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Norfolk Southern Railway Co. v. International Association of Sheet M Air, Rail and Transportation Workers

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

June 30, 2017

NORFOLK SOUTHERN RAILWAY COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF SHEET M AIR, RAIL AND TRANSPORTATION WORKERS - TRANSPORTATION DIVISION, et al., Defendants.

          Sean F. Cox District Judge.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART UNION DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO COMPEL (DE 36) AND EXTENDING THE DISPOSITIVE MOTION DEADLINE TO AUGUST 4, 2017

          Anthony P. Patti UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court for consideration of Defendant's motion to compel (DE 36), Plaintiff's response (DE 39), Defendant's reply (DE 40), and the parties' statements of resolved issues (DE 41 and 42). For the reasons that follow, Defendant's motion is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This action involves a dispute between Plaintiff, Norfolk Southern Railway Company (“NS”), and the only remaining Defendant, International Association of Sheet M Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers - Transportation Division (“Union”), over whether NS's plan to use crews based in Toledo, Ohio to implement new rail service between Toledo and three Detroit Edison (“DTE”) plants in Michigan violates the terms of their collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”). The decision to use Ohio-based crews apparently came as a shock to the Union Defendants in Michigan.

         The dispute in this action is governed by the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C. §§ 151-188 (“RLA”), which differentiates between major and minor CBA disputes, with minor disputes being subject to compulsory and binding arbitration. In this matter, the Court must therefore ultimately determine whether the instant action involves a major or minor dispute. The Supreme Court has described the test to determine whether a dispute is major or minor under the RLA as follows:

Where an employer asserts a contractual right to take the contested action, the ensuing dispute is minor if the action is arguably justified by the terms of the parties' collective-bargaining agreement. Where, in contrast, the employer's claims are frivolous or obviously insubstantial, the dispute is major.

Consol. Rail Corp. v. Ry. Labor Executives' Ass'n, 491 U.S. 299, 307 (1989).

         It is under these circumstances that Union Defendant has filed the instant motion. The parties in this matter have engaged in some discovery up to this point in time. The discovery matter at issue involves NS's contract with DTE and NS's internal emails relating to that contract. After the parties entered into a stipulated confidentiality agreement, NS provided the Union Defendant with heavily redacted versions of both categories of documents. The Union Defendant asserts that the documents are so heavily redacted that their use is limited, and now seeks a Court order requiring NS to provide unredacted versions.

         NS opposes the motion, arguing that the redacted portions of the documents are not relevant in the instant matter and could be prejudicial if released. It points to the stipulated confidentiality agreement, in which the Union Defendants agreed to receive redacted versions of the DTE agreement, and asserts that its production complied with both the Union Defendant's discovery requests and the terms of the confidentiality agreement.

         This matter came before me for a hearing on June 20, 2017, at which both parties, through counsel, presented their arguments. I took the matter under consideration and ordered that NS provide redacted and unredacted versions of the documents at issue for an in camera review. I received those documents on June 26, 2017 and reviewed them thoroughly. I will address each of the parties' arguments in turn.

         II. STANDARD

         The scope of discovery, which permits a party to obtain “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, ” is always subject to being “limited by court order[, ]” and thus, within the sound discretion of the court. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). The Court's discretion is broad. Bush v. Dictaphone Corp., 161 F.3d 363, 367 (6th Cir. 1998). Further, discovery is more liberal than even the trial setting, as Rule 26(b) allows information that “need not be admissible in evidence” to be discoverable. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). However, the court must also balance the “right to discovery with the need to prevent ‘fishing expeditions.'” Conti v. Am. Axle & Mfg., Inc., 326 F. App'x 900, 907 (6th Cir. 2009) (quoting Bush, 161 F.3d at 367). Rule 37(a) allows a party to move for an order compelling “an answer, designation, production, or inspection” if the opposing party has failed to provide a discovery response. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(3).

         III. ...


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