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Toranto v. Jaffurs

United States District Court, S.D. California

May 24, 2018

DANIEL JAFFURS, et al., Defendants.


          Hon. Nita L. Stormes United States Magistrate Judge.

         Before the Court is a Joint Motion for Determination of Discovery Dispute No. 4 wherein Plaintiff Jason Toranto (“Dr. Toranto”) asks the Court to compel Defendant Daniel Jaffurs (“Dr. Jaffurs”) to produce certain emails sent or received at his GoDaddy email account. ECF No. 116. Dr. Jaffurs objects to this request, arguing that it is untimely, not relevant and/or proportional, and on the basis of privacy. Id. at 1. On April 25, 2018, the Court ordered Dr. Jaffurs to submit the emails in question for in camera review (ECF No. 118), and the Court received the documents on April 30, 2018. For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART Plaintiff's motion to compel.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In his First Amended Complaint (“FAC”), Plaintiff alleges nine causes of action against ten defendants, including Dr. Jaffurs. ECF No. 21. The crux of the complaint is that Dr. Jaffurs allegedly made false and defamatory statements about Dr. Toranto that prevented him from being hired at the Children's Hospital of Orange County (“CHOC”) and that Dr. Jaffurs conspired with Defendant Amanda Gosman (“Dr. Gosman”) to prevent Toranto from obtaining privileges at Rady Children's Hospital (“Rady's”) in San Diego.

         Dr. Jaffurs maintains a personal website ( and has an email associated with that domain. ECF No. 116 at 1. This website and email account are hosted by GoDaddy, an internet domain registrar and web hosting company. Id.

         On April 10, 2017, Plaintiff served a third-party subpoena on GoDaddy, seeking metadata information from emails between Dr. Jaffurs and a list of eight physicians/administrators at the University of California, Irvine (“UCI”), CHOC, and Rady's. Id. at 2. The subpoena did not ask for the full emails, but instead requested a “list” of emails, wherein “list” is defined as “an organized spreadsheet or document showing the date, time, subject line, sender, and recipient(s) of the requested emails.” Id., Ex. A at 5. The subpoena specifically stated that “[t]he requesting party is not seeking the contents of any of the emails.” Id.

         After meet and confers, on August 15, 2017, Dr. Jaffurs produced 856 pages of email headers (showing to, from, date, time and subject but no message content) received from GoDaddy. Id. at 2. On December 4, 2017, Plaintiff requested via email to have 161 emails produced in their entirety. Id. On January 9, 2018, Dr. Jaffurs produced only 4 of the requested emails. After engaging in further meet and confers, counsel for Dr. Jaffurs permitted counsel for Plaintiff to inspect in person one of the emails, with the subject “DSM-5.” Id. After inspecting this email, counsel for Plaintiff asked to inspect the other 156 emails but counsel for Dr. Jaffurs refused to permit further inspection. Id.

         On January 29, 2018, Plaintiff served Dr. Jaffurs with Request for Production No. 26, which formally requested the 157 emails. Id., Ex. B. On March 5, 2018, Dr. Jaffurs objected to this request and has not produced any of the emails. Id., Ex. C.


         a. Timeliness

         As an initial matter, Dr. Jaffurs argues that this motion is untimely under the Chambers' Rules, which states that a joint discovery motion must be filed “within forty-five (45) days of the date of event giving rise to the dispute.” The parties dispute what constitutes the “event giving rise to the dispute.” Plaintiff argues that this “event, ” as defined in the Chambers' Rules, is when Dr, Jaffurs responded to Request for Production No. 26, which was the first formal written request for the contents of the emails. ECF No. 116 at 4. Dr. Jaffurs argues that the “event” should be interpreted to be when the “initial response” was received, which is either when Plaintiff received the original August 2017 production containing the 865 pages of email headers or when Dr. Jaffurs produced only 4 out of the 161 full emails that Plaintiff requested via email. Id. at 5. Under Dr. Jaffurs's interpretation, this motion would fall outside the 45-day rule.

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure outline the rules for conducting discovery. If a party does not abide by the rules, the opposing party is under no obligation to produce documents. In this case, Plaintiff's original April 10 subpoena on GoDaddy explicitly asked for information other than email content. When Plaintiff subsequently requested via email to have a subset of the emails be produced in their entirety, this was technically not a valid discovery request because the original subpoena did not cover email content. See e.g., Hazeltine v. Hicks, No. 114-CV-00056 DAD DLB PC, 2016 WL 8730849, at *2 (E.D. Cal. Aug. 26, 2016) (“While Plaintiff may have made various requests verbally at his deposition or by letter, under the rules of discovery, Defendants need not respond to oral requests or improper discovery requests.”). It was not until Plaintiff formalized his request in the January 29 Request for Production that there was a formal request for email content. Id. (finding that only plaintiff's requests for documents was a valid discovery request). By this same token, until that valid request was made, had Plaintiff come to the Court for relief, the Court would not have been able to grant it. Calloway v. California Dep't of Corr. & Rehab., No. C 07-2335 RMW (PR), 2009 WL 412657, at *3 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 12, 2009) (“The court may compel a party or nonparty to comply with a discovery request, but such an order presupposes the existence of a valid discovery request.”). Thus, the Court finds that the “event” triggering the 45 day deadline was the January 29 Request for Production for the contents of the emails and this joint motion falls within the 45 day limit.

         Dr. Jaffurs also argues that Request No. 26 was duplicative of prior discovery requests 1-4, 18-19, and 21. Dr. Jaffurs is correct that parties are not permitted to restart the clock for bringing a discovery dispute by simply propounding duplicative discovery requests. See, e.g., Cruz v. United States, No. 14CV2956-LAB (DHB), 2016 WL 727066, at *2-3 (S.D. Cal. Feb. 24, 2016) (finding subsequent RFP to be “substantially similar” to earlier RFP and rejecting as untimely joint discovery motion based on response deadline for subsequent RFP). However, Dr. Jaffurs has not shown this to be the case here. He has not shown what discovery requests 1-4, 18-19, and 21 cover and why they encompass every email on the list of 157 emails.

         Thus, the Court finds that this joint motion is timely under the Chambers rules ...

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