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Yoder v. Frontier Nursing University, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

March 28, 2018

AMY YODER, Plaintiff,
v.
FRONTIER NURSING UNIVERSITY, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          KIM R. GIBSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. Introduction

         Pending before the Court is the Motion to Compel Production of Documents and for Sanctions Pursuant to F.R.C.P. 37 (ECF No. 37) filed by Defendant Frontier Nursing University, Inc. ("Frontier."). This Motion is now ripe for disposition.[1]

         For the reasons that follow, this Court GRANTS Frontier's Motion to Compel. (ECF No. 37.) Specifically, the Court ORDERS Plaintiff Amy Yoder ("Yoder") to (1) produce the e-mails referenced in "Addendum A" in native format or another format agreed to by Frontier, (2) to produce any relevant text messages in native format or in another format agreed to by Frontier, and (3) to pay Frontier's reasonable attorney's fees and costs incurred in filing the instant Motion to Compel.

         II. Background

         This Court will not detail the extensive background of this case here.[2] For the purposes of the present Motion, the pertinent background is brief and undisputed. On February 7, 2018, Yoder e-mailed "Addendum A" to Frontier-an addendum that constituted a much-delayed response to Frontier's discovery requests of October 6, 2017. (ECF No. 37 ¶¶ 1, 8; ECF No. 39 ¶¶ 1, 8.) However, rather than containing completed printouts or screenshots of e-mails, "Addendum A" consisted of what appears to be the copied-and-pasted alleged content (i.e., the body) of emails with manually-typed dates and descriptions. (ECF No. 37 ¶ 9; ECF No. 39 ¶ 9.) These copied-and-pasted e-mail contents often lack the headers of each purported e-mail, therein lacking the sender, recipient, carbon copy recipient, subject, and other information. (ECF No. 37 ¶ 9; ECF No. 39 ¶ 9.) Some e-mails are also missing attachments referenced in the body of the copied-and-pasted text and are missing other e-mails in the relevant "e-mail chain." (ECF No. 37 ¶ 9; ECF No. 39 ¶ 9.) After multiple unsuccessful efforts to resolve this deficiency in "Addendum A" with Yoder, Frontier filed the present Motion to Compel. (ECF No. 37 ¶ 11; ECF No. 39 ¶ 11.)

         III. Analysis

         A. "Addendum A"

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(a)(3)(B)(iv) provides that a party may move to compel disclosure and for appropriate sanctions from a party who fails to produce documents requested under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 34. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(b)(3)(B)(iv). Pursuant to this Rule, Frontier asks this Court to order Yoder to produce complete copies of the e-mails purportedly contained in "Addendum A" in native format or other acceptable format and to produce any relevant text messages. (See ECF Nos. 37, 38.)

         In response, Yoder has not disputed that Frontier is entitled to the requested information, has not argued that any privilege applies to the requested documents, and has not suggested that the requested information is unavailable or unobtainable. (See ECF No. 39.) To the contrary, Yoder has largely agreed with Frontier's factual assertions. (See id.) In essence, unlike most discovery disputes, Yoder does not actually object to Frontier's requests on any ground. Rather, Yoder simply suggests that it would be "very difficult to go back and find these emails." (ECF No. 39 ¶ 11.)

         While Yoder does not cite to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) or clearly articulate this argument, the Court will interpret Yoder's objection as an argument that the "burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit." See Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). Yet, Yoder has failed to offer any explanation as to why it would be difficult for her to access these e-mails, despite the fact that she must have been able to access these e-mails when she copied-and-pasted the body of these e-mails into the documents that make up the current "Addendum A."

         In their present form, the contents of "Addendum A" (1) cannot be verified by Frontier in any way, (2) lack significant pertinent information, [3] and (3) are directly relevant to Yoder's claim that Frontier continued to breach Yoder's education contract by communicating with Yoder after she was dismissed. (See ECF No. 20 ¶¶ 28-30.) Furthermore, given the potential defense based on the lapse of the statute of limitations, the date of the e-mails purportedly copied-and-pasted into "Addendum A" are of particular import. (See ECF No. 38 at 3.) Yoder has not suggested that the e-mails in question are deleted or that accessing these e-mails requires technical expertise or the expensive engagement of a computer specialist. Based on Yoder's own representations, it appears to the Court that Yoder must simply devote her own personal time to searching through her own e-mail account for the native format versions of the relevant e-mails purportedly copied-and-pasted into "Addendum A." In essence, Yoder has failed to establish any basis for withholding the contents of "Addendum A, " and, thus, the Court orders that the requested e-mails be provided to Frontier in native format or another format agreed to by Frontier.

         B. Text Messages

         Beyond the "Addendum A" e-mails, Frontier also requested relevant text messages from Yoder. Conversely, Yoder's Response states that "[t]here are no text ...


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