United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO COMPEL DISCOVERY
J. BRYAN United States District Judge
MATTER comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to
Compel Discovery Responses. Dkt. 23. The Court has considered
Defendant's Response (Dkt. 25), Plaintiff's Reply
(Dkt. 27), and the remainder of the file herein.
alleged in the Complaint are recited herein because of their
relevance to resolving the discovery dispute.
employed Plaintiff as a crane mechanic at the Port of Tacoma
for approximately 11 years. On September 16, 2015, Plaintiff
informed a state inspector for the Division of Occupational
Safety and Health (DOSHA) that a component on some cranes was
blowing fuses and overheating. The safety inspector
“red-tagged” the components from use until their
repair, which later prevented the cranes from being used.
During the next several months, Plaintiff's union took
steps to confront Defendant about safety issues initially
raised by Plaintiff, including threatening work stoppages.
Dkt. 1-1 at ¶¶4, 6, 7.
Complaint alleges that Defendant took a series of actions
against Plaintiff in retaliation, such as removing Plaintiff
from a lead position, giving Plaintiff less desirable work
assignments, and denying Plaintiff's bid for a night
shift position in May 2016. It is further alleged that
Defendant filed baseless “complaints” against
Plaintiff, for multiple reasons: failing to report an injury,
leaving work early to attend work-related meetings,
improperly calling in sick, and not reporting equipment
damage. The stress of Defendant's actions allegedly
became intolerable, ultimately forcing Plaintiff to leave his
Dkt. 1-1 at ¶¶8-12.
Complaint alleges claims for retaliation in violation of the
Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act, RCW 49.17, and
constructive discharge/termination in violation of public
policy. Dkt. 1-1 at ¶¶16-21.
served Defendant with his first discovery requests on
February 9, 2017. Defendant responded to the request on March
13, 2017, and produced approximately four-hundred pages of
discovery. Dkt. 2t at 1, 2. The produced discovery contained
a copy of Plaintiff's personnel file, including copies of
performance evaluations, employee grievances, and
non-privileged internal communications about Plaintiff. Dkt.
29 at 1, 2. Defendant supplemented its response on May 26,
2017 with approximately five-hundred pages of personnel and
workers compensation records produced by third parties. Dkt.
26 at 2.
also served a discovery request on Plaintiff's union,
which produced email correspondence between Plaintiff and his
managers or supervisors. Dkt. 29 at 2. These emails were not
found in discovery produced by Defendant. Id.
to the filing of the motion to compel, the parties engaged in
two telephonic discovery conferences. Dkt. 24 at 3. Per
Plaintiff's counsel, defense counsel “told
[Plaintiff's counsel] that his client refused to
negotiate on any of [sic] disputed requests and
would not produce responsive documents.” Id.
issue are Defendants' responses to Interrogatory Nos. 3,
7, and 13-16, and Requests for Production Nos. 4, 7, 13, 16.
The discovery requests and responses at issue are quoted
verbatim below as they are discussed.
have broad authority to conduct discovery, but are also
duty-bound to follow the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1), which governs the scope of
Unless otherwise limited by court order, the scope of
discovery is as follows: 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
the scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to
Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). The proportionality factor is not
“intended to permit the opposing party to refuse
discovery simply by making a boilerplate objection that it is
not proportional.” Id., Cmt to 2015 Amendment.
Court considers and should rule on each discovery request
individually. However, in general, Defendant did not
demonstrate exemplary efforts. Boilerplate language appears
throughout, including the phrase, “not calculated to
lead to admissible evidence, ” which closely resembles
an outdated standard. See Cmt. to 2015 amendment to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1); VHT, Inc. v. Zillow Grp.,
Inc, No. C15-1096JLR, 2016 WL 7077235, at *1, FN 4 (W.D.
Wash. Sept. 8, 2016); In re Bard IVC Filters Prod. Liab.
Litig., 317 F.R.D. 562, 564 (D. Ariz. 2016). Although at
least two of the discovery requests are specific and directly
related to key issues in the case, Defendant responded with
stock language without further explanation. Defendant can and
should do better.
No.3 and Request for Production No. 4
Identify all claims for hearing loss made by PCMC employees
from January 2010 to present, including for each whether the
employee notified his or her employer of the injury in
compliance with PCMSC Rule #602.
Objection. Unduly burdensome, overbroad, and not calculated
to lead to admissible evidence. There are no class claims or
comparator-related claims in this lawsuit and this
interrogatory is far beyond the scope of the claims in
dispute in this case. PCMC further objects as this
interrogatory would require disclosure of personal health
care information, and other confidential information for
other employees that are not parties to this litigation.
Produce any and all documents pertaining to your answer to
the preceding interrogatory [Interrogatory No. 3].
[Identical response to Interrogatory No. 3]
to Plaintiff, the purpose of these requests is to counter the
Defendant's stated basis for its adverse employment
actions, namely, that Plaintiff failed to report the hearing
loss injury of another employee when under an obligation to
do so. Plaintiff appears to theorize that other employees
have filed hearing loss injury claims with the Office of
Worker's Compensation Program (OWCP) without previously
reporting the injury ...