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Watrobski v. FCA US, LLC

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

September 14, 2017

GERARD WATROBSKI, Plaintiff,
v.
FCA US, LLC, Defendant.

          GERSHWIN A. DRAIN, DISTRICT JUDGE

          OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTIONS TO COMPEL [32] [35] [38]

          MONA K. MAJZOUB, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff Gerard Watrobski's Motion to Compel (docket no. 32), Plaintiff's Motion to Compel More Specific Answers to Supplemental Interrogatories (docket no. 35), and Plaintiff's Motion to Compel Depositions of Defendant's Employees (docket no. 38). Defendant FCA US, LLC responded separately to each of Plaintiff's Motions. (Docket nos. 41-43). Plaintiff has not replied to Defendant's Responses. The Motions have been referred to the undersigned for consideration. (Docket nos. 33, 36, 39.) 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 worked for Defendant and its predecessors from April 1, 1977, until his termination on July 1, 2015. (Docket no. 1 ¶¶ 3, 13.) Plaintiff initiated this employment discrimination action on May 6, 2016, alleging that Defendant discriminated against him on the basis of age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. § 621, et seq. (Id. ¶ 17.) Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant treated him differently from other employees and terminated his employment in favor of younger employees. (Id. ¶¶ 6, 14.) According to Plaintiff, “Defendant and its management set out to make the work environment for Plaintiff and older workers stressful and unbearable” and “made it known that it was Defendant's goal to hire young and innovative workers.” (Id. ¶¶ 8-9.) Plaintiff alleges Defendant made his work environment unbearable by instituting a Performance Improvement Plan, under which his work performance was subject to periodic review and was rated as unacceptable. (Id. ¶ 11.) He further alleges that “Defendant's placing Plaintiff on a Performance Improvement Plan was a pretext to the ultimate discharge of Plaintiff because of his age.” (Id. ¶ 18.) Plaintiff claims that he has suffered financially and that he has experienced significant emotional distress as a result of Defendant's actions, for which he seeks damages in excess of $75, 000.00. (Id. ¶¶ 15-16.)

         II. GOVERNING LAW

         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 or noticed the deposition the means to file a motion to compel. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(3)(B).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Plaintiff's Motion to Compel [32]

         Through his first Motion, Plaintiff seeks to compel more specific answers to his First Set of Interrogatories and Requests for Production, the deposition of Defendant's Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Sergio Marchionne, and answers to his Supplemental Interrogatories. (Docket no. 32.) Plaintiff served his First Set of Interrogatories and Requests for Production on Defendant on June 29, 2016. (Docket no. 41 at 6.) After receiving an extension of time to respond to Plaintiff's requests, Defendant served its responses on Plaintiff on August 12, 2016. (Id.; docket no. 32 at 9-22.) On January 19, 2017, Plaintiff's counsel informed Defendant's counsel that he was not satisfied with Defendant's answers to the First Set of Interrogatories, and he asked Defendant's counsel to supplement those answers. (Docket no. 41-2.) Plaintiff then filed the instant Motion on February 24, 2017, in which he asserts that the information supplied by Defendant in response to his interrogatories and requests for production “was vague and in some instances no information was provided.” (Docket no. 32 at 3.)

         As an initial matter, the Court notes the sheer deficiency of Plaintiff's Motion. Plaintiff does not specifically identify by number the interrogatories or requests for production at issue in his Motion. Instead, he leaves it to the Court to cross-reference the information he seeks to compel with his First Set of Interrogatories and Requests for Production. Moreover, other than his general statement that the information provided by Defendant was “vague, ” Plaintiff does not provide any explanation, cite to any case law, or make any argument regarding why Defendant's answers or responses to his discovery requests are deficient or why Defendant's objections should be overruled. Essentially, as Defendant points out, the Court is left to speculate regarding the reason for Plaintiff's dissatisfaction with Defendant's responses. (See docket no. 41 at 7.) Conversely, Defendant, in its Response to Plaintiff's Motion, has identified Interrogatory nos. 1-5 and Request for Production (RFP) no. 3 as the discovery requests at issue in this matter. (Id. at 7-14.) Defendant has also provided explanations for its answers and/or objections to Plaintiff's requests and arguments regarding why its answers and/or objections should stand. Accordingly, the Court will do its best to address Plaintiff's Motion in this regard by addressing each of the discovery requests at issue and Defendant's responses thereto in turn.

         Plaintiff's Interrogatory no. 1 asks Defendant to “identify each and every person providing any information to these answers to Interrogatories and/or response [sic] to Request for Production of Documents, including each person's name, business address, job title, tenure with Defendant and the information provided.” (Docket no. 32 at 11.) Defendant responded as follows:

FCA U.S. objects to Interrogatory no. 1 to the extent it seeks information protected by the attorney-client privilege, the attorney work product doctrine, or any other applicable privilege. Subject to and without waiving its objections, Terry W. Bonnette signs these interrogatories as to objections and Louann Van Der Wiele will sign as to answers.

(Id. at 11-12.) In its Response to Plaintiff's Motion, Defendant explains that Ms. Van Der Wiele is its Vice President and Associate General Counsel. (Docket no. 41 at 8.) Defendant then asserts that the production of any additional information responsive to this interrogatory would reveal the substance of conversations between Defendant and its counsel, which information is protected by the attorney-client privilege. (Id.)

         The Court finds that Defendant's answer to Interrogatory no. 1 is not wholly responsive, as it is unclear whether Ms. Van Der Wiele answered the interrogatories based on personal knowledge or whether she consulted with other persons to do so. To the extent that Ms. Van Der Wiele did consult with other persons to answer Plaintiff's interrogatories, the production to Plaintiff of the names and titles of those persons would not result in the dissemination of privileged information as Defendant suggests. Accordingly, the Court will grant Plaintiff's Motion in part with regard to Interrogatory no. 1 and order Defendant to amend its answer within fourteen (14) days of this Opinion and Order to either provide the names and job titles of the persons with whom Ms. Van Der Wiele consulted to respond to Plaintiff's First Set of Interrogatories and Requests for Production or explain that she did not consult with other persons to respond to the requests.

         Plaintiff's Interrogatory no. 2 asks Defendant to:

[P]rovide any and all wage information for Plaintiff from the time of his hiring to the date of his firing as well as the value of any and all fringe benefits Plaintiff received in the last 5 years and would have continued to receive through the end of 2017.

(Docket no. 32 at 12.) It appears, however, that Plaintiff's Motion only seeks to compel the information from this interrogatory regarding the value of Plaintiff's fringe benefits. (See Id. at 2, 34.) Defendant objected to this interrogatory as vague and ambiguous, among other things, and responded that it is unsure what is meant by “the value of any and all fringe benefits.” (Id. at 12-13.) The Court agrees that Plaintiff's interrogatory is vague in this regard, and in light of Defendant's undisputed assertion that Plaintiff has made no effort to clarify what he means by the ...


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