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Eichbauer v. Henry Ford Health System

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

June 21, 2017

Gerard Eichbauer, Plaintiff,
Henry Ford Health System & Henry Ford Hospital, Defendants.

          R. Steven Whalen United States Magistrate Judge


          Hon. Gershwin A. Drain United States District Court Judge

         I. Introduction

         This matter came before the Court on Plaintiff's and Defendants' May 22, 2017 objections to Magistrate Judge R. Steven Whalen's May 5, 2017 Order Granting In Part And Denying In Part Plaintiff's Motion to Compel Discovery. See Dkt. Nos. 34, 38, 39. Defendants Henry Ford Health System and Henry Ford Hospital filed a response to Plaintiff's objections on June 5, 2017. Dkt. No. 43. No oral argument was heard.

         For the reasons stated herein, the Court will AFFIRM Magistrate Judge Whalen's order and OVERRULE Plaintiff's and Defendants' objections [38, 39].

         II. Standard of Review

         Rule 72(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits a party to submit objections to a magistrate judge's ruling on non-dispositive matters, such as discovery orders. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a); 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A). While Rule 72(b) provides a timeline in which a party may respond to opposing counsel's objections to a ruling on a dispositive matter, Rule 72(a) does not state that a response may be filed to objections. Compare Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(a) with Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b). “When an objection is filed to a magistrate judge's ruling on a non- dispositive motion, the ruling remains in full force and effect unless and until it is stayed by the magistrate judge or a district judge.” E.D. Mich. LR 72.2.

         As a non-dispositive matter, the review of a magistrate's discovery order is properly governed by the “clearly erroneous or contrary to law” standard of review. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a). The United States Supreme Court and the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit have both held that “a finding is ‘clearly erroneous' when although there is evidence to support it, the reviewing court on the entire evidence is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed.” United States v. U.S. Gypsum Co., 333 U.S. 364, 395 (1948) (explaining the clearly erroneous standard under Rule 52(a)); United States v. Mabry, 518 F.3d 442, 449 (6th Cir. 2008) (quoting U.S. Gypsum, 333 U.S. at 395). This standard does not allow a reviewing court to reverse a magistrate judge's finding merely because it would have decided the matter differently. Sedgwick Ins. v. F.A.B.E. Custom Downstream Sys., Inc., 47 F.Supp.3d 536, 538 (E.D. Mich. 2014). See also 12 Charles Alan Wright, Arthur R. Miller & Richard L. Marcus, Federal Practice and Procedure § 3069 (2d ed. 1997) (“In sum, it is extremely difficult to justify alteration of the magistrate judge's nondispositive actions by the district judge.”).

         “The ‘clearly erroneous' standard applies only to the magistrate judge's factual findings; his legal conclusions are reviewed under the plenary ‘contrary to law' standard.” Sedgwick Ins., 47 F.Supp.3d at 538 (quoting Haworth, Inc. v. Herman Miller, Inc., 162 F.R.D. 289, 291 (W.D. Mich. 1995)). The Court's review under the “contrary to law” standard requires the exercise of independent judgment in determining whether the magistrate judge's legal conclusions “contradict or ignore applicable precepts of law, as found in the Constitution, statutes, or case precedent.” Gandee v. Glaser, 785 F.Supp. 684, 686 (S.D. Ohio 1992), aff'd, 19 F.3d 1432 (6th Cir. 1994) (quoting Adolph Coors Co. v. Wallace, 570 F.Supp. 202, 205 (N.D. Cal. 1983)).

         III. Discussion

         On July 13, 2016, Plaintiff served his First Set of Interrogatories and First Request for Production of Documents upon Defendants. Dkt. No. 23, p. 2 (Pg. ID 115). In Interrogatories 12, 13, and 14 Plaintiff demanded that Defendants provide information regarding other medical professions that tested positive for drugs and alcohol, had their drug administration investigated, or were referred to the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) instead of being terminated. Id. at 11. Defendants objected to these Interrogatories on the basis that they were “overly broad, ambiguous and seek[] information that is confidential and neither relevant nor calculated to lead to the discovery of relevant admissible information.” Dkt. No. 23-2, pp. 14-16 (Pg. ID 159-61). When Plaintiff filed a motion to compel Defendants to answer the Interrogatories, Dkt. No. 23, Defendants argued that the requests were overly broad, irrelevant, and unduly burdensome. Dkt. No. 26, pp. 9-14 (Pg. ID 206-11).

         On April 11, 2017, Magistrate Judge R. Steven Whalen held a hearing on the motion to compel and granted in part and denied in part the motion on the record. Dkt. No. 36. On May 5, 2017, Magistrate Judge Whalen ordered Defendants to provide responses to Interrogatories Nos. 12, 13, and 14, with the following limitations:

(1) “Medical personnel” means providers of medical services who have direct patient contact at Henry Ford Hospital's main campus and the four ambulatory centers where Plaintiff worked, who were so employed from January, 2013 to the present, and who are ...

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