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Romfo v. Scottsdale Insurance Co.

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

March 13, 2019

RANDY R. ROMFO, Plaintiff,


          James E. Gates United States Magistrate Judge

         This case comes before the court on the motion to compel (D.E. 21) by defendant Scottsdale Insurance Company ("defendant"). The motion seeks to compel plaintiff Randy R. Romfo ("plaintiff) to produce income and benefits records and/or provide signed authorizations for the release of those records. Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to the motion. See D.E. 24. For the reasons and on the terms set forth below, the motion will be allowed in part and denied in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff commenced this case in Wake County (North Carolina) Superior Court on 6 July 2017, and defendant removed it to this court on 18 August 2017. See Compl. (D.E. 1-1); Notice of Removal (D.E. 1). The case arises from injuries plaintiff suffered on 30 January 2004 in connection with tree removal work performed by Stephen Witt ("Witt"), who worked for C&S Tree Service, Inc. ("C&S Tree Service"). Compl. ¶¶ 7, 8. Plaintiff alleges that as a result of Witt's negligence, a tree limb fell on plaintiff, causing serious injuries (id. ¶ 8); at the time of the incident, plaintiff was not an employee of Witt, but an independent contractor (id. ¶¶ 10, 11); and Witt was then covered by a commercial general liability policy issued to him by defendant (id. ¶ 12).

         On 12 August 2008, in a separate action plaintiff brought in Wayne County (North Carolina) Superior Court, he obtained a judgment against Witt and C&S Tree Service for his injuries in the amount of $1.5 million. Id. ¶ 42. Plaintiff requested that defendant pay this judgment, but it refused. Id. ¶ 50. Plaintiff subsequently commenced this action.

         In his complaint, plaintiff alleges that he is an intended third-party beneficiary of the insurance policy defendant issued to Witt. Id. ¶¶ 70, 74. He asserts claims for declaratory judgment (id. ¶¶51-71) and breach of contract (id. ¶¶ 72-76) against defendant.

         On 19 June 2018, defendant served plaintiff with its first set of requests for production of documents. Def's Disc. Req. (D.E. 22-2). Plaintiff served defendant with responses, including objections, and documents on 19 July 2018. PL's Disc. Resp. (D.E. 22-3). Following conferral between counsel, plaintiff agreed to produce certain additional documents requested by defendant. After the parties could not come to an agreement on all of the outstanding requests, defendant filed the instant motion to compel, seeking either production of the documents requested or signed release authorizations for it to obtain them from third parties.


         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure enable parties to obtain information by serving requests for discovery on each other, including 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-1 l-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 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).

         Rule 37 allows for the filing of a motion to compel discovery responses. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(a)(3)(B). It requires that a motion to compel discovery "include a certification that the movant 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." Id.(a)(1). Similarly, Local Civil Rule 7.1(c), E.D. N.C. requires that "[c]ounsel must also certify that there has been a good faith effort to resolve discovery disputes prior to the filing of any discovery motions." Local Civ. R. 7.1(c), E.D.N.C; see Jones v. Broadwell, No. 5:10-CT-3223-FL, ...

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