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Floyd v. GEICO Insurance Co

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

April 27, 2018




         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's motion to compel (Dkt. No. 13). Having thoroughly considered the parties' briefing and the relevant record, the Court hereby GRANTS in part and DENIES in part the motion for the reasons explained herein.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Defendant terminated Plaintiff, a claims handling supervisor and long-time employee, days after it allegedly learned that a default judgment had been entered relating to one of the claims that Plaintiff's subordinates managed. (Dkt. No. 13 at 7.) Just prior to his termination, Plaintiff threatened Defendant with legal action regarding his personal medical benefits. (Dkt. No. 1-1 at 5-7.) Plaintiff brought a wrongful termination suit alleging disability and age discrimination, that his termination was retaliatory, and that Defendant used the default judgment as a pretext for Plaintiff's termination. (Id.)

         Plaintiff served written discovery on January 3, 2018. (Dkt. No. 13 at 9.) Included were the following interrogatories:

INTERROGATORY NO. 4: Please identify why plaintiff was terminated from employment with GEICO, including: (1) how plaintiff was informed of your decision to terminate his employment; and (2) any written documentation supporting your determination to terminate his employment.
INTERROGATORY NO. 11: For the years 2012-2017, please identify each instance of disciplinary action taken by GEICO against an employee as a result of the entry of a default judgment against a GEICO insured. For each instance, identify: (1) the name of the employee disciplined; (2) the nature of the disciplinary action; (3) the date of the disciplinary action; and (4) whether the individual remains employed by GEICO.

(Dkt. Nos. 13 at 5; 15-12 at 4, 5, 8.) Plaintiff asserts that Defendant's response “largely ignores” Interrogatory No. 4 and was “evasive” and “contorts the thrust” of Interrogatory No. 11. (Dkt. No. 13 at 10.) Following two attempts to meet and confer to resolve the issues, Plaintiff brings the instant motion, asking the Court to compel Defendant to “provide complete, non-evasive responses to the interrogatories.” (Id. at 13); (see Dkt. No. 15 at 1).


         The Court strongly disfavors discovery motions and prefers that the parties resolve the issues on their own. However, if the parties are unable to do so, a party may move for an order to compel. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(1). Litigants “may obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, that is relevant to the claim or defense of any party.” Surfvivor Media, Inc. v. Survivor Prods., 406 F.3d 625, 635 (9th Cir. 2005). “Relevant information for purposes of discovery is information reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.” Id. “A request for discovery should be considered relevant if there is any possibility that the information sought may be relevant to the subject matter of this action.” Ragge v. MCA/Universal Studios, Inc., 165 F.R.D. 601, 604 (C.D. Cal. 1995). “The party who resists discovery has the burden to show that discovery should not be allowed, and has the burden of clarifying, explaining, and supporting its objections.” Cable & Computer Tech., Inc. v. Lockheed Saunders, Inc., 175 F.R.D. 646, 650 (C.D. Cal. 1997). This burden is a heavy one in employment discrimination lawsuits, where discovery rules are construed liberally so as to provide the plaintiff with “broad access to the employers' records.” Wards Cove Packing Co., Inc. v. Atonio, 490 U.S. 642, 643 (1989).

         A. Interrogatory No. 4

          Defendant has supplemented its response to Interrogatory No. 4 since Plaintiff moved to compel. (See Dkt. Nos. 19-4 at 6; 19-5 at 4.) Defendant's response, as supplemented, adequately addresses the interrogatory. Accordingly, Plaintiff's motion to compel a full and adequate response to Interrogatory No. 4 is DENIED as moot.

         B. Interrogatory No. 11

         In a Title VII claim, a plaintiff must normally demonstrate that an otherwise permissible reason for his or her termination was pretextual. E.E.O.C. v. Boeing Co., 577 F.3d 1044, 1049 (9th Cir. 2009). One method is to show more favorable treatment of a similarly situated employee, i.e., a comparator. Hawn v. Exec. Jet Mgt., Inc., 615 F.3d 1151, 1156 (9th Cir. 2010). Interrogatory No. 11 is Plaintiff's attempt to seek out such information. To be similarly situated, employees' situations need only be “sufficiently similar” to “support at least a minimal inference that the difference to treatment may be attributable to ...

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