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Professional Recovery Services, Inc. v. General Electric Capital Corp.

January 15, 2009

PROFESSIONAL RECOVERY SERVICES, INC., PLAINTIFF,
v.
GENERAL ELECTRIC CAPITAL CORPORATION AND PATRICIA SMITH, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Simandle, District Judge

OPINION

This matter comes before the Court on appeal by Plaintiff Professional Recovery Services, Inc. ("Plaintiff") of the Magistrate Judge's July 25, 2008 determination that Plaintiff may not obtain through discovery the entire personnel file for the years 2000 to the present of an employee of Defendant General Electric Capital Corporation ("Defendant GE") [Docket Item 48]. Plaintiff argues that this employee, Janine Movish, is a key witness in this matter and that her personnel file falls within the proper scope of discovery, while Defendant GE objects to the request as over-broad and only speculatively relevant. For the reasons set out below, the Court will affirm the Magistrate Judge's decision to deny Plaintiff's expansive discovery request.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Allegations

Plaintiff is suing Defendant GE along with Defendant Patricia Smith ("Defendant Smith"), a former employee of Plaintiff, for an incident in which Defendant Smith accused Plaintiff of impropriety and those accusations were communicated by Defendant GE to several of Plaintiff's other clients, who subsequently withdrew their business from Plaintiff.*fn1 Plaintiff is a collection agency serving banks and other financial institutions. (Am. Compl. ¶ 6.) As of June, 2005, Defendant GE was included among Plaintiff's clients, along with the banks Chase and Wells Fargo. (Id. ¶¶ 11, 31, 34.) According to Plaintiff, after Plaintiff fired Defendant Smith, she contacted Ms. Movish, a Senior Manager handling fraud, and another GE employee, Jeff Brethauer, and accused Plaintiff of fraud and other illegal activity. (Am. Compl. ¶ 20-21; Transcript of Teleconference with Magistrate Judge ("Tr.") at 5.) Ms. Movish then communicated these allegations, along with allegedly confidential documents, to Chase and Wells Fargo. (Id. ¶ 34.) Despite knowing that the police and the Secret Service both interviewed Defendant Smith and determined that further investigation was not warranted, Ms. Movish purportedly did not convey this information to either bank. (Id. ¶¶ 40, 45-47.) After being contacted by Ms. Movish about Defendant Smith's allegations, Chase and Wells Fargo ended their contracts with Plaintiff. (Id. ¶¶ 51-55.)

B. Procedural History

On June 22, 2006, Plaintiff brought suit in this case. On February 12, 2007, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint and discovery proceeded. Against Defendant GE, Plaintiff asserts claims of defamation (Count II), tortious interference with business relations (Count IV), breach of contract (Count VI), and negligence (Count VII). As part of discovery, Plaintiff has deposed Ms. Movish twice, apparently without difficulty. (Pl.'s Letter to Magistrate Judge, June 26, 2008.) The conflict at issue here arose when Plaintiff submitted a document production request to Defendant GE demanding Ms. Movish's entire personnel file for the past eight years. (Pl.'s Third Request for Production of Documents to Def. GE.) Plaintiff asked for:

The personnel file of Janine Movish from 2000 to date, including: all criteria used for compensation adjustments including any bonus program and written performance reviews/evaluations for Janine Movish; all reprimands to Janine Movish; all progress reports related to Janine Movish; and all emails or other documents to or from supervisor(s), Human Resources personnel or upper management related to Janine Movish's job performance.

(Id. at 5.) Defendant objected to this request:

Defendant objects to this request as overly broad, burdensome and not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. The request is clearly a fishing expedition for information related solely to the possibility of providing impeaching evidence on collateral issues. The information sought herein is not limited in scope nor directed towards any evidence related to the subject matter of this litigation or the issues of this case. The demand is extremely intrusive into the personal employment information of Ms. Movish without any limitation related to the issues of this case as required by the Federal Rules of Evidence. (Def. GE's Response to Pl.'s Third Request for Production of Documents.)

The matter was presented to the Magistrate Judge. In a letter to the Magistrate Judge, Plaintiff outlined Ms. Movish's alleged role in this case and explained that it wished to review her personnel file "to determine whether there are documents in that file which bear upon her credibility, motivations (financial, professional or otherwise) and competency, as well as [Defendant] GE's view of her and her work." (Pl. Letter to Magistrate Judge, June 26, 2008.) Defendant GE responded in writing, reiterating concerns set forth in its original objection to the request, and arguing that there was nothing to suggest that Ms. Movish's personnel file contains anything relevant to this case. (Def. Letter to Magistrate Judge, July 3, 2008.)

On July 25, 2008, the Magistrate Judge heard argument via teleconference. Plaintiff argued that Ms. Movish's personnel file fell within the scope of discovery because there was deposition testimony suggesting that at some point Ms. Movish was demoted, (Tr. at 5); the file may contain information on Ms. Movish's credibility or motivations, (id.); they had reason to believe that Ms. Movish did not comply with Defendant GE's protocol and that protocol was changed after this incident and any reprimands or reviews of Ms. Movish after the incident would also be contained in Ms. Movish's file, (id. at 6, 7.); the file should contain information about compensation which may show that Ms. Movish was compensated based on how she performs fraud investigations, (id. at 7.).

Defendants argued to the Magistrate Judge that Ms. Movish's conversations were thoroughly documented and approved by Defendant GE, that "[t]here is no indication that she was reprimanded in any way whatsoever for anything that was done in this case," that Ms. Movish testified that she was not criticized for what she did, and that Ms. Movish was not demoted after the incident. (Id. at 7-8.) Instead, Defendant GE reiterated the argument ...


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