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Therese M. Mento v. John E. Potter

March 7, 2011

THERESE M. MENTO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOHN E. POTTER, POSTMASTER GENERAL, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Hugh B. Scott

Order

This matter has been referred to the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C), but without authority to hear and report upon dispositive motions (Docket No. 8, May 8, 2008). Before the Court is another set of discovery motions (in a series of discovery motions filed in this case). First, defendant moves for sanctions for plaintiff's failure to comply with answer to an Interrogatory regarding plaintiff's damages or compelling plaintiff's response to that Interrogatory (Docket No. 52*fn1 ); second, plaintiff moves for production of documents and presentation of them in an organized manner (Docket No. 54*fn2 ); and third, defendant seeks a Protective Order against the deposition of various named witnesses and certain document production (Docket No. 58*fn3 ). Given the timing of these motions relative to the latest discovery deadlines in this case (Docket No. 51, discovery to be completed by February 2, 2011), the current Scheduling Order (Docket No. 51) was held in abeyance pending the disposition of these motions to compel or for a Protective Order (Docket No. 55).

Responses to the first defense motion were due by January 25, 2011, with replies due by February 4, 2011 (Docket No. 55), as were responses and replies to plaintiff's motion (id.). Responses to defendant's motion for a Protective Order were due by February 4, 2011, with argument of all three motions set for February 22, 2011 (Docket No. 60). The motions were argued on February 22, 2011, and the Court reserved decision (Docket No. 63).

This is not the first motion to compel in this case (cf. Docket Nos. 19, 32; Docket No. 40, Order) and is far from the first adjustment of the Scheduling Order here (cf. Docket Nos. 16, 18, 24, 29, 41, 44-45, 49, 51). Familiarity with the earlier Order regarding the motion to compel (Docket No. 40) and the procedural history is presumed.

BACKGROUND

This is a Title VII action against the United States Postmaster General, in which plaintiff, a clerk at the United States Postal Service in Kenmore, New York, alleges sexual discrimination against her (Docket No. 1, Compl. ¶¶ 9-10, 13-16, 28-29). Defendant answered on May 5, 2008 (Docket No. 5).

Defendant's Motion to Compel

Defendant served Interrogatories and document demands upon plaintiff on January 8, 2009 (see Docket No. 32, Def. Atty. Decl. ¶ 6, Exs. A, B). Pertinent to the pending motion, Interrogatory # 6 asked plaintiff to "identify and describe in full each and every item of damage that you are claiming in this case, including, without limitation the following:

"a. a full description of the factual basis for each item or element of damage that you claim;

"b. the amount of each item or element of damage you claim; "c. the components of each item or element of damage you claim; and "d. how each item or element of damage was calculated; and, "e. the identity of each person who has knowledge regarding the damages alleged in a, b, c, and d." (Docket No. 32, Def. Atty. Decl. Ex. A.)

After plaintiff failed to respond to these demands, defendant then moved for the first time to compel in July 2009 (Docket No. 19; see Docket No. 32, Def. Atty. Decl. ¶ 9, Ex. C). Plaintiff responded to the discovery demands and made her initial disclosures on July 27, 2009 (Docket No. 32, Def. Atty. Decl. ¶ 10, Exs. D, E). At defendant's request, this first motion was held in abeyance and a status conference was held (Docket Nos. 21, 23; see also Docket No. 32, Def. Atty. Decl. Ex. F). When the Third Amended Scheduling Order was entered, defendant's initial motion to compel was terminated (Docket No. 24).

Defendant next reviewed plaintiff's discovery responses and found them to be "woefully inadequate" (Docket No. 32, Def. Atty. Decl. ¶ 12), concluding that plaintiff in some instances merely copied portions of her Complaint as responses (id. ¶ 13). Meanwhile, plaintiff's attorney's former firm was in the process of dissolution and her attorney formed a new firm (Docket No. 37, Pl. Atty. Aff. ¶¶ 17-19).

On January 19, 2010, defendant filed his next motion to compel (Docket No. 32). There, defendant complained about the inadequacies in plaintiff's Interrogatory Answers and other production. Pertinent to the present motion, defendant complained about plaintiff's answers to Interrogatory # 6, which sought itemization of plaintiff's damages, which plaintiff did not furnish (id. ¶ 47, Ex. D).

On January 27, 2010, plaintiff served her amended Interrogatory Answers (id. ¶ 24, Ex. D; see also Docket No. 35, Def. Motion for Expedited Hearing, Def. Atty. Decl. Ex. A), wherein (among other contentions) she claimed that she itemized her damages in response to Interrogatory # 6 (Docket No. 37, Pl. Atty. Aff. ¶ 31).

Defendant, however, objected to plaintiff's amended Answers to Interrogatories (see also Docket No. 35, Def. Motion for Expedited Hearing, Def. Atty. Decl. ¶¶ 12-23, Ex. A), faulting plaintiff for providing (and then adding) estimated damage amounts in her Answer to Interrogatory # 6 (id. ¶¶ 20-24), and failing to answer subparts a.-e. for each claim (id. ¶¶ 25-26).

In granting in part defendant's motion to compel, this Court ordered plaintiff to amend her Interrogatory answer to # 6 by supplementing her answer to address the subparts of that query (Docket No. 40, Order at 9). In her supplemental Answer to that interrogatory, plaintiff lists the days in which she was either restricted from work or was not allowed to work at all or time she lost at work. She also stated her theory that, had she been allowed to work these periods, her bonuses and benefits would have increased. (Docket No. 53, Def. Atty. Decl., Ex. A, Pl. Ans. to Interrog., at 39-41). She stated generally her total wages lost in her present position and those wages had she been promoted to Postmaster as she expected (id. at 40). She objected to Interrogatory #6.c. as being vague and confusing and referred to her earlier answer to ...


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