United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO COMPEL AND
DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SANCTIONS
H. CLELAND UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the court is Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel
Discovery and for Sanctions. (Dkt. #36.) Defendants have
filed a response, (Dkt. #37), and Plaintiffs have filed their
reply, (Dkt. #38). Also pending before the court is
Defendants' Motion for Sanctions. (Dkt. #40.) This court
held a hearing on both motions on May 9, 2017. For the
following reasons, the court will grant Plaintiffs'
motion to compel and deny Defendants' motion.
instant case involves allegations that one of the Plaintiffs
was admitted to Defendants' hospital residency program on
the condition that his parents, also Plaintiffs, make a
sizeable donation to the hospital. They allege that not long
after they made their donations, the hospital ejected their
son from the residency program and refused to return any of
the donated money. Defendants argue that Plaintiff left the
residency program willingly, and that the donation was made
separately without any understanding that it would guarantee
the Plaintiff a spot in the residency program.
parties have struggled to conduct discovery in this case,
resulting in several status conferences and direction by the
court to conduct depositions on certain dates. Prior to the
filing of either of the instant motions, the court issued an
order detailing the history of the discovery issues and
offering guidance on applicable law in the hopes that the
parties might resolve their dispute informally. (Dkt. #35.)
The following day, Plaintiffs filed their motion to compel.
now allege that Defendants have refused to produce their
three deponents despite having earlier agreed to do so. They
argue that Defendants' decision to inform Plaintiffs of
this fact for the first time on the morning of the scheduled
depositions resulted in wasted attorney time and expenses,
which the court should award as a sanction under Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 37. They also allege that Defendants have
failed to provide substantive responses to formal discovery
requests despite their earlier agreements.
respond that their decision to cancel the depositions was not
done in bad faith, but instead was a response to the
realization that Plaintiffs might pursue steps to initiate a
criminal action against Defendants. They argue that they
first became aware of this possibility during the deposition
of one of the Plaintiffs the day prior, and they needed time
to research the applicability of Fifth Amendment privileges
to sufficiently advise their clients during the next
day's deposition consistent with their ethical
obligations of competence. Counsel argues that they also
reached out to Plaintiffs prior to the filing of the instant
motion to propose new dates for the remaining depositions to
commence. Plaintiffs were not receptive to this suggestion.
reply, Plaintiffs argue that the court should not reward
Defendants' gamesmanship with extra time to prepare for a
deposition. Moreover, they argue that Defendants completely
failed to respond to their arguments regarding the responses
to written discovery which remain outstanding.
briefing on Plaintiffs' motion concluded, Defendants
filed their own motion for sanctions under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 11, alleging various misstatements or
mischaracterizations of law and fact contained across a
number of Plaintiffs' pleadings and calling for
attorney's fees and costs incurred in responding.
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 regarding any
nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's
claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the
case[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). “Relevant
evidence” is evidence that “has any tendency to
make a fact more or less probable than it would be without
the evidence” where “the fact is of consequence
in determining the action.” Fed.R.Evid. 401.
Information need not be admissible in evidence to be
discoverable. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). “However, 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.
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 respondent has thirty days to respond
with answers or objections. Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(b)(2),
34(b)(2)(A). Where a party fails to respond to these requests
properly, Federal Rule 37 allows the requesting party to file
a motion to compel. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(3)(B). “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.” Jessica Frye, v. CSX
Transportation, Inc., et al., No. 14-11996, 2016 WL
2758268, at *1 (E.D. Mich. May 12, 2016) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P.