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Hardy v. Iron Street Properties

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

March 16, 2017

DAR'SHA L. HARDY Plaintiff,
v.
IRON STREET PROPERTIES, et al., Defendants.

          JOHN CORBETT O'MEARA DISTRICT JUDGE.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTIONS TO COMPEL [18, 28]

          MONA K. MAJZOUB UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on two Motions to Compel filed by Plaintiff Dar'sha L. Hardy. (Docket nos. 18, 28.) Defendants Iron Street Properties, LLC (d/b/a River Park Lofts); Boydell Development, Inc.; and Dennis Kefallinos filed a Response (docket nos. 21, 31) to each of Plaintiff's Motions, and Plaintiff filed Replies (docket nos. 22, 33.) The parties also filed a Joint Statement of Resolved and Unresolved Issues regarding each Motion. (Docket nos. 23, 38.) The Motions have been referred to the undersigned for consideration. (Docket nos. 19, 29.) The Court has reviewed the pleadings and dispenses with oral argument pursuant to Eastern District of Michigan Local Rule 7.1(f)(2). The Court is now ready to rule pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff initiated this action under the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1982, and the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3613, on February 22, 2016. (Docket no. 1.) She claims that she was discriminated against on the basis of her race and familial status when, on May 28, 2015, she applied for housing at the River Park Lofts and was allegedly told by the rental agent, Ms. Liz Telegadas, that the property has a “[n]o kids in this building policy, ” and that Plaintiff's son was a “little bit too young.” (Docket no. 10 at 2-3.) Plaintiff alleges that she was fired from her job downtown because she could not find nearby housing. (Id. at 4.) She also alleges that the Fair Housing Center of Metropolitan Detroit deployed two “testers, ” who were similarly informed that children were not allowed to live at River Park Lofts. (Id. at 3-4.)

         Plaintiff's first Motion to Compel (docket no. 18) pertains to Plaintiff's interrogatories and requests for production of documents. Plaintiff served these on Defendant on June 24, 2016. Defendant originally refused to respond to the interrogatories at all, objecting on the basis that Plaintiff's request exceeded the number allotted by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 33(a)(1). On September 30, 2016, the parties filed their Joint Statement of Resolved and Unresolved Issues, indicating that Plaintiff would strike Interrogatory No. 24, and that Defendants would respond to all parts of Interrogatory Nos. 1-23 “within 14 days, ” or by October 10, 2016. (Docket no. 23 at 2-3.) Defendants, however, have not yet provided these responses (see docket no. 38 at 2) and the parties dispute whether Defendants have waived their right to make any specific objections to individual interrogatories.

         As for the requests for production of documents, Plaintiff originally requested, among other documents, “applications, leases, rental agreements, criminal background checks, security deposits, and other receipts, correspondence, and notices of intent to evict” on all housing property/communities owned or operated by Defendants and any past or present members of the board of directors of Defendant Boydell Development, Inc., from May 28, 2012, to present. (Docket no. 23 at 2; see also docket no. 18-2 at 14-16 (Request for Production of Documents Nos. 1-5).) Defendant originally objected on the basis that each of Plaintiff's requests was “overly broad, unduly burdensome, vague, ambiguous, and not reasonably specific.” (See Docket no. 18-2 at 14-16.) Defendant has since agreed to produce those documents as they pertain to the River Park Lofts, only, and not as to any other buildings or communities. (Docket no. 23 at 2.) Regarding the documents as they pertain to other buildings or communities, Defendants argue: “None of the documents Plaintiff requested sought information about the number of children residing in Defendants' property. Furthermore, Plaintiff's request was seeking documents from 2012 until present, which would be extremely burdensome for Defendants to produce.” (Docket no. 21 at 8.)

         Plaintiff's second Motion to Compel pertains to depositions of the rental agent at River Park Lofts, Ms. Liz Telegadas, and Defendant Dennis Kefallinos. (Docket no. 28.) Plaintiff contends that, despite being properly noticed through U.S. Mail and electronically, counsel for Defendants failed to produce the two witnesses for deposition. Defense counsel claims he never received the deposition notices through the mail, and presents an affidavit from his long-time office assistant, Ms. Lisa Bezzo, stating the same. (Docket no. 31-1.) He therefore argues that the depositions were not properly noticed, and that he was unaware the depositions were going to take place. (Docket no. 31 at 6-7.)

         II. GOVERNING LAW & ANALYSIS

         The scope of discovery under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is traditionally quite broad. Lewis v. ACB Bus. Servs., 135 F.3d 389, 402 (6th Cir. 1998). Parties may obtain discovery on any matter that is not privileged, is relevant to any party's claim or defense, and is proportional to the needs of the case. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). “Relevant evidence” is “evidence having any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence.” Fed.R.Evid. 401. Information need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). But the scope of discovery is not unlimited. “District courts have discretion to limit the scope of discovery where the information sought is overly broad or would prove unduly burdensome to produce.” Surles ex rel. Johnson v. Greyhound Lines, Inc., 474 F.3d 288, 305 (6th Cir. 2007).

         Rules 33 and 34 allow a party to serve interrogatories and requests for production of documents on an opposing party. Fed.R.Civ.P. 33, 34. A party receiving these types of discovery requests has thirty days to respond with answers or objections. Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(b)(2), 34(b)(2)(A). Rule 30 allows a party to conduct a deposition of any person without leave of court, subject to certain exceptions. Fed.R.Civ.P. 30(a)(1). If the party receiving discovery requests under Rules 33 or 34 fails to respond properly, or if the person whose deposition is sought under Rule 30 fails to properly comply with the rule, Rule 37 provides the party who sent the discovery the means to file a motion to compel. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(3). If a court grants a Rule 37 motion to compel, or if discovery is received after a Rule 37 motion is filed, then the court must award reasonable expenses and attorney's fees to the successful party, unless the successful party did not confer in good faith before the motion, the opposing party's position was substantially justified, or other circumstances would make an award unjust. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(5)(A).

         III. ANALYSIS

         1. Interrogatories

         According to the parties' Joint Statement of Resolved and Unresolved Issues (docket no. 23), the only issues remaining with regard to the interrogatories are whether Defendants have waived their right to make further objections (beyond their initial objection that Plaintiff served too many interrogatories). The Court ...


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