United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
C. COUGHENOUR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's motion to
compel (Dkt. No. 15). Having thoroughly considered the
parties' briefing and the relevant record, the Court
DENIES the motion for the reasons explained herein.
Nepo Fotualii (“Fotualii”) was terminated from
his job as a dock worker at Defendant Estes West
(“West”). (Dkt. No. 1 at 3-4.) Fotualii, who is
Samoan, brings state and federal discrimination claims
against West alleging that he was terminated because of his
race and national origin. (Id. at 5.) West asserts
that Fotualii was terminated because of a safety violation.
(Dkt. No. 18 at 1-2.) In this motion, Fotualii asks the Court
to decide a single discovery dispute: is he entitled to
information that could corroborate statements allegedly made
by a West executive before Fotoualii was terminated?
may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that
is relevant to any party's claim or defense . . .
.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). In addition to relevance, the
Court must determine whether discovery is “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.”
Id. The Court has broad discretion to decide whether
to compel disclosure of discovery. Phillips ex rel.
Estates of Byrd v. General Motors Corp., 307 F.3d 1206,
1211 (9th Cir. 2002).
submitted a declaration from a former coworker who asserts
that West's Vice President, Kevin Young
(“Young”) told him that a group of
“Cubans” had been stealing from the company down
in Florida, and that Young believed there was a group of
Samoans doing the same thing in Washington. (Dkt. No. 17 at
2.) Young's alleged comment was made before Fotualii was
terminated. (Dkt. No. 1 at 2-4.) Fotualii asks the Court to
compel West to produce “documents, memorandums,
internal communications, or copies of any law enforcement
reports regarding the theft in Miami.” (Dkt. No. 15 at
7.) Fotualii believes the information is relevant to his
claim that Young in fact made the statements to his coworker,
and that Young believed Cubans were stealing in Florida and
also that Samoans were stealing in Washington. (Id.)
West resists the discovery request on the grounds that the
information is not relevant to Fotualii's claims and not
proportional to the needs of the lawsuit. (Dkt. No. 18 at
believes information regarding theft in Miami will
corroborate his coworker's testimony that Young made
comments about Cubans stealing in Florida and Samoans
stealing in Washington. While the Court can see how such
information might corroborate Young's alleged statement
regarding Cubans stealing in Florida, it struggles to see how
it would corroborate his alleged statement regarding Samoans
stealing in Washington. Information regarding a 2012 theft
investigation in Miami, potentially involving Cubans, has
nothing to do with 2015 theft allegations involving Samoans
in Washington. More broadly, the Court does not think
that information regarding the Miami theft investigation
would tend to prove material issues related to Fotualii's
claims-i.e. that he was terminated because he was Samoan. The
proper focus of Rule 26(b) is the relevance of a party's
claim or defense. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1).
Here, the information Fotualii seeks is quite attenuated from
his discrimination claims.
the information's minimal relevance to Fotualii's
claims, the Court concludes that proportionately
considerations weigh in favor of denying discovery. While
employment discrimination is certainly an important issue,
the Court does not believe the requested discovery is
important to resolve Fotualii's discrimination claim. The
primary purpose for the information is to corroborate a
witness's testimony, not to prove a dispositive issue in
the case. In addition, Fotualii has already received
information that would appear to directly corroborate
Young's statement. (See Dkt. No. 18 at 3.);
see Note 2.
has also demonstrated that it lacks access to the information
Fotualii seeks. West does not possess any of the requested
documents because it does not own the Miami terminal.
Id. at 6.) In addition, West states that its parent
company has diligently searched for the documents Fotualii
requested but not located any responsive information.
(Id.) Given the minimal relevance of the information
and the lack of access to the documents, the Court finds the
burden of ordering the discovery would outweigh its benefit.
foregoing reasons, Plaintiff's motion to compel (Dkt. No.
15) is DENIED.