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Crawford v. Coram Fire District

United States District Court, E.D. New York

April 29, 2014

ROBERT CRAWFORD, WILLIAM ETSCH, ROBERT GOBBO, TRACEY CACACE, MICHAEL CRUZ, DAVID COLLINS, TROI MOSBY, and SHAWN MILLER, Plaintiffs,
v.
CORAM FIRE DISTRICT, THOMAS LYON, individually and in his capacity as Coram Fire District's Chairman of the Board, VANDORN JOHNSON, individually and in his capacity as Coram Fire District's Commissioner, JEROME A. DELLI BOVI, individually and in his capacity as Coram Fire District's Commissioner, STEVEN YALAMAS, individually and his capacity as Coram Fire District's Commissioner, TIMOTHY HEIDRICH, individually and his capacity as Coram Fire District's Commissioner, Defendants.

For the Plaintiffs: FRANKLIN, GRINGER & COHEN, P.C. Garden City, New York, By: Joshua Marcus, Esq..

For the Defendants: O'ROURKE & HANSEN, PLLC Hauppauge, New York, By: James J. O'Rourke, Esq..

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

DENIS R. HURLEY, Senior District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiffs, Robert Crawford, William Etsch, Robert Gobbo, Tracey Cacace, Michael Cruz, David Collins, Troi Mosby and Shawn Miller (collectively, "Plaintiffs"), object to the February 18, 2014 ruling of Magistrate Judge William D. Wall that Plaintiffs cannot depose or serve interrogatories on defendants' counsel, James O'Rourke, pertaining to an investigation regarding EMT timesheets and related matters, because the information Plaintiffs seek is protected by the attorney client privilege or the work-product doctrine.

For the reasons that follow, Plaintiffs' objections are denied.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs, former Emergency Medical Technicians ("EMTs") in the Coram Fire District ("District"), commenced this action on August 3, 2012 claiming that defendants, District, Thomas Lyon, individually and in his capacity as Coram Fire District's Chairman of the Board ("Lyon"), Vandorn Johnson, individually and in his capacity as Coram Fire District's Commissioner ("Johnson"), Jerome A. Delli Bovi, individually and in his capacity as Coram Fire District's Commissioner ("Delli Bovi"), Steven Yalamas, individually and in his capacity as Coram Fire District's Commissioner ("Yalamas"), and Timothy Heidrich, individually and in his capacity as Coram Fire District's Commissioner ("Heidrich"), (collectively, "Defendants"), violated Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. and New York Labor Law ("Labor Law") §§ 190 and 650 et seq., by failing to pay them proper amounts of overtime compensation when they worked over forty hours in a week, and by retaliating against them by filing Civil Service charges ("Civil Service Charges") and commencing a lawsuit against them in the New York State Supreme Court ("State Court Lawsuit") for having filed a complaint with the United States Department of Labor ("USDOL").

Specifically, Plaintiffs contend that after they filed complaints with the USDOL in May 2010, they were called to attend a meeting on June 8, 2010, wherein Defendants' counsel, James O'Rourke, notified Plaintiffs that they faced disciplinary charges if they failed to repay the District monies they had been paid for days they had not worked ("ghost days"). According to Plaintiffs, Defendants testified that James O'Rourke performed the investigation regarding the payment to Plaintiffs for the ghost days. Plaintiffs further assert that nobody discussed the matter with Plaintiffs before accusing them at the meeting. The Plaintiffs subsequently resigned from the District. Nonetheless, the District brought the State Court Lawsuit seeking restitution, and claiming that Plaintiffs knowingly falsified their payroll cards and submitted false payroll cards to Defendants resulting in Plaintiffs' being paid for work which they had not performed.

A pretrial conference in this case was scheduled for January 30, 2014. However, in advance of the pretrial conference, Plaintiffs filed a letter motion seeking "additional discovery relating to Defendants' purported investigation' which appear[ed] to have occurred immediately after the Plaintiffs filed a Complaint with the [USDOL]." See Docket No. 22. The pretrial conference was subsequently held on January 30, 2014, during which Judge Wall ordered Defendants to file opposition to Plaintiffs' motion to compel by February 14, 2014. See Docket No. 24. Defendants filed their opposition to Plaintiffs' motion to compel on February 13, 2013. Thereafter, on February 18, 2014, Judge Wall issued an Order denying Plaintiffs' motion to compel. Presently before the Court are Plaintiffs' objections to Judge Wall's February 18, 2014 ruling "that Defendants could not depose Defendants' counsel, James O'Rourke, or submit interrogatories to Mr. O'Rourke in connection with the investigation undertaken by Mr. O'Rourke into Defendants' claims that the Plaintiffs had engaged in a practice of stealing time by filling out their timesheets in a manner whereby they were improperly paid for days they did not work." (Pls.' Mem. at 1.)

DISCUSSION

I. Standard of Review

This Court reviews a magistrate judge's decision regarding non-dispositive pretrial matters under a "clearly erroneous or contrary to law" standard. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a). Discovery matters generally are considered non-dispositive of litigation. See Thomas E. Hoar, Inc. v. Sara Lee Corp., 900 F.2d 522, 525 (2d Cir. 1990).

An order is "clearly erroneous" only if a reviewing court, considering the entirety of the evidence, "is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed'"; an order is "contrary to law" when it "fails to apply or misapplies relevant statutes, case law or rules of procedure.'" E.E.O.C. v. First Wireless Grp., Inc., 225 F.R.D. 404, 405 (E.D.N.Y. 2004) (quoting Weiss v. La Suisse, 161 F.Supp.2d 305, 320-21 (S.D.N.Y. 2001)); accord U2 Home Entm't, Inc. v. Hong Wei Int'l Trading Inc., 2007 WL 2327068, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 13, 2007). This standard is "highly deferential, " "imposes a heavy burden on the objecting party, " and "only permits reversal where the magistrate judge abused his discretion." Mitchell v. ...


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