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Adhi Parasakthi Charitable, Medical, Educational, and Cultural Society of North America v. Township of West Pikeland

March 17, 2010

ADHI PARASAKTHI CHARITABLE, MEDICAL, EDUCATIONAL, AND CULTURAL SOCIETY OF NORTH AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TOWNSHIP OF WEST PIKELAND, DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This case is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to Compel Discovery (Doc. No. 41). For the reasons set forth in the attached Memorandum, Plaintiff's Motion shall be GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

Factual Background

The factual background of this case has been set forth in this Court's prior orders, and only a brief summary will be provided here. Plaintiff filed the present action on April 17, 2009. This Court entered a Scheduling Order on June 29, 2009, establishing the deadlines for discovery, and making all fact discovery due by October 26, 2009. Plaintiff was then to provide Defendant with expert reports by November 16, 2009, and Defendant was to provide Plaintiff with expert reports by December 16, 2009. Expert discovery was to be completed by January 15, 2010. This Court then entered an Amended Scheduling Order on October 19, 2009, providing the parties with an additional 60 days to complete discovery, and extending all deadlines contained in the prior order accordingly.

Plaintiff served its First Interrogatories and Request for Production of Documents on July 2, 2009. After a series of extensions of deadlines from Plaintiff, including a period during which the attorneys explored the possibility of settlement, Defendant provided its response to interrogatories and document requests on October 28, 2009. In addition, Defendant provided Plaintiff with its electronic discovery on December 24, 2009, and supplemented its responses on December 28, 2009. Finally, on some unknown date, Plaintiff filed, and Defendant responded to, Plaintiff's Second Request for Production of Documents.

On February 9, 2010, Plaintiff filed its Motion to Compel,*fn1 listing a series of problems with Defendant's responses to discovery. Plaintiff's complaints can roughly be grouped into three categories: first, Plaintiff asserts that many of its interrogatories and document requests remain unanswered; second, Plaintiff believes that there are serious issues with electronic discovery that must be addressed; and third, Plaintiff contests, largely on procedural grounds, Defendant's raising of privilege in response to several discovery requests.

Standard

Discovery in the federal courts is outlined by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26. Under this rule, "[p]arties may obtain discovery regarding any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense." Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). The rules then provide for several specific methods of discovery, including by request for production of documents, Fed. R. Civ. P. 34, and by interrogatory. Fed. R. Civ. P. 33. In responding to interrogatories, a party must either answer the interrogatory or object with specificity to the request. Fed. R. Civ. P. 33(b) (3)-(4). Similarly, in responding to a request for production of documents, a party must "state that inspection and related activities will be permitted as requested or state an objection to the request, including the reasons." Fed. R. Civ. P. 34(a)(2)(B). As with interrogatories, an "incomplete or evasive" response to document-production requests is considered a failure to disclose. Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(a)(4). A party may object to discovery requests for any of the reasons listed in Rule 26(b)(1)(C), which include, but are not limited to, that the discovery is cumulative, duplicative, or the benefit of the discovery outweighs the burden of obtaining the information. If the party does not properly object to the interrogatory, the objection is waived unless the court decides to excuse the failure. Fed. R. Civ. P. 33(b)(4). When discovery requests are not answered or are incompletely answered, the requesting party may seek an order from the appropriate court compelling responses. Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(a).

Discussion

Interrogatories and Document Requests

Plaintiff claims that Defendant has inadequately responded to Interrogatories 2 through 4, requests for document production 4 through 7, and second requests for document production 1, 4, 5, and 7. In addition, Plaintiff seeks to re-depose several individuals, as Defendant allegedly did not inform these deponents to bring the documents requested by Plaintiff to their depositions.

As an initial matter, Plaintiff appears to argue that Defendant has waived all objections, as they were not timely filed. In its Motion to Compel, Plaintiff states that, because Plaintiff did not object within 30 days as required by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, all objections have been waived. This contention is without merit. Plaintiff has not alleged that Defendant was untimely in filing its answers to interrogatories, as several extensions were granted for Defendant to do so. As Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 34(b)(2)(A) explicitly states that a "shorter or longer time period may be stipulated to," there is no hard-and-fast requirement that Defendant respond within 30 days. In this case, Plaintiff and Defendant agreed to an extensive delay in Defendant's time to respond as they pursued a settlement, and it appears that the parties chose not to set a specific date by which Defendant's responses were due. Defendant appears to have complied with the parties' agreed-upon time frame, filed its answers before the discovery period concluded, and raised its objections at the same time that it answered the interrogatories. Defendant's objections, therefore, were not waived.*fn2 Interrogatories 2-4

We will begin with Interrogatories 2 through 4. As we believe that Defendant has fully answered these interrogatories, no order will be issued to compel further responses to these. Looking first at Interrogatory 2, Plaintiff finds fault with Defendant's failure to disclose the subject matter about which each expert was expected to testify. The interrogatory, however, explicitly asked about those "expected" to testify and the subject matter about which these witnesses were "expected" to testify. Defendant answered the interrogatory to the best of its ability at the time that the question was asked, stating that it had not yet made any determinations about expected witnesses, and later supplemented its response by providing Plaintiff with an expert report. Not only does this response fully answer the question asked, but Plaintiff cannot claim prejudice for not immediately receiving a substantive response. This Court's prior Order set the deadline for expert discovery, and Plaintiff cannot unilaterally alter this Order and move up this deadline simply by requesting the information via interrogatory.*fn3 We, therefore, do not see a need for any order on this interrogatory.

Turning to Interrogatory 3, Plaintiff requested the names of any people having information about Defendant's Answer or Affirmative Defenses, as well as any statements or discussions with potential witnesses. Defendant initially simply referred Plaintiff to its initial disclosures, as Rule 26(a)(1)(A)(i) requires the disclosure of "each individual likely to have discoverable information." When Plaintiff followed up with Defendant, it was informed that Defendant had not yet taken witness statements or considered potential witnesses. Defendant later filed its Supplemental Answers, and at that point listed 8 potential experts and 45 additional potential lay witnesses. Similarly to Interrogatory 2, therefore, Plaintiff has received a complete response to its question; the interrogatory asked for any individuals "known or believed by you" to have knowledge, and Defendant cannot be faulted for ...


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