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Folz v. Union Pacific Railroad Co.

United States District Court, S.D. California

June 23, 2014

DELBERT FOLZ, Plaintiff,
v.
UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD COMPANY, Defendant.

ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO COMPEL DEPOSITION OF JEFF WOOD AND REQUEST FOR SANCTIONS

PETER C. LEWIS, Magistrate Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Defendant filed a Motion to Compel Deposition Testimony of Jeff Wood and Request for Sanctions on May 9, 2014. (Doc. 38.) Defendant seeks to compel Mr. Wood to answer two questions, asked at his deposition on March 3, 2014, upon which Plaintiff has laid several objections including: violations of the work-product doctrine; relevance; inadmissible character evidence; and attorney-client privilege. (Doc. 51.) After Plaintiff's Response (Doc. 51) and Defendant's Reply (Doc. 54), the Court now GRANTS the motion to compel.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Underlying this motion is a simple set of uncontested facts.

Mr. Wood was hired by Plaintiff to investigate the accident in which Plaintiff was injured and precipitated Plaintiff's Complaint (Doc. 1), by interviewing a witness: Mr. Abraham Atondo. (Doc. 38-1, at 2; Doc. 51, at 1.) After interviewing Mr. Atondo, Mr. Wood prepared a written statement which Mr. Atondo refused to sign. (Doc. 38, at 2; Doc. 51, at 2.) Mr. Wood destroyed the handwritten notes he took while interviewing Mr. Atondo. (Id.)

Next, "With Mr. Atondo's refutation of the statement drafted by Mr. Wood... [Defendant] sought discovery regarding Mr. Wood's credibility as a witness." (Doc. 38-1, at 3.) In other words, Defendants deposed Mr. Wood. (See Deposition of Jeff Wood, Vol. 1. Doc. 38-3; Defendant's Exhibit "A".) At Mr. Wood's deposition, Plaintiff's counsel advised Mr. Wood not to answer two separate questions on a relevance, work-product doctrine, and attorney-client privilege grounds. (Doc. 38-3, at 16.)

III. LEGAL STANDARD

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26 provides, in general, that:

[p]arties may obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, that is relevant to the claim or defense of any party.... 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 the trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.

Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). Further, the definition of relevancy, for purpose of discovery, "has been construed broadly to encompass any matter that bears on, or that reasonably could lead to other matter that could bear on, any issue that is or may be in the case." Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v. Sanders , 437 U.S. 340, 351 (1978). The rule governing scope of discovery is liberally interpreted to permit wide-ranging discovery of all information reasonably calculated to lead to discovery of admissible evidence; but the discoverable information need not be admissible at the trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1), 28 U.S.C.A.

If a party fails to make a disclosure required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a), "any other party may move to compel disclosure and for appropriate sanctions. The motion must include a certification that the movant has in good faith conferred or attempted to confer with the party not making the disclosure in an effort to secure the disclosure without court action." Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(2)(A).

Rule 30 provides that counsel may make objections to deposition questions and "may instruct a deponent not to answer [a question] only when necessary to preserve a privilege, to enforce a limitation directed by the court, or to present a motion under Rule 30(d)(4)." Fed.R.Civ.P. 30(d)(1). Thus, attorneys representing a deponent or party may, of course, object to questions asked a witness, provided the objections are not disruptive of the proceedings. Id . Indeed, a party waives certain objections, such as to the form of questions or answers or to other errors that might be obviated, removed, or cured if promptly presented, by failing to make the objection at the deposition. Fed.R.Civ.P. 32(d)(3)(B). However, "[u]nder the plain language of Fed.R.Civ.P. 30(d)(1), counsel may instruct a deponent not to answer only when necessary to preserve a privilege, to enforce a limitation directed by the court, or to suspend a deposition in order to present a motion [for a protective order]." Resolution Trust Corp. v. Dabney , 73 F.3d 262, 266 (10th Cir.1995); Redwood v. Dobson , 476 F.3d 462, 467-69 (7th Cir.2007). Thus, A deponent may object on the basis of relevance, but may not refuse to ...


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