United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
C. Carlson United States Magistrate Judge
Factual and Procedural Background
case is a Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) collective action
brought on behalf of current and former Operations Managers
(OMs) employed at various Love's Travel Stops. (Doc. 1).
The plaintiffs allege that they were misclassified as exempt
managerial employees under the FLSA, 29 U.S.C. § 201,
et seq., and accordingly were not paid overtime as
required by federal law. (Id.) On February 16, 2018,
the court entered an order conditionally granting the
plaintiffs' motion for class and collective certification
in this case. (Doc. 68). Following the entry of this order,
approximately 400 current and former Love's OMs opted
into this conditionally certified class and the parties
engaged in a course of reciprocal discovery involving the
defendants and a selected group of discovery Opt-in
discovery process has been marked by many mutual disputes
relating to a wide array of matters which have required the
court's intervention. (Docs. 167-231). In order to
provide focus, clarity, and finality to this process, on
November 25, 2019, we entered an order directing the parties
to provide us with a comprehensive and complete list of their
discovery disputes by December 9, 2019. (Doc. 218). The
parties have complied with this direction, providing us with
correspondence outlining the remaining discovery disputes
that divide these litigants. (Docs. 219-223).
among these disputes is a contest concerning the
plaintiffs' request for access to certain potential
defense witness personnel files. Specifically, the plaintiffs
note that Love's initial Rule 26 disclosures identified
some 66 individuals who may have information supporting its
defenses to this FLSA action. According to the plaintiffs,
“[t]o avoid trial by ambush, ” Love's should
be required to produce the personnel files of these
witnesses, as well as any relevant text messages and ESI
pertaining to these individuals. (Doc. 220 at 6). Love's
opposes this request for wholesale disclosure of potential
witness personnel files, arguing that the plaintiffs have not
made the requisite showing to justify this type of
potentially intrusive discovery.
reasons set forth below, we agree and will deny this request
for disclosure of personnel files.
regarding the proper scope of discovery are matters consigned
to the court's discretion and judgment. A court's
decisions regarding the conduct of discovery will be
disturbed only upon a showing of abuse of that discretion.
Marroquin-Manriquez v. I.N.S., 699 F.2d 129, 134 (3d
Cir. 1983). This far-reaching discretion also extends to
rulings by United States Magistrate Judges on discovery
matters. In this regard:
District courts provide magistrate judges with particularly
broad discretion in resolving discovery disputes. See
Farmers & Merchs. Nat'l Bank v. San Clemente Fin.
Group Sec., Inc., 174 F.R.D. 572, 585 (D.N.J. 1997).
When a magistrate judge's decision involves a
discretionary [discovery] matter . . ., “courts in this
district have determined that the clearly erroneous standard
implicitly becomes an abuse of discretion standard.”
Saldi v. Paul Revere Life Ins. Co., 224 F.R.D. 169,
174 (E.D. Pa. 2004) (citing Scott Paper Co. v. United
States, 943 F.Supp. 501, 502 (E.D. Pa. 1996)). Under the
standard, a magistrate judge's discovery ruling “is
entitled to great deference and is reversible only for abuse
of discretion.” Kresefky v. Panasonic Commc'ns
and Sys. Co., 169 F.R.D. 54, 64 (D.N.J. 1996); see
also Hasbrouck v. BankAmerica Hous. Servs., 190 F.R.D.
42, 44-45 (N.D.N.Y. 1999) (holding that discovery rulings are
reviewed under abuse of discretion standard rather than de
novo standard); EEOC v. Mr. Gold, Inc., 223 F.R.D.
100, 102 (E.D.N.Y. 2004) (holding that a magistrate
judge's resolution of discovery disputes deserves
substantial deference and should be reversed only if there is
an abuse of discretion).
Halsey v. Pfeiffer, No. 09-1138, 2010 WL 2735702, at
*1 (D.N.J. Sept. 27, 2010).
exercise of this discretion is guided, however, by certain
basic principles. At the outset, Rule 26(b) of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure generally defines the scope of
discovery permitted in a civil action, ...