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Ghorbanian v. Guardian Life Insurance Co. of America

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

June 1, 2017

ABRAHAM GHORBANIAN, D.D.S., Plaintiff,
v.
GUARDIAN LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY OF AMERICA, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR PROTECTIVE ORDER

          RICARDO S. MARTINEZ CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Protective Order to Limit Further Inquiry During the Deposition of Dr. Haghighatpour. Dkt. #102. Specifically, Defendants seek an Order prohibiting further questions about Dr. Haghighatpour's immigration status and religion on the basis that such questions go beyond what is permitted to impeach the credibility of a non-party witness. Dkt. #105 at 1. Plaintiff opposes the motion, arguing that he does not seek to question Dr. Haghighatpour about his immigration status, but rather to question him about past inconsistent representations made to the Court, which goes to his credibility. Dkt. #104. Plaintiff further argues that Dr. Haghighatpour has made inconsistent statements about his religion, which also goes to his credibility. Id. Finally, Plaintiff argues that Defendants lack standing to bring this motion. Id. For the reasons set forth herein, the Court now DENIES Defendants' motion.

         II. BACKGROUND

         As part of discovery in this matter, the parties deposed non-party witness Dr. Mohsen Haghighatpour, a dentist who formerly practiced with Plaintiff. Dkt. #103, Ex. A. During the deposition, Plaintiff's counsel attempted to question Dr. Haghighatpour about statements he made during an immigration proceeding of his. Id. at 97:3-101:2. Dr. Haghighatpour responded that he did not want to answer questions without his attorney. Id. At the same time, Defendants' counsel, although not representing Dr. Haghighatpour, objected on the basis of relevance, and informed the witness that he was not required to answer the deposition questions. Id. Dr. Haghighatpour went on to state that he did not understand “technical” questions in English, and requested that he be allowed to get an attorney and an interpreter. Id. at 101:3-103:2. He then refused to answer questions regarding statements he had made about his religion in various legal proceedings. Id. at 103:7-104:25. Again, Defendants' counsel made relevance objections and informed the witness that he could have an attorney present before answering questions. Id. Over the course of the remainder of the deposition, Dr. Haghighatpour continued to refuse to answer questions, became very agitated, and eventually stated he was going to report Plaintiff's counsel “to the bar.” Dkt. #104-1, Ex. 4 at 174:1-25. Ultimately, Plaintiff's counsel suspended the deposition so that Dr. Haghighatpour could secure counsel. Id. at 177:1-7. The instant motion followed.

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Legal Standard

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1):

Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case, considering the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties' relative access to relevant information, the parties' resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit. Information within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.

         “The court should and ordinarily does interpret ‘relevant' very broadly to mean matter that is relevant to anything that is or may become an issue in the litigation.” Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 351, n.12, 98 S.Ct. 2380, 57 L.Ed.2d 253 (1978) (quoting 4 J. Moore, Federal Practice ¶ 26.56 [1], p. 26-131 n. 34 (2d ed. 1976).

         However,

[a] party or any person from whom discovery is sought may move for a protective order in the court where the action is pending - or as an alternative on matters relating to a deposition, in the court for the district where the deposition will be taken. The motion must include a certification that the movant has in good faith conferred or attempted to confer with other affected parties in an effort to resolve the dispute without court action. The court may, for good cause, issue an order to protect a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense, including one or more of the following:
(A) forbidding the disclosure or discovery;
(B) specifying terms, including time and place or the allocation of expenses, for the ...

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