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Sarver v. City of Bakersfield

United States District Court, E.D. California

March 27, 2015

BREN SARVER, Plaintiff,


JENNIFER L. THURSTON, Magistrate Judge.

The City of Bakersfield seeks to compel Plaintiff Bren Sarver to respond to its written discovery requests and submit to a deposition. In addition, the City seeks attorney fees related to the filing of this motion pursuant to Rule 37 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Doc. 27.) In response, Plaintiff asserts he will "make every effort" to respond to the requests. (Doc. 28 at 2.) For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion to compel discovery, for sanctions and to amend the Scheduling Order is GRANTED.

I. Relevant Factual and Procedural History

Plaintiff initiated this action by filing his complaint on February 3, 2014, asserting the City is liable for disability discrimination; failure to engage in the interactive process; retaliation for, and interference with, his taking protected medical leave; retaliation for Plaintiff's opposition to unlawful conduct; and failure to prevent discrimination and retaliation. ( See generally Doc. 1.) The Court entered its Scheduling Order on May 19, 2014, setting the deadline for non-expert discovery as March 3, 2015, and the completion of expert discovery as April 22, 2015. (Doc. 9 at 1.)

On January 9, 2015, the Court granted the request by Plaintiff's counsel to withdraw from their representation. (Doc. 23.) The Court ordered Plaintiff to show cause why the matter should not be dismissed for his failure to prosecute. In response, Plaintiff filed a letter disputing that he had failed to maintain contact with his lawyers and reporting he intended to prosecute the action. (Doc. 24.) The Court informed Plaintiff that if he elected to proceed pro se in this action, he must "take all necessary steps to prosecute this case." (Doc. 25 at 2.)

On March 9, 2015, the City filed the motion pending before the Court, asserting Plaintiff failed to respond to its written discovery requests or appear for deposition. (Doc. 28.)

II. Scope of Discovery and Requests

The scope and limitations of discovery are set forth by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Evidence. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b) states:

Unless otherwise limited by court order, parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged manner 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... For good cause, the court may order discovery of any matter relevant to the subject matter involved in the accident. Relevant information need not be admissible at the trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.

Relevant evidence is defined as "evidence having any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence." Fed.R.Evid. 401. Relevancy to a subject matter is interpreted "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).

A. Interrogatories

A party may propound interrogatories relating to any matter that may be inquired to under Rule 26(b). Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(a). A responding party must respond to the fullest extent possible, and any objections must be stated with specificity. Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(b)(3)-(4). In general, a responding party is not required "to conduct extensive research in order to answer an interrogatory, but a reasonable effort to respond must be made." Haney v. Saldana, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 93447, at *9 (E.D. Cal. Aug. 24, 2010) (citing L.H. v. Schwarzenegger, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 73753 (E.D. Cal. Sep. 21, 2007)). Any grounds of an objection to an interrogatory must be stated "with specificity." Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(b)(4); see also Nagele v. Electronic Data Systems Corp., 193 F.R.D. 94, 109 (W.D. N.Y. 2000) (objection that interrogatories were "burdensome" overruled for failure to "particularize" the basis for objection); Mitchell v. AMTRAK, 208 F.R.D. 455, 458 at n.4 (D.D.C. 2002) (objections must explain how an interrogatory is overbroad or unduly burdensome).

B. Requests for Production of Documents

A party may request documents "in the responding party's possession, custody, or control." Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(a)(1). A request is adequate if it describes items with "reasonable particularity;" specifies a reasonable time, place, and manner for the inspection; and identifies the manner in which electronic information can be produced. Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(b). Thus, a request is clear if it "places the party upon reasonable notice of what is called for and what is not.'" Kidwiler v. Progressive Paloverde Ins. Co., 192. F.R.D. 193, 202 (N.D. W.Va. 2000) (quoting Parsons v. Jefferson-Pilot Corp., 141 F.R.D. 408, 412 (M.D. N.C. 1992)); see also Schwarzer, Tashima & Wagstaffe, California Practice Guide: Federal Civil Procedure Before Trial (Rev. #1 2011) Discovery, para. 11:1886 ("the apparent test is whether a respondent of average intelligence would know what items to produce").

The responding party must respond in writing and is obliged to produce all specified relevant and non-privileged documents, tangible things, or electronically stored information in its "possession, custody, or control" on the date specified.[1] Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(a). In the alternative, a party may state an objection to a request, including reasons to support the objection. Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(b)(2)(A)-(B). When a party resists discovery, he "has the burden to show that discovery should not be allowed, and has the burden of clarifying, explaining, and supporting its objections." Oakes v. ...

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