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Culp v. La Salle University

December 24, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Baylson, J.


In this employment action against LaSalle University ("LaSalle") and several of its administrators/faculty members, Plaintiffs David Culp and Isobel Berry Culp are both attorneys and are proceeding pro se. Plaintiff David Culp is a tenured faculty member who teaches business law courses. He asserts that Defendants have taken improper actions against him because of age discrimination and he alleges other claims, including infliction of emotional distress.

Plaintiff Isobel Berry Culp alleges that she was improperly terminated from her teaching position at LaSalle and alleges claims based on civil conspiracy, intentional infliction of serious emotional distress, defamation and breach of contract.

This Memorandum will summarize some of the arguments and discussion at the hearing held on December 22, 2009. Discovery in this case has been unnecessarily contentious. The record of that hearing contains further comments and observations concerning the discovery issues presented by the cross Motions to Compel (Doc. Nos. 29 and 30). Both Motions will be GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

1. Privileged Documents

Initially, as to documents which Plaintiffs allege have been improperly designated as privileged or as to which there have been allegedly improper redactions, the Court will require defense counsel to submit them for in camera review.

2. Insurance Policies

The Court also inquired about Plaintiffs' contention that Defendants have not produced all insurance policies relevant to this claim. At the hearing, defense counsel made a representation that only one policy provides coverage for this claim and it has been produced. The Court will accept that representation without any contradictory evidence from the Plaintiffs or any reason to doubt the representation by defense counsel.

3. Plaintiffs' Interrogatories and Document Requests

As to Plaintiffs' Interrogatories, the Court first notes that they violate Rule 33(a) because although Plaintiffs have submitted twenty-five Interrogatories to each Defendant, virtually every Interrogatory contains multiple and discrete subparts, and thus, the Interrogatories as a whole are improper. Nonetheless, despite objections by the Defendants, Defendants have provided answers to most of the Interrogatories.

At the hearing, the Court requested Plaintiffs to designate the Interrogatories as to which they contend most deserved answers or additional answers. Plaintiffs responded that LaSalle should be required to provide names and addresses of all persons on its witness list for deposition and trial. This request is denied as premature. Plaintiffs have inquired as to names of individuals with knowledge of the relevant facts, and LaSalle has provided this. LaSalle shall supplement its previous list of names of individuals with personal knowledge of the relevant facts in this case, as appropriate, but need not designate at this time names or addresses of individuals it intends to call at trial. That is the purpose of the pretrial memorandum. If it turns out that LaSalle intends to call a witness at trial whose name should have been provided earlier as a person with personal knowledge of relevant facts, the Court may take appropriate action at that time.

Plaintiffs request that LaSalle produce student evaluations for all faculty members. The Court rejects this as overbroad and unnecessary as there is no showing that students have any substantive influence on the decisions concerning any of the employment issues in this case. There is no showing that LaSalle relied on student evaluations in making the allegedly improper decisions as to Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs are free to conduct a student survey which may be admissible into evidence at the trial of this case, if relevant and properly taken.

This points up another observation about Plaintiffs' discovery requests. Plaintiffs appear to have adopted a discovery strategy of overly broad requests so as to put the burden on LaSalle of presenting facts that subscribe to Plaintiffs' theory of the case. The Court finds this improper. Plaintiffs are free to conduct their own investigation, hire investigators, interview students or other faculty members, and assemble their own evidence. Plaintiffs cannot expect to put the expense and burden of this on LaSalle. LaSalle's duty is to come forward with facts that are relevant to Plaintiffs' claims to the extent that they are in LaSalle's custody, possession and control, and no more.

Plaintiffs' request for the budget of the Business Law Department is entirely overbroad and ...

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