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Menefee v. Choicepoint

January 26, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert F. Kelly, Sr. J.


Presently before the Court is a Motion to Compel Discovery filed by Plaintiff Doris Menefee ("Menefee") and a Motion for Protective Order filed by Defendant ChoicePoint, Inc. ("ChoicePoint"). For the reasons set forth below, Menefee's Motion will be granted in part and denied in part, and ChoicePoint's Motion will be granted in part and denied in part.


On February 26, 2008, Menefee filed a class action Complaint against Rite Aid Corporation ("Rite Aid") and ChoicePoint, alleging violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act ("FCRA"), 15 U.S.C. §§ 1681e(b), 1681i and 1681s-2, as well as defamation. Specifically, Menefee claims that Rite Aid submitted a false theft incident report to ChoicePoint, which she asserts is a national consumer reporting agency covered by FCRA. Menefee alleges that ChoicePoint failed to follow reasonable procedures to assure the maximum possible accuracy of the information it was provided about Menefee when it prepared its consumer report ("Esteem Report").*fn1 On March 28, 2008, ChoicePoint filed a "Motion to Strike Class Allegations and Class Claims for Relief." Menefee subsequently withdrew her class action claims by filing an Amended Complaint on May 29, 2008. Consequently, by Order dated June 18, 2008, ChoicePoint's Motion to Strike was dismissed as moot.

According to her Amended Complaint, Menefee is a 61-year-old worker who, for twelve years ending in February 2007, was the assistant manager of a Rite Aid store in North Philadelphia. Menefee alleges that, on January 30, 2007, as part of an investigation of inventory losses in her store, she was questioned by a corporate loss prevention investigator about her knowledge of various company policies. (Pl.'s Am. Compl. ¶ 17.) She asserts that, after the investigator asked her about the company's employee discount policy and her use of her discount card for other people's purchases, she stated that her grand-niece, who resided with her, used the card. (Id. ¶¶ 18-19.) Menefee claims that the investigator accused her of using her discount privilege improperly because, according to him, a niece is not among the relatives allowed to use the discount card. (Id.) Menefee states that she explained that she had never intended to misuse her discount privileges and that her grand-niece was, in fact, part of her household. (Id. ¶ 20.) Menefee also asserts that Rite Aid's policy regarding the discount card expressly extends the employee discount to "co-dependent family members," an undefined term in the policy, who reside with the employee. (Id. ¶¶ 21-22.)

Nevertheless, Menefee alleges that the investigator directed her to put in writing an acknowledgement of her supposed misunderstanding about the policy, required her to estimate the total purchases made by her grand-niece with the discount card, and assured her that doing so would enable her to return to work without consequences. (Id. ¶¶ 23-28.) Menefee also claims that the investigator "coached her written statement." (Id.) The following week, Menefee was fired. Menefee claims that she was not given any explanation for her firing, nor was she given a copy of the statement that she had written on January 30, 2007 during the loss-prevention interrogation. (Id. ¶¶ 29-31.)

After the January 30, 2007 incident, Rite Aid submitted a report concerning Menefee to ChoicePoint's "Esteem" database. Rite Aid's submission included Menefee's signed, handwritten admission statement. ChoicePoint asserts that only one subscriber, CVS, obtained the Esteem Report concerning Menefee. Menefee claims that CVS preliminarily offered her a job conditioned on her clearing a background search, but later informed her that she could not be hired based on the Esteem Report it obtained stating that, while employed by Rite Aid, she had admitted committing "cash register fraud" in the amount of $200. She was provided a copy of the Esteem Report that listed this incident as having occurred on January 30, 2007, and she was also informed of her right under FCRA to dispute the accuracy of the report. (Id. ¶¶ 36-38.)

In June 2007, Menefee submitted to ChoicePoint a detailed letter explaining the January 30 incident, along with a copy of the letter from the unemployment compensation agency awarding her benefits. She requested deletion of the theft report. (Id. ¶¶ 39-40.) ChoicePoint contends that Menefee admits in her letter "that she wrote and signed an 'admission statement' detailing misuse of her associate discount card at Rite Aid." Nevertheless, ChoicePoint claims that it immediately rechecked the theft report with Rite Aid, and Rite Aid stood by its report. After ChoicePoint verified the report, it informed Menefee of that fact. Menefee subsequently filed this action.

Menefee served her First Set of Interrogatories and Requests for Production of Documents to ChoicePoint on August 11, 2008. The request consisted of ten interrogatories and seven requests for production relating to Menefee's Esteem Report and to the workings of the Esteem system more generally.*fn2 On September 15, 2008, ChoicePoint served its response. Other than providing some documents that pertain specifically to Menefee, ChoicePoint has asserted, and continues to assert, that many of the discovery requests are objectionable under the Rules of Civil Procedure. The parties have also attempted to negotiate a stipulated Protective Order, and have agreed to all terms of the Order except for one -- whether Menefee's counsel must limit his use of discovery to the instant case.


A. Motion to Compel Discovery

Rule 26(b)(1) provides that discovery need not be confined to matters of admissible evidence but may encompass that which "appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." In responding to interrogatories, "[a party] cannot invoke the defense of oppressiveness or unfair burden without detailing the nature and extent thereof[,]... [r]ather, [the party resisting discovery]... has the burden to clarify and explain its objections and to provide factual support therefore." Doe v. Mercy Health Corp., No. 92-6712, 1993 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13347, at *8-9 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 13, 1993) (quoting Martin v. Easton Publ'g Co., 85 F.R.D. 312, 316 (E.D. Pa. 1980)) (internal quotations omitted). Furthermore, for purposes of discovery, relevance is to be broadly construed and is not limited to the precise issues set out in the pleadings or to the merits of the case. Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 351 (1978). The facts and circumstances of a case determine and limit the relevancy of information sought in discovery. Cont'l Access Control Sys., Inc. v. Racal-Vikonics, Inc., 101 F.R.D. 418, 419 (E.D. Pa. 1983). Since the precise boundaries of the Rule 26 relevance standard will depend on the context of the particular action, the determination of relevance is within the district court's discretion. Bowman v. Gen. Motors Corp., 64 F.R.D. 62, 69 (E.D. Pa. 1974).

Nevertheless, the court is required, pursuant to Rule 26(b), to limit the scope of discovery, either on motion or on its own, where any one of three circumstances is attendant: (i) the discovery sought is unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or can be obtained from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive; (ii) the party seeking discovery has had ample opportunity to obtain the information by discovery in the action; or (iii) the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit, considering the needs of the case, the amount in controversy, the ...

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