to compel discovery pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 26 and 37 [DE #109]. Plaintiff has responded [DE #114]. This matter has been referred to the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) for disposition. For the reasons stated below, Defendant's motion to compel is granted in part and denied in part.


         Plaintiff filed his initial compliant [DE #1] on October 2, 2014, and amended that complaint on May 28, 2015 [DE #51]. Plaintiff entered into an employment contract with Defendants in February 2013 (Am. Compl. [DE #51] ¶ 20 at 6); this contract was allegedly terminated on November 22, 2013 (Am. Compl. ¶ 116 at 27). The Amended Complaint alleges, inter alia, that Defendants breached an employment contract with Plaintiff; discriminated and retaliated against Plaintiff in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, Title VII, and the Americans with Disabilities Act; and committed various torts, including defamation concerning Plaintiff's mental health and physical abilities. (Am. Compl. at 28-43.) Plaintiff alleges emotional distress and mental anguish as a result of many of Defendants' alleged actions that form the basis of Plaintiff's lawsuit. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 122, 127, 132, 137, 142, 147, 152, 177-78, 186(c), 191(d), 195, 198, 203.)

         This Order concerns a discovery dispute regarding Plaintiff's resistance to Defendants' Interrogatories 12 and 22 and Requests for Production of Documents (“RPD”) 12 and 39. (Defs.' Mot. Compel [DE #109] at 3.)


         Defendants seek Plaintiff's full response to Interrogatories 12 and 22 and RPDs 12 and 39. Plaintiff opposes said Interrogatories and RPDs, in general, on the ground that said requests for information are overbroad.

Rule 26 provides for a broad scope 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.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). Relevance “has been broadly construed to encompass ‘any possibility' that the information sought may be relevant to the claim or defense of any party, ” and the burden rests on the party resisting discovery to demonstrate that discovery should not be had. EEOC v. Sheffield Fin., LLC, No. 1:06CV00889, 2007 WL 1726560, at *3 (M.D. N.C. June 13, 2007).

         Rule 26 requires the court to limit the frequency or extent of discovery if “the discovery sought is unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or can be obtained from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive”; “the party seeking discovery has had ample opportunity to obtain the information by discovery in the action”; or the discovery sought is outside the scope of Rule 26(b)(1). Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(2)(C). The rule also authorizes the court to impose appropriate limitations on discovery in order “to protect a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c)(1). Such protective orders may include, inter alia, provisions “forbidding the disclosure or discovery, ” “prescribing a discovery method other than the one selected by the party seeking discovery, ” or “forbidding inquiry into certain matters, or limiting the scope of disclosure or discovery to certain matters.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c)(1)(A), (c)(1)(C), (c)(1)(D).

         Rule 37 permits a party to move to compel cooperation with discovery requests so long as that party certifies 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). The local rules of this district similarly require that counsel “certify that there has been a good faith effort to resolve discovery disputes prior to the filing of any discovery motions.” Local Civil Rule 7.1. (c)(2); see generally Boykin Anchor Co., Inc. v. Wong, No. 5:10-CV-591-FL, 2011 WL 5599283, at *3 (E.D. N.C. Nov. 17, 2011) (describing discovery motion requirements under federal and local rules). Here, Defendants have made this certification (Defs.' Mot. Compel ¶ 8 at 3), and the documented correspondence contained in the parties' respective filings confirms that such good faith effort has been engaged in by both parties (Pl.'s Decl. Supp. Mem. Opp. Mot. Compel (“Pl.'s Decl.”) [DE #115] Exs. 6-9; Defs.' Decl. Michael W. Cromwell (“Cromwell Decl.”) [DE #116] Exs. F-U).

         As a final preliminary matter, Defendants argue that Plaintiff waived his objections to the contested interrogatories and RPDs by including only “boilerplate” objections. (Defs.' Mem. Supp. Mot. Compel [DE #111] at 3.) The court disagrees. First, as discussed below, some of the “boilerplate” objections provide legitimate legal bases for objection. Second, as Plaintiff notes (Pl.'s Mem. Opp. Mot. Compel at 3-4), the written correspondence from Plaintiff describes with increased specificity Plaintiff's objections and proposed compromises (Pl.'s Decl., Exs. 6, 9).

         A. ...

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