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Alexander v. Roadway Express

March 24, 2009

DAVID N. ALEXANDER AS ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF MELISSA HELEN JOHNSON-ALEXANDER, DECEASED, AND DAVID N. ALEXANDER, INDIVIDUALLY AS THE FATHER AND NATURAL GUARDIAN OF MELISSA HELEN JOHNSON-ALEXANDER, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ROADWAY EXPRESS, INC., DENNIS KEITH YETTER AND CHIFFON B. JOHNSON, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lynne A. Sitarski United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Presently before the court is a Motion to Compel Discovery Responses (Doc. # 13 ) filed by Plaintiff, David N. Alexander, seeking to compel Defendants, Roadway Express Inc. and Dennis Keith Yetter, to provide full and complete responses to previously served discovery requests. Upon review of Defendants' Response to Plaintiff's Motion (Doc. #16), and Plaintiff's Reply Brief (Doc. #17), and upon consideration of the arguments advanced by counsel at oral argument before me on March 17, 2009, Plaintiff's motion will be granted in part and denied in part.*fn1

Plaintiff's motion to compel initially involved 70 separate discovery demands propounded by Plaintiff. Plaintiff identified 42 requests contained in his Supplemental Interrogatories ("SI"); 24 requests contained in his Supplemental Request for Production of Documents ("SRPD"); and 4 requests contained in his First Set of Discovery Demands ("FSDD") as to which Defendants allegedly provided deficient responses. However, prior to oral argument on March 17, 2009, I held a conference with the parties in an attempt to narrow the issues and forge consensus on some areas of dispute.

As a result of this conference, the parties have agreed as follows:

(1) Plaintiff agrees to withdraw Supplemental Interrogatories Numbers 14, 15, 18, 19, 20, 35, and 38; and Supplemental Requests for Production of Document Numbers 6, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 22, and 26.

(2) Plaintiff agrees to redraft and Defendants agree to respond to Supplemental Interrogatories Numbers 31, 32, and 33; Supplemental Request for Production of Documents Numbers 3, 4, 20, 21, 23, 24, 25, and 28; and First Set of Discovery Demands, Number 8. Plaintiff shall serve these revised requests within five days of the date of this Order, and Defendants shall provide responses with fourteen days of receipt of the revised demands from Plaintiff.

(3) Defendants agree to supplement their responses to Supplemental Interrogatories Numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 16, 17, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 34, 36, 37, 41, and 42; and Supplemental Request for Production of Documents Numbers 2, 8, 9, 10, 18, 19, 27.

The parties were unable to reach an agreement regarding two issues: (1) requests related to the movement of Defendant Roadway's fleet of vehicles on SR 78 on the date and time of the accident at issue;*fn2 and (2) requests related to email messages regarding the accident at issue.*fn3

As more fully discussed below, Plaintiff's motion to compel regarding Supplemental Request for Production of Documents Number 29 is granted. I also grant Plaintiff's motion regarding Supplemental Interrogatories Numbers 39, 40; and First Set of Discovery Demands Number 11, subject to a limitation on the location, date, and time regarding the information sought. I deny Plaintiff's motion regarding First Set of Discovery Demands Number 4. Finally, I deny without prejudice Plaintiff's motion regarding Supplemental Request for Production of Documents Number 11 and First Set of Discovery Demands Number 14.

DISCUSSION

A. Requests Relating to Identification of Roadway Vehicles

The first category of discovery demands in dispute relate to Plaintiff's efforts to identify the Roadway vehicles in the vicinity of the crash on the date and time in question. Plaintiff seeks information related to the "movement or presence of any Roadway or Roadway Express tractors and/or trailers on SR 78 West at or near the Hamburg Exit [of SR 78] from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. on July 5, 2007." See SRPD 29. Plaintiff also seeks the number assigned to any tractor/trailer identified; the name of the driver of any tractor/trailer identified; the origination and destination of any tractor/trailer identified; and the EZ pass records of any tractor/trailer identified. See SI 39-40 and FSDD 11. Defendants argue that this request should be denied because the information sought is not relevant and would place an undue burden on Defendant Roadway.

The Federal Courts have broad discretion to manage discovery, Sempier v. Johsnson, 45 F.3d 724, 734 (3d Cir. 1995), and it is well recognized that the Federal Rules permit broad and liberal discovery. Pacitti v. Macy's, 193 F.3d 766, 777 (3d Cir. 1999). Pursuant to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, parties may obtain discovery regarding "any matter, not privileged, that is relevant to any parties claim or defense." Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). The information sought need not be admissible at trial, so long as it is reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Id. Further, the Federal Rules' relevancy requirement is to be construed broadly, and material is relevant if it bears on, or reasonably could bear on, an issue that is or may be involved in the litigation. Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 350 (1978). Once a discovery request has been received, the party asserting that the request is irrelevant or unduly burdensome must show specifically how the request is burdensome, oppressive, or irrelevant. Josephs v. Harris Corp., 677 F.2d 985, 992 (3d Cir. 1982); see also Momah v. Albert Einstein, 164 FRD 412, 417 (E.D.Pa. 1996); Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(b)(4).

The information sought by Plaintiff regarding the movement of Defendant Roadway's vehicles on SR 78 West at or near the Hamburg Exit [of SR 78] from 3 a.m to 6 a.m. on July 5, 2007, is relevant and does not place an undue burden on Defendant Roadway. Plaintiff's claim involves an accident in which it is alleged that a Roadway tractor trailer sideswiped a minivan parked in the breakdown lane of SR 78 at approximately 3:45 a.m., killing one of the occupants of the minivan. The striking vehicle, identified by witnesses as a ...


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