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Robinson v. Horizon Blue Cross-Blue Shield

United States District Court, Third Circuit

December 23, 2013

KENNETH E. ROBINSON, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
HORIZON BLUE CROSS-BLUE SHIELD OF NEW JERSEY, VICTORIA WRIGHT-GIBSON, CHERYL CONCANNON, COLETTEWHITE and BEATRIZ MESA, Defendants.

OPINION ON DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO COMPEL; PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO COMPEL; AND DEFENDANTS' CROSS-MOTION FOR A PROTECTIVE ORDER [ECF DE Nos. 48, 49. & 53]

JOSEPH A. DICKSON, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Pending before this Court are three (3) Motions (ECF DE Nos.: 48, 49 & 53) all relating to a dispute concerning document requests made by plaintiff as well as the parties' mutual requests for the production of income tax returns. The Court has considered the parties' submissions and oral argument, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78(b), [1] and for the reasons set forth below the Court: 1) Defendants' motion to compel plaintiff's income tax returns is Denied; 2) Plaintiff's cross-motion to compel defendants' income tax returns is Denied; and 3) Plaintiff's motion to compel the production of documents is Denied in part and Granted in part; and 4) Defendants' crossmotion for a protective order is Granted, subject to the

II. BACKGROUND[2]

This action involves employment discrimination claims predicated on allegations of race and gender discrimination made pursuant to Title VII of the Federal Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. ยง 2000e, et seq. Plaintiff also asserts various tort claims in connection with the aforementioned allegations. Pending before this Court are a) defendants' motion to compel production of plaintiff's income tax returns [ECF No. 48]; b) plaintiff's omnibus motion (motion to compel production of documents; crossmotion to compel defendants' income tax returns; opposition to defendants' motion for protective order; and non-opposition to defendants' motion to compel) [ECF No. 49]; and c) defendants' cross-motion for a protective order preventing defendants from having to respond to plaintiff's pending and future document requests. (ECF No. 53).

III. RELEVANT PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On May 18, 2012, plaintiff Robinson filed his Complaint. (Electronic Case Filing ("ECF") No. 1, Complaint). Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on June 5, 2012. (ECF No. 4, Plaintiff First Amended Complaint). Defendants answered the Complaint on July 24, 2012. (ECF No. 10, Answer). By way of Scheduling Order dated August 23, 2012, the fact discovery deadline was set for December 12, 2012. (ECF No. 18, Initial Scheduling Order). On January 16, 2013, by way of Amended Scheduling Order, defendants were ordered by the Court to amend their initial disclosures and written discovery responses and to produce all responsive records, if necessary with appropriate and defensible redactions, by January 28, 2013. (ECF No. 30, First Amended Scheduling Order). The fact discovery deadline was extended until April, 28, 2013. (Id.). A Discovery Confidentiality Order was executed by the parties and entered by the Court on January 30, 2013. (ECF No. 35, Discovery Confidentiality Order).

On April 9, 2013, the Court granted the parties permission to file their respective instant motions. (ECF No. 46, Order Granting Leave to File Motions). Defendants filed their motion to compel production of Plaintiff's income tax records on April 19, 2013. (ECF No. 48). Plaintiff filed his cross-motion to compel discovery the same date. (ECF No. 49). Defendants, in turn filed, a cross-motion for a protective order on April 30, 2013. (D.E. 53).

IV. DISCUSSION

A. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26 defines the bounds of relevant discovery. Pursuant to subparagraph (b) (1), "parties may obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged that is relevant to the claim or defense of any party." Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b) (1). The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "allow broad and liberal discovery." Pacitti v. Macy's , 193 F.3d 766, 777 (3d Cir. 1999). Courts have interpreted the federal rules to mean that discovery encompasses "any matter that bears on or reasonably could lead to other matters that could bear on any issue that is or may be in the case." Kopacz v. Del. River and Bay Auth. , 225 F.R.D. 494, 496 (D.N.J. 2004).

In interpreting Rule 26 (b) (1), district courts must remain mindful that relevance is a broader inquiry at the discovery stage than at the trial stage. Nestle Foods Corp. v. Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co. , 135 F.R.D. 101, 104 (D.N.J. 1990). Accordingly, Rule 26 (b) (1) provides that "[f] or good cause, the court may order discovery of any matter relevant to the subject matter involved in the action."

"When a party fails to make disclosure of discovery, the opposing party may file a motion to compel. When a motion to compel is filed and asks the court to overrule certain objections, the objecting party must specifically show how each discovery request is objectionable." Kannaday v. Ball , 2013 W.L. 1367055 at 2 (D.Kan. 2013). "Although the scope of discovery under the Federal Rules is broad, this right is not unlimited and may be circumscribed." Bayer AG v. Betachem, Inc. , 173 F.3d 188, 191 (3d Cir. 1999). While relevant information need not be admissible at trial, the party seeking discovery must "show that the information sought is relevant to the subject matter of the action and may lead to admissible evidence." Caver v. City of Trenton , 192 F.R.D. 154, 159 (D.N.J. 2000). This is because the sole purpose of discovery is to add flesh for trial on the parties' respective claims and defenses in the given action. Discovery is not a fishing expedition for potential claims or defenses. Smith v. Lyons, Doughty & Velduius, P.C. , 2008 WL 2885887, at *5 (D.N.J. July 23, 2008). Thus, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26 sets out the parameters for when the Court must limit discovery:

(C) When Required. On motion or on its own, the court must limit the frequency or extent of discovery otherwise allowed by these rules or ...

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