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Betty Ann Bird v. Psc Holdings I

March 18, 2013


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Nita L. Stormes U.S. Magistrate Judge United States District Court


Currently pending before this Court is the parties' joint motion for determination of discovery disputes. (Dkt. No. 15.) The Court heard oral argument on March 13, 2013. Joann Rezzo, Esq., appeared on behalf of Plaintiff, and Michael Kun, Esq., appeared on behalf of Defendants.


The joint motion concerns Plaintiff's responses to Defendants' written discovery demands, served on November 29 or November 30, 2012. (Dkt. Nos. 15-2 ¶ 2; 15-6 ¶ 2.) As stated in the scheduling order issued in this action, any discovery dispute must be brought to the Court's attention by joint motion. (Dkt. No. 9 ¶ 2.) With respect to written discovery, a joint motion is due within forty-five days of the service of the initial response.*fn1 Id. at 6. Accordingly, the deadline for a joint motion for determination of discovery dispute with respect to the November 2012 responses was January 14, 2013. This motion was filed on February 11, 2013. (Dkt. No. 15.) Defendants argue that the forty-five day period for bringing the joint motion began to run on December 24, 2012, the date Plaintiff served her supplemental responses to Defendants' demands. (Dkt. No. 15-1 at 9.) As discussed in an earlier Order from this Court, this position is incorrect.

Dkt. No. 19.

Defendants state that the demands in question were served by only one of the Defendants in this action; therefore, even if this joint motion is untimely, any of the other Defendants may serve the demands and the clock for the joint motion deadline would then start over. (Dkt. No. 15-1 at 11.) Indeed, Defendant PSC Environmental Services LLC subsequently served three demands similar to those in issue here. (Dkt. No. 15-2 at 13-24.)

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(2)(C), this Court has an obligation to limit discovery that is unreasonably cumulative or duplicative. Although there are five named Defendants in this action, they are related closely enough to warrant singular treatment in the complaint, and all employ the same counsel. Repeated demands for the same information made piecemeal by each Defendant through the same counsel is clearly duplicative, especially when it appears motivated by a desire to do an end-run around the deadlines set by this Court.*fn2 All parties are advised that any discovery demands which are substantially similar to previous demands will not re-start the clock for filing a discovery motion, and may be grounds for a protective order.*fn3

Accordingly, the pending joint motion is untimely. However, this Court chooses to exercise its discretion and address the merits.


A. General Discovery Principles

When a federal court sits in diversity, as is the case here, it must apply state substantive law and federal procedural law. Gasperini v. Center for Humanities, Inc., 518 U.S. 415, 427 (1996). The purpose of discovery is to "remove surprise from trial preparation so the parties can obtain evidence necessary to evaluate and resolve their dispute." U.S. ex rel. O'Connell v. Chapman University, 245 F.R.D. 646, 648 (C.D. Cal. 2007) (internal quotation omitted). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) offers guidance as to the scope of discovery permitted in an action:

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...Relevant information need not be admissible at the trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. "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 of clarifying, explaining or supporting its objections." Bryant v. Ochoa, No. 07cv200 JM (PCL), 2009 WL 1390794 at * 1 (S.D. Cal. May 14, 2009) (internal citation omitted). Those opposing discovery are "required to carry a heavy burden of showing" why discovery should be denied. Blankenship v. Hearst Corp., 519 F.2d 418, 429 (9th Cir. 1975). District courts have broad discretion when determining relevancy for discovery purposes. See Hallett v. Morgan, 296 F.3d 732, 751 (9th Cir. 2002). However, this discretion should be balanced with the obligation to interpret the Rules in order to secure a "just, speedy, and inexpensive determination" of the action. Fed. R. Civ. P. 1. Additionally, this Court has the power to restrict discovery when it is necessary to prevent "annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense[.]" Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(c).

On January 18, 2013, the parties jointly moved for the entry of an agreed-upon protective order governing materials produced by a third party, Heidrick & Struggles, Inc. (Dkt. No. 13.) This Court granted the joint motion and entered a slightly modified protective order for those materials. (Dkt. ...

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