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Makaeff v. Trump University, LLC

United States District Court, S.D. California

July 11, 2014

TARLA MAKAEFF et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
TRUMP UNIVERSITY, LLC, et al., Defendants.

ORDER ON DISCOVERY DISPUTE

WILLIAM V. GALLO, Magistrate Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

A. INSTANT DISPUTE

Pending before the Court is the parties' Joint Statement for Determination of Discovery Dispute. (Doc. No. 330.) Plaintiffs[1] ask the Court for an Order to compel Defendants[2] to provide responses to Plaintiffs' Fifth Set of Interrogatories (ROGs), which consists of ROG Nos. 32-35. (Doc. No. 330-2.) Defendants argue that Plaintiffs had exceeded their allotted number of ROGs prior to serving Set Five. (Doc. No. 330 at 7-8.)

The Court has reviewed the parties' Joint Statement, all of the ROGs at issue, several of the other relevant documents filed in this case, and listened to the arguments asserted by the parties during the Discovery Conference. For the reasons set forth below, the Court hereby SUSTAINS Defendants' objections to Plaintiffs' Fifth Set of ROGs.

B. BACKGROUND

On June 20, 2014, the Court was notified of a discovery dispute in this case, and counsel stated that they had met and conferred in person. The Court ordered the parties to file a Joint Statement about the dispute by July 2, 2014. (Doc. No. 329.) The Court also set a telephonic Discovery Conference for July 7, 2014, at 9:30 a.m. Id.

On July 2, 2014, in compliance with the Court's Order, the parties filed a Joint Statement for Determination of Discovery Dispute. (Doc. No. 330.) On July 7, 2014, at 9:30 a.m., the Court convened a telephonic Discovery Conference with counsel for all parties. Mr. Jason Forge participated on behalf of Plaintiffs, and Mr. Benjamin Morris participated on behalf of Defendants.

C. ROGS SERVED BY PLAINTIFFS

On October 11, 2011, Plaintiffs served ROGs Set One on Trump University and Mr. Trump. (Doc. No. 330 at 7.) The parties do not dispute that Plaintiffs served 9 ROGs in Set One. Id . On March 30, 2012, Plaintiffs served ROGs Set Two separately on Trump University and Mr. Trump. Id . The ROGs to Trump University were numbered 10 through 19 for a total of 10 ROGs, but Defendants state that, with discrete subparts, the total number of ROGs served was 17. Id . The ROGs to Mr. Trump were numbered 10 through 16 for a total number of seven ROGs, but Defendants state that, with discrete subparts, the total number of ROGs served was 10. Id . On November 20, 2012, Plaintiffs served ROGs Set Three on Trump University and Mr. Trump. Id . at 8. The parties do not dispute that Plaintiffs served six ROGs in Set Three. Id . On April 5, 2013, Plaintiffs served ROGs Set Four on Trump University and Mr. Trump. Id . The parties do not dispute that Plaintiffs served six ROGs in Set Four. Id . On May 8, 2014, Plaintiffs served ROGs Set Five on Trump University and Mr. Trump. Id . The ROGs were numbered 32-35 for a total of four ROGs, but Defendants state that, with discrete subparts, the total number of ROGs served was 24. Id.

The dispute about the number of ROGs served primarily focuses on Plaintiffs' ROG No. 16 to both Trump University and Mr. Trump in ROGs Set Two. ROG No. 16. states:

To the extent that any of your responses to any of Plaintiffs' requests for admissions is other than an unqualified admission, list all facts on which you based any part of your response that is not an unqualified admission, identify all documents memorializing each such fact, and identify all persons with knowledge of each such fact.

(Doc. No. 330-2 at 25.)

II. ARGUMENT

A. PLAINTIFFS' ARGUMENT

1. NUMBER OF INTERROGATORIES

a. COURT'S ORDERS

Plaintiffs contend that each Plaintiff may propound 50 ROGs. (Doc. No. 330 at 3.) To support this assertion, Plaintiffs refer to this Court's Scheduling Order Regulating Pre-Class Certification Discovery, filed on October 14, 2011, and this Court's Amended Scheduling Order Regulating Pre-Class Certification Discovery, filed on January 24, 2012. (Doc. Nos. 88, 92.) The Court's Orders both read, "Plaintiffs are further granted leave to propound a total of 50 interrogatories...Defendants are further granted leave to propound a total of 50 interrogatories between them, divided however they wish so long as the total number of interrogatories for all Defendants does not exceed 50." (Doc. No. 88 at 1; Doc. No. 92 at 1.)

Plaintiffs argue that the Court used different language in describing the limit to Plaintiffs' number of ROGs versus Defendants' number of ROGs, and that the detailed language used for Defendants would be superfluous if the ROG limits were the same for both Plaintiffs and Defendants. (Doc. No. 330 at 4.) Therefore, Plaintiffs argue, each of the six Plaintiffs[3] may propound a total of 50 ROGs, which is a collective total of 300 ROGs available to be served by Plaintiffs. (Doc. No. 330 at 4.)

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 33 allows each party to propound 25 ROGs. Fed.R.Civ.P. 33. Plaintiffs claim that courts have given the language of Rule 33(a)(1) its plain meaning and allowed each party to propound 25 ROGs. (Doc. No. 330 at 3; citing Trevino v. ABC Am., Inc. , 232 F.R.D. 612, 614 (N.D. Cal. 2006); St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co. v. Birch, Stewart, Kolasch & Birch, LLP , 217 F.R.D. 288, 289 (D. Mass. 2003) (emphasis in original). They argue that, here, the Court has allowed each Plaintiff to serve 50 ROGs and they have not yet exceeded their collective ROG limit of 300. Therefore, Plaintiffs assert that Defendants must respond to Plaintiffs' Fifth Set of ROGs.

b. RFAS COUNTED AS ROGS

On March 30, 2012, Plaintiffs served their Second Set of ROGs on Defendants, which included ROG No. 16. (Doc. Nos. 330 at 7; 330-2 at 25.) Plaintiffs assert that ROG No. 16 must be counted as one ROG. They argue that Defendants seek to count as ROG responses RFA answers that did not provide the three categories of information sought in ROG No. 16. They claim that it is unreasonable for Defendants to attempt to transform the RFA responses, or non-responses, into ROG responses. (Doc. No. 330 at 5.)

Plaintiffs contend that labeling a discovery response as a "ROG" response, rather than an "RFA" response, does not transform the type of response. (Doc. No. 330 at 6.) They assert that discovery requests must be categorized by their substance, not their label, and ...


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