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Stephens v. North Carolina Department of Public Safety

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

December 11, 2017

ANGELA MILES STEPHENS, Plaintiff,
v.
NORTH CAROLINA DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY, Defendant.

          ORDER

          James E. Gates United States Magistrate Judge.

         This case comes before the court, in part, on the motion (D.E. 20) by defendant North Carolina Department of Public Safety to compel responses to discovery requests it served on plaintiff Angela Miles Stephens ("plaintiff), who is represented by counsel. Defendant also moves (D.E. 21) to amend the Scheduling Order (D.E. 17) in this case. Defendant attached to its motion to amend the Scheduling Order a purported response (D.E. 21-1) to the motion to compel served by plaintiff, though no opposition to either motion has been filed by plaintiff with the court. For the reasons set forth below, the motion to compel will be allowed, and the motion to amend the Scheduling Order will be allowed in part and denied in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case arises out of plaintiff s claims for retaliation for exercising legal rights pursuant to Title VII, 42 U.S. § 2000e-3(a), relating to her failure to be hired for positions to which she applied. Compl. (D.E. 7-1) ¶¶ 55-62. She also asserts a state-law retaliation claim for failure to hire pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 143-422.2. Id. ¶¶ 63-69. Defendant denies the material allegations in plaintiffs complaint. See generally Def.'s Ans. (D.E. 11).

         On 30 June 2017, defendant served on plaintiff its first set of interrogatories and requests for production of documents. Disc. Reqs. (D.E. 20-1). Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 5(b)(2)(C), 6(d), 33(b)(2), and 34(b)(2)(A), plaintiffs responses to the discovery requests were required to be served within 30 days. Mot. ¶¶ 2, 3. On 27 September 2017, defendant advised plaintiff that her responses were overdue. Id. ¶ 2; 27 Sept. 2017 Email to PI. (D.E. 20-2). On 18 October 2017, defendant again reminded plaintiff of the overdue responses and informed plaintiff that a motion to compel would be filed by 23 October 2017 if it did not receive the responses by that date. Mot. ¶ 3; 18 Oct. 2017 Email to PI. (D.E. 20-3). In a responsive email, plaintiff assured defendant that responses would be served by that deadline. 18 Oct. 2017 Email to Def. (D.E. 20-3). Plaintiff served no discovery responses and on 24 October 2017, defendant filed the instant motion.

         As noted, in connection with its motion to amend the Scheduling Order, defendant annexed a purported response to the motion to compel from plaintiff stating that she "will respond to the Defendant's discovery responses within two days of the entry of any order on this motion." 7 Nov. 2017 Resp. (D.E. 21-1). Aside from this document provided by defendant, [1]plaintiff did not properly file with the court any response to the motion to compel or motion to amend the Scheduling Order.

         II. APPLICABLE LEGAL PRINCIPLES

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure enable parties to obtain information by serving requests for discovery on each other, including interrogatories and requests for production of documents. See generally Fed. R. Civ. P. 26-37. 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).

         The district court has broad discretion in determining relevance for discovery purposes. Seaside Farm, Inc. v. United States, 842 F.3d 853, 860 (4th Cir. 2016); Watson v. Lowcountry Red Cross, 974 F.2d 482, 489 (4th Cir. 1992). The party resisting discovery bears the burden of establishing the legitimacy of its objections. Eramo v. Rolling Stone LLC, 314 F.R.D. 205, 209 (W.D. Va. 2016) ("[T]he party or person resisting discovery, not the party moving to compel discovery, bears the burden of persuasion." (quoting Kinetic Concepts, Inc. v. ConvaTec Inc., 268 F.R.D. 226, 243 (M.D. N.C. 2010))); Brey Corp. v. LQ Mgmt., L.L.C., No. AW-11-cv-00718-AW, 2012 WL 3127023, at *4 (D. Md. 26 Jul. 2012) ("In order to limit the scope of discovery, the 'party resisting discovery bears the burden of showing why [the discovery requests] should not be granted.'" (quoting Clere v. GC Servs., L.P., No. 3:10-cv-00795, 2011 WL 2181176, at *2 (S.D.W.Va. 3 June 2011))).

         Rule 33 governs interrogatories. Fed.R.Civ.P. 33. It provides that "[u]nless otherwise stipulated or ordered by the court, a party may serve on any other party no more than 25 written interrogatories, including all discrete subparts." Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(a)(1). Rule 33 requires that a party served with interrogatories answer each fully under oath to the extent that the party does not object to the interrogatory. Id. (b)(3). Objections not made timely are waived, subject to the court excusing the untimeliness for good cause. Id. (b)(4).

         Rule 34 governs requests for production of documents. A party asserting an objection to a particular request "must specify the part [to which it objects] and permit inspection of the rest." Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(b)(2)(C).

         When a party withholds information on the basis of privilege, including work-product protection, it must expressly assert the privilege objection in response to the particular discovery request involved. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(5)(A). In addition, the party must serve with its ...


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