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Fields v. Titan Marine

December 5, 2011

JASON FIELDS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TITAN MARINE, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Nita L. Stormes United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER RE JOINT MOTION FOR DETERMINATION OF DISCOVERY DISPUTE, GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO COMPEL

[Doc. No.14.]

INTRODUCTION

In this personal injury case Plaintiff seeks to compel the depositions of Defendant's president and four of Defendant's employees. Having considered the parties' arguments and based on the following, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's motion to compel.

RELEVANT BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, Jason Fields ("Plaintiff"), has brought this personal injury action under the Jones Act, against his employer, Defendant Titan Marine ("Titan"), a corporation that builds boats. [Doc. No. 1; Complaint ("Compl.").] Plaintiff alleges he was on shore doing repairs on Titan's prototype 75-foot sportfishing vessel, C-Bandit, when he fell through an open hatch in the forward state room suffering injuries in excess of $75,000. (Compl. ¶ 10; Joint Motion ("Mot.") at 3.)

Plaintiff alleges that at the time of the accident, he was a seaman and a member of C-Bandit's crew. (Mot. at 3.) Titan contends Plaintiff was not a "seaman" within the meaning of the Jones Act but was instead a shoreside mechanic assigned to the boat building shop on shore. (Mot. at 10.)

The Court issued a Scheduling Order setting a discovery deadline of November 1, 2011. [Doc. No. 12.] Subsequently, Plaintiff deposed two Titan employees, Richard Krug and Bruce Witt, and Defendant deposed Plaintiff. (Mot. at 1.) The depositions of three other employees, Roger Evraets, Robert McCurley, and Brian Harkins (an employee of a company affiliated with Titan) were scheduled for October 18, 2011. Plaintiff had also requested dates for the deposition of William McWethy, Titan's president, and another Titan employee, David Salinas. However, on October 14, 2011, Defendant stated its intention to file a motion for summary judgment and refused to produce the remaining individuals for deposition. (Mot. at 2.) On November 21, 2011, the parties filed this present joint motion to determine whether Defendant should be compelled to continue discovery.

DISCUSSION

(a) The Parties' Arguments

Defendant states this Court "directed the parties to delve into the seaman status issue first; to be followed by a defense motion for summary judgment testing the seaman status issue." (Mot. at 11.) Based upon this understanding, Defendant took the position that discovery was no longer necessary and that all facts for disposition of a summary judgment motion had been uncovered. Plaintiff argues discovery was not limited to the issue of whether Plaintiff was a seaman and even if that were the case, he has yet to depose individuals who could provide information that could form a basis for his opposition to the summary judgment motion.

(b) Legal Standards

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) provides: Unless otherwise limited by court order, the scope of discovery is as follows: Parties may obtain discovery regarding any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense-including the existence, description, nature, custody, condition, and location of any documents or other tangible things and the identity and location of persons who know of any discoverable matter. For good cause, the court may order discovery of any matter relevant to the subject matter involved in the action. Relevant information need not be admissible at trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. All discovery is subject to the limitations imposed by Rule 26(b)(2)(C). "Relevance for purposes of discovery is defined very broadly." Garneau v. City of Seattle, 147 F.3d 802, 812 (9th Cir. 1998). "The party seeking to compel discovery has the burden of establishing that its request satisfies the relevancy requirements of Rule 26(b)(1). Thereafter, the party opposing discovery has the burden of showing that the discovery should be prohibited, and the burden ...


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