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Geneva Lema v. Comfort Inn

January 11, 2012

GENEVA LEMA,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
COMFORT INN, MERCED, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.
GENEVA LEMA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COURTYARD MARRIOTT, MERCED, ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sandra M. Snyder United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER COMPELLING DEFENDANTS' ANSWERS TO PLAINTIFF'S INTERROGATORIES, SETS ONE AND TWO (Doc. 43)

(Doc. 43)

Plaintiff Geneva Lema, by her attorney Timothy S. Thimesch, moves this Court for an order compelling Defendants to respond to Set One, Interrogatories 6 and 8, and Set Two, Interrogatory 18, in each of the consolidated cases.

I. Procedural and Factual Background

In their Rule 26(f) Discovery Plan (Doc. 17 (No. 1:10-cv-00362-SMS)), filed July 7, 2010, the parties provided the following limitation on discovery:

Joint. Interrogatories and Requests for Admission: 50. The parties additionally stipulate to the use of a single interrogatory styled after Form Interrogatory 17.0 of the state Judicial Council Form Interrogatories, which permits the parties to seek additional information as to each denial of Requests for Admission. Use of this form interrogatory shall be permitted by global reference, and shall not be counted to reduce the allowed 50 interrogatories.

Doc. 17 at 6.

On July 5, 2010, Plaintiff served two sets of interrogatories. Set One had seventeen questions; Set Two had one question. As a result of several agreements between the parties, Defendant's answers to interrogatories were not due until August 31, 2011.

A scheduling conference order in 1:10-cv-00362-SMS was filed July 14, 2010. Also on July 14, 2010, the District Court consolidated the two cases captioned above for case management purposes only (Doc. 15 (No. 1:10-cv-01131-SMS)). On October 28, 2010, the scheduling conference order in 1:10-cv-01131-SMS incorporated the Rule 26(f) Discovery Plan.

An order granting Defendants' motion to substitute attorney was entered July 5, 2011 and again on July 26, 2011. In granting Defendants' second motion, the Magistrate Judge emphasized that Defendants had repeatedly missed deadlines, were over two months late in producing their expert report, and had repeatedly upset the Court's calendar as well as past scheduled conferences. Defendants' new counsel, J.M. Irigoyen, assured the Magistrate Judge that he had sufficient time to devote the demands of the consolidated cases. The parties participated in a status conference on July 27, 2011; a new scheduling conference order was entered on August 4, 2011.

On August 31, 2011, Irigoyen requested a three-week extension of time to respond to Plaintiff's interrogatories. Plaintiff offered a one-week extension provided that Defendants would agree to a list of conditions including Defendants' agreeing to a mandatory pre-settlement meeting between counsel and to meet and confer before lodging objections to discovery. Defendants rejected the requested conditions. Accordingly, in a letter dated September 1, 2011, Plaintiff's counsel, Timothy S. Thimesch emphasized that the parties had not agreed on an extension and that, by failing to file response to interrogatories on time, Defendants had waived all objections. Thimesch demanded service of the answers, threatening motions to compel and requests for sanctions if Defendants' lack of a timely response obstructed information needed for depositions scheduled for mid-September (Doc. 44-1).

On September 16, 2011, Defendants filed their responses to Plaintiff's interrogatories. On Set One, they answered questions 1-5, 7, and 9-17, but objected to questions six and eight; they also objected to Interrogatory 18, the sole interrogatory in Set Two. In each case, Defendants wrote, "Defendants object to this interrogatory on the ground that it is compound and constitutes multiple interrogatories in excess of Rule 33's numerical limit." Defendants did not object to the interrogatories that they answered.

On September 22, 2011, following the depositions scheduled for that day, the parties met and conferred regarding the discovery dispute that gives rise to this motion. Irigoyen promised to respond within 24 hours. Instead, on October 24, 2011, Defendants provided revised response to the interrogatories in which the objection was rephrased to read: "Defendants object to this interrogatory on the ground that it is compound and constitutes multiple interrogatories in excess of Rule 33's numerical limit. Defendants contend that any stipulation with former counsel waiving the numerical limits is invalid and in any event Defendants repudiate it." (Doc. 46 at 5)

On November 29, 2011, Plaintiff moved to compel answers to her interrogatories. The parties filed a joint statement outlining ...


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