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Christman v. Utica National Insurance Group

March 27, 2009

GRAZYNA H. CHRISTMAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UTICA NATIONAL INSURANCE GROUP, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Glenn T. Suddaby, United States District Judge

DECISION and ORDER

Currently before the Court in this employment discrimination action are the following seven motions: (1) Defendant's motion for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 30); (2) Plaintiff's motion to reopen discovery in order to obtain the disclosure of the personnel records of three employees (Dkt. No. 38); (3) Plaintiff's first motion for sanctions against defense counsel for, inter alia, willfully failing to produce the records in question (Dkt. No. 46); (4) Defendant's first motion for a protective order limiting any remaining disclosure obligations, which it may be deemed to have, to computerized searches and prohibiting Plaintiff from disclosing any confidential information she obtains (Dkt. No. 47); (5) Defendant's second motion for a protective order requiring Plaintiff to return to Defendant all privileged and/or inadvertently disclosed materials received by Plaintiff in electronic form, including a DVD inadvertently containing a small number of privileged emails (Dkt. No. 52); (6) Plaintiff's motion to compel the disclosure of the above-referenced personnel records of three employees (Dkt. No. 63); and (7) Plaintiff's second motion for sanctions for, inter alia, making material misrepresentations to the Court in his motion and response papers (Dkt. No. 64).

For the reasons set forth below, the Court rules as follows: (1) Defendant's motion for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 30) is GRANTED; (2) Plaintiff's motion to reopen discovery (Dkt. No. 38) is DENIED; (3) Plaintiff's first motion for sanctions against defense counsel (Dkt. No. 46) is DENIED; (4) Defendant's first motion for a protective order (Dkt. No. 47) is DENIED as moot; (5) Defendant's second motion for a protective order (Dkt. No. 52) is GRANTED to the extent that it requests that Plaintiff be ordered to return to Defendant the DVD in question, but is otherwise DENIED; (6) Plaintiff's motion to compel disclosure of personnel records (Dkt. No. 63) is DENIED; and (7) Plaintiff's second motion for sanctions (Dkt. No. 64) is DENIED. As a result, Plaintiff's Complaint is dismissed in its entirety, and Plaintiff is ordered to return to Defendant the above-described DVD within seven (7) days of this Decision and Order.

I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

A. Procedural History

On November 16, 2006, Plaintiff filed a Complaint alleging that Defendant violated her following rights by terminating her employment under the pretext of poor performance: (1) her rights under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621, et seq.; (2) her rights under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5 et seq.; and (3) her rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101. (See Dkt. No. 1.)

On November 5, 2007, discovery in this action closed. (Dkt. Nos. 12-14.) On January 24, 2008, Stefan D. Berg, Esq., requested permission to withdraw as counsel for Plaintiff. (Dkt. No. 15.) On February 8, 2008, the Court granted Mr. Berg's request. (Dkt. No. 20.)

On April 3, 2008, Defendant moved for summary judgment. (Dkt. No. 30.) Plaintiff requested, and was granted, four (4) extensions of deadline by which to respond to Defendant's motion. On May 28, 2008 (the final day in which she had to respond to the motion), Plaintiff filed her response to Defendant's motion. (Dkt. No. 39.)

On the same day that she filed her response, Plaintiff also filed a motion to reopen discovery--more than four (4) months after the discovery deadline had passed. (Dkt. No. 38.) In her motion papers, Plaintiff argues that, although Mr. Berg had requested the personnel records of three individuals during discovery, these records were never produced. (Id. at 1-2.) Plaintiff also argues that these documents are material to her case, because of the circumstances that surrounded the hiring of two of the individuals, and the decision not to hire the third individual. (Id.)

In response to Plaintiff's motion to reopen discovery, Defendant argues that Plaintiff's motion should be denied for four reasons. First, argues Defendant, Plaintiff failed to articulate any reason for needing the records other than that "they will allegedly show circumstances that surrounded [the] hiring of Mr. Raga and Mrs. Krug, but not hiring Martha Dumont by Michael Evolo." (Dkt. No. 43, at 1.) In support of its argument, Defendant points out that Plaintiff has not alleged in her Complaint a claim for failure to hire, which makes records of whom Plaintiff's former supervisor may or may not have hired irrelevant to Plaintiff's action. (Id. at 1-2.) Second, argues Defendant, because only Mr. Raga worked under Mr. Evolo during the same time period as did Plaintiff, the request of the personnel records of the other two individuals is "not only irrelevant, but also completely inappropriate and would violate their rights to privacy and confidentiality." (Id. at 2.) Third, argues Defendant, it already provided Mr. Raga's records to Plaintiff "during the extensive investigation of [Plaintiff's] identical discrimination claims before the New York State Division of Human Rights." (Id.) Defendant also indicates that it provided redacted copies of Mr. Evolo's evaluations of the one other employee he supervised besides Plaintiff and Mr. Raga during Plaintiff's employment with Defendant. (Id.) Defendant states that these documents were used by Plaintiff during her deposition of Mr. Evolo. (Id.) Fourth, and finally, argues Defendant, Plaintiff failed to comply with Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(f) when she did not file an affidavit with her motion to compel. (Id.)

On July 31, 2008, Plaintiff filed a motion for sanctions under Fed. R. Civ. P. 11, based on defense counsel's conduct throughout litigation, with particular focus on counsel's actions once Plaintiff became pro se. (Dkt. No. 46.)

On August 8, 2008, Defendant filed a motion for a protective order limiting any remaining disclosure obligations, which it may be deemed to have, to computerized searches and prohibiting Plaintiff from disclosing any confidential information she obtains. (Dkt. No. 47.) In its motion, Defendant argues that it has already disclosed approximately six thousand (6,000) pages of requested materials, and that requiring disclosure of any paper documents would be unduly burdensome. (Dkt. No. 47, at 2.) In addition, Defendant argues that it "intends to turn over any additional emails it finds[,]" noting that it is not trying to hide any materials, but that the search process is burdensome and time consuming. (Id. at 3-4.)

On September 12, 2008, Defendant filed a second motion for a protective order. (Dkt. No. 52.) In its motion, Defendant seeks "an Order requiring Plaintiff to return to Defendant a DVD which inadvertently disclosed privileged and other emails falling outside the scope of the Court's Order dated February 8, 2008." (Dkt. No. 53.)

On October 2, 2008, this case was then reassigned to the undersigned. (Dkt. No. 56.) On November 4, 2008, Plaintiff filed a motion to compel disclosure of the same personnel records sought in the motion to reopen discovery. (Dkt. No. 63.)

On the same day, Plaintiff also filed a second motion for Fed. R. Civ. P. 11 sanctions against defense counsel for, inter alia, making material misrepresentations to the Court in his motion and response papers. (Dkt. No. 64.)

B. Statement of Undisputed Material Facts

For the sake of brevity, the Court will only provide a brief recitation of the undisputed material facts on Defendant's motion for summary judgment.

Plaintiff was hired by Defendant on June 28, 1990. (Compare Dkt. No. 30, Part 2, ¶ 1 [Defs.' Rule 7.1 Statement] with Dkt. No. 40, Part 1, ¶ 1 [Plf.'s Rule 7.1 Response].) On March 3, 1995, Plaintiff was transferred to the corporate accounting department, where Plaintiff held the title of Junior Accountant. (Compare Dkt. No. 30, Part 2, ¶¶ 4-5 [Defs.' Rule 7.1 Statement] with Dkt. No. 40, Part 1, ¶¶ 4-5 [Plf.'s Rule 7.1 Response].) Plaintiff held this position throughout the remainder of her employment with ...


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