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Lopez v. CSX Transportation, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

June 16, 2015

JONATHAN LOPEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
CSX TRANSPORTATION, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

KIM R. GIBSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

I. Introduction

This case arises from personal injuries suffered by Plaintiff Jonathan Lopez when he was hit by Defendant CSX Transportation’s train. Presently before the Court in this matter are two discovery motions: (1) Plaintiff’s motion (ECF No. 15) to compel disclosure of the LocoCam data disk, and (2) Defendant’s motion (ECF No. 18) for a protective order regarding depositions of CSX Transportation employees. For the reasons explained below, the Court will GRANT in part and DENY in part Plaintiff’s motion to compel and will GRANT Defendant’s motion for a protective order.

II. Jurisdiction and Venue

The Court has jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332 and 28 U.S.C. § 1441. Venue is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1391.

III. Background

This case involves Plaintiff’s claim against Defendant for negligence resulting in personal injuries. According to the complaint, on January 18, 2013, Plaintiff was walking on the sidewalk adjacent to Ferndale Avenue in Cambria County. (ECF No. 1-2, Compl. ¶ 11). At approximately 1:00 p.m., a CSX Transportation freight train struck Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 13). As a result, Plaintiff suffered severe personal injuries. (Id. ¶¶ 13-14). Plaintiff initiated this action by filing a complaint in the Court of Common Pleas of Cambria County on November 3, 2014, alleging a single claim for negligence against Defendant. (ECF No. 1-2). On November 26, 2014, Defendant removed the matter to this Court. (ECF No. 1). Defendant then filed an answer denying liability. (ECF No. 4).

This Court held an initial Rule 16 scheduling conference on February 3, 2015, (see ECF No. 10), and entered an initial scheduling order (ECF No. 11), after which the parties commenced discovery. On March 10, 2015, Plaintiff filed a motion to compel disclosure of the LocoCam data disk (ECF No. 15), along with a brief (ECF No. 16) and exhibits in support of the motion. Defendant filed a response (ECF No. 17) to the motion on March 13, 2015. Then, on April 14, 2015, Defendant filed a motion for a protective order regarding depositions of CSX Transportation employees. Plaintiff filed a response in opposition (ECF No. 19), along with exhibits on April 20, 2015. The motions have been fully briefed and are now ripe for disposition. The Court will separately address each motion below.

IV. Applicable Law

As will be explained in more detail below, both of the pending motions involve the parties’ dispute over protective orders. The Court will briefly set forth the legal principles governing the entry of protective orders in discovery matters.

Rule 26(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure[1] establishes the contours of discovery, providing that “[p]arties may obtain discovery of any matter, not privileged, that is relevant to any party’s claim or defense.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b). The rule further states that “[r]elevant information need not be admissible at the trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.” Thus, it is well-settled that Rule 26 establishes a liberal discovery policy. See, e.g., Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 351 (1978); Hickman v. Taylor, 329 U.S. 495, 507–08 (1947).

Nevertheless, this Court is empowered to issue an order to protect a person from “annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense, ” if there is good cause to issue such an order. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c)[2]; see also E.E.O.C. v. Grane Healthcare Co., No. 3:10-cv-250, 2013 WL 1102880, at *2 (W.D. Pa. Mar. 15, 2013). The party seeking the protective order bears the burden of showing that it is particularly necessary to obviate a significant harm. See Trans Pacific Ins. Co. v. Trans–Pacific Ins. Co., 136 F.R.D. 385, 391 (E.D. Pa. 1991); Pansy v. Borough of Stroudsburg, 23 F.3d 772 (3d Cir. 1994). “[T]he party seeking the protective order must show good cause by demonstrating a particular need for protection. Broad allegations of harm, unsubstantiated by specific examples or articulated reasoning, do not satisfy the Rule 26(c) test.” Cipollone v. Liggett Grp., Inc., 785 F.2d 1108, 1121 (3d Cir. 1986); Masciantonio v. United States, No. 3:14-MC-35, 2014 WL 7213199, at *3 n.6 (W.D. Pa. Dec. 17, 2014). “‘Good cause’ is established when it is specifically demonstrated that disclosure will cause a clearly defined and serious injury.” Glenmede Trust Co. v. Thompson, 56 F.3d 476, 483 (3d Cir. 1995).

The Third Circuit has identified “several factors, which are neither mandatory nor exhaustive, that may be considered in evaluating whether ‘good cause’ exists:” 1. whether disclosure will violate any privacy interests; 2. whether the information is being sought for a legitimate purpose or for an improper purpose; 3. whether disclosure of the information will cause a party embarrassment; 4. whether confidentiality is being sought over information important to public health and safety; 5. whether the sharing of information among litigants will promote fairness and efficiency; 6. whether a party benefitting from the order of confidentiality is a public entity or official; and 7. whether the case involves issues important to the public.

Glenmede Trust Co., 56 F.3d at 483 (citing Pansy, 23 F.3d at 787–91). Further, the Court must balance the private interests at issue against any public interests, based upon the specific circumstances of the case. Id.; see also Miller v. Allstate Fire & Cas. Ins. Co., No. 3:07-cv-260, 2009 WL 700142, at *3 (W.D. Pa. Mar. 17, 2009). With these legal principles in mind, the Court will evaluate the parties’ respective motions.

V. Discussion

A. Plaintiff’s Motion to ...


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