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Karrani v. Jetblue Airways Corp.

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

May 28, 2019

JETBLUE AIRWAYS CORPORATION, a Delaware Corporation, Defendant.



         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff Abdikarim Karrani's Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a) motion to compel various discovery requests. Dkt. #19. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's Motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Mr. Karrani is an 81-year-old U.S. citizen born in Somalia, now residing in Tukwila, Washington. Mr. Karrani filed this suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1981, challenging JetBlue's removal of Mr. Karrani from a flight traveling from New York to Seattle on January 20, 2018 (“Flight 263”). A medical emergency during the flight required the plane to divert to Logan Airport in Billings, Montana instead of landing at its Seattle destination. Before the emergency landing in Billings, an interaction occurred between JetBlue flight attendant Cindy Pancerman and Mr. Karrani following Mr. Karrani's attempt to use the front lavatory and finding it occupied by another passenger. The facts of this interaction between Ms. Pancerman and Mr. Karrani are disputed by both parties.

         Mr. Karrani claims that after Ms. Pancerman asked him to use the rear lavatory, he replied that he would wait for the front restroom to open up. Dkt. #1, ¶2.13. He alleges that Ms. Pancerman then physically pushed him towards the back, which startled Mr. Karrani as he attempted to brush her hand off him. Dkt. #1, ¶2.14. JetBlue, in contrast, claims that when Ms. Pancerman attempted to guide Mr. Karrani to the rear lavatory, he struck her. Dkt. #23-1, Ex. B (“Pancerman Dep.”) at 17:23-20:25. JetBlue claims that due to Mr. Karrani's refusal to comply with a crew member's instruction and his physical contact with her, the Captain decided to remove Mr. Karrani from the flight. Dkt. #22 at 2.

         When the plane landed in Billings, airport police boarded the plane and asked Mr. Karrani to leave the flight. Mr. Karrani agreed, and the police escorted him off the plane. The remaining passengers were transported to Seattle. Mr. Karrani paid for a hotel room to stay overnight in Billings and purchased a new flight on Delta from Billings to Seattle the next day. He claims that he contacted JetBlue seeking a refund for the Delta flight, but JetBlue did not respond to his request. On October 15, 2018, Mr. Karrani filed this lawsuit.

         On February 6, 2019, Mr. Karrani served Plaintiff's First Set of Interrogatories and Requests for Production on JetBlue. JetBlue served its response on March 15, 2019, with objections to several of Plaintiff's interrogatories and requests for production. After Counsel conferred on March 27, 2019 in an effort to resolve the disputes, Plaintiff filed this First Motion to Compel on March 29, 2019. Dkt. #19 at 6.

         On May 9, 2019, while Plaintiff's first Motion was pending, Plaintiff filed a Second Motion to Compel discovery related to complaints and prior incidents regarding Ms. Pancerman. Dkt. #35. Plaintiff's Second Motion was filed after the close of discovery on April 29, 2019 and is currently under review by the Court. Consequently, this Order addresses the discovery disputes raised in Plaintiff's First Motion to Compel, with the exception of complaints and prior incidents regarding Ms. Pancerman. See Dkt. #19 at 11.


         A. Legal Standard

         “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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). Information within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable. Id. “District courts have broad discretion in determining relevancy for discovery purposes.” Surfvivor Media, Inc. v. Survivor Prods., 406 F.3d 625, 635 (9th Cir. 2005) (citing Hallett v. Morgan, 296 F.3d 732, 751 (9th Cir. 2002)). If requested discovery is not answered, the requesting party may move for an order compelling such discovery. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(1). The party that resists discovery has the burden to show why the discovery request should be denied. Blankenship v. Hearst Corp., 519 F.2d 418, 429 (9th Cir. 1975).

         B. Witness Disclosures

         Plaintiff requests information on potential witnesses on the plane flight. Interrogatory No. 1 asks JetBlue to:

Identify every person who has any knowledge or information pertaining to the facts and occurrences that are the subject of this lawsuit, the claims and defenses in the case, or with regard to the matters asserted in ...

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