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Williams v. Fire Sprinkler Associate, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. New York

March 27, 2017



          A. Kathleen Tomlinson United States Magistrate Judge

         I. Preliminary Statement

         Plaintiffs James Williams (“Williams”) and George Mena (“Mena”) (collectively, the “Plaintiffs”) have brought the instant action against Fire Sprinkler Associates, Inc. (“Fire Sprinkler”) Mark Mausser (“Mausser”) and William Lotten (“Lotten”) (collectively, the “Defendants”) alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. § 1981, as amended by the Civil Rights Act of 1991, the New York State Human Rights Law, N.Y. Exec. Law § 290 et seq. (“NYSHRL”), and the New York City Human Rights Law, N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-101 et seq. (“NYCHRL”). In addition, Plaintiff George Mena brings additional claims pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 216(b) as well as Article 19 § 650 et seq. of the New York Labor Law (“NYLL”). See generally Complaint (“Compl.”) [DE 1].

         Presently before the Court is Plaintiffs' letter motion [DE 56] seeking to compel Defendants to provide supplemental discovery responses concerning specific categories of documentary information. See DE 56. For the reasons that follow, Plaintiffs' motion to compel is GRANTED, in part, and DENIED, in part, in accordance with this Memorandum and Order.

         II. Standard of Review

         A. Rule 26

         Rule 26(b)(1), as amended on December 1, 2015, recognizes that “[i]nformation is discoverable . . . if it is relevant to any party's claim or defense and is proportional to the needs of the case.” Rule 26 Advisory Committee Notes to 2015 Amendments; see Sibley v. Choice Hotels Int'l, No. CV 14-634, 2015 WL 9413101, at *2 (E.D.N.Y. Dec. 22, 2015) (recognizing that “the current version of Rule 26 defines permissible discovery to consist of information that is, in addition to being relevant ‘to any party's claim or defense, ' also ‘proportional to the needs of the case.'”) (internal citation omitted); Denim Habit, LLC v. NJC Boston, LLC, No. 13 CV 6084, 2016 WL 2992124, at *3 (E.D.N.Y. May 23, 2016). Notably, although Rule 26 still permits a wide range of discovery based upon relevance and proportionality, the “provision authorizing the court . . . to order discovery of any matter relevant to the subject matter involved in the action” has been eliminated. Rule 26 Advisory Committee Notes to 2015 Amendments; see Sibley, 2015 WL 9413101, at *2 (internal citation omitted). The rationale behind the elimination of this phrase is the reality that it “has been used by some, incorrectly, to define the scope of discovery.” Rule 26 Advisory Committee Notes to 2015 Amendments. Thus, Rule 26(b)(1), as amended, although not fundamentally different in scope from the previous version “constitute[s] a reemphasis on the importance of proportionality in discovery but not a substantive change in the law.” Vaigasi v. Solow Mgmt. Corp., No. 11 CIV 5088, 2016 WL 616386, at *13 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 16, 2016); see Robertson v. People Magazine, No. 14 Civ. 6759, 2015 WL 9077111 at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 16, 2015) (“[T]he 2015 amendment [to Rule 26] does not create a new standard; rather it serves to exhort judges to exercise their preexisting control over discovery more exact-ingly.”).

         Notwithstanding the foregoing principles, however, “[t]he party seeking discovery must make a prima facie showing that the discovery sought is more than merely a fishing expedition.” Barbara v. MarineMax, Inc., No. 12 Civ. 368, 2013 WL 1952308, at *2 (E.D.N.Y. May 10, 2013) (citing Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Konover, No. 05 Civ. 1924, 2009 WL 585430, at *5 (D. Conn. Mar. 4, 2009)); Evans v. Calise, No. 92 Civ. 8430, 1994 WL 185696, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. May 12, 1994)); Denim Habit, LLC, 2016 WL 2992124, at *3. In general, “[a] district court has broad latitude to determine the scope of discovery and to manage the discovery process.” EM Ltd. v. Republic of Argentina, 695 F.3d 201, 207 (2d Cir. 2012) (citing In re Agent Orange Prod. Liab. Litig., 517 F.3d 76, 103 (2d Cir. 2008)); Barbara, 2013 WL 1952308, at *3 (“Courts afford broad discretion in magistrates' resolution of discovery disputes.”); Coggins v. Cnty. of Nassau, No. 07 Civ. 3624, 2014 WL 495646, at *2 (E.D.N.Y. Feb. 6, 2014) (A district court has “broad discretion to determine whether an order should be entered protecting a party from disclosure of information claimed to be privileged or confidential.”) (internal quotation omitted); see also Mirra v. Jordan, No. 13-CV-5519, 2016 WL 889683, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 23, 2016) (“[m]otions to compel are left to the court's sound discretion.”); Liberty Mut. Ins. Co. v. Kohler Co., No. 08-CV-867, 2010 WL 1930270, at *2 (E.D.N.Y. May 11, 2010) (“[A] motion to compel is entrusted to the sound discretion of the district court.”).

         III. Discussion

         A. Procedural Issues

         Before addressing the substance of the arguments as to the individual document requests, the Court finds it necessary to bring certain other items to the attention of counsel.

         First, Plaintiff's motion fails to comply with Local Civil Rule 37.1 and is capable of being rejected on that basis alone. Local Civil Rule 37.1 states that

Upon any motion or application involving discovery or disclosure requests or responses under Fed.R.Civ.P. 37, the moving party shall specify and quote or set forth verbatim in the motion papers each discovery request and response to which the motion or application is addressed. The motion or application shall also set forth the grounds upon which the moving party is entitled to prevail as to each request or response. Local Civil Rule 5.1 also applies to the motion or application.

Local Civil Rule 37.1. See also Local Rule 5.1. Therefore, to comply with these Rules, the movant must first list verbatim the document request or interrogatory which was served on opposing counsel, followed directly by opposing counsel's verbatim response to the particular request, followed immediately by the particularized objection(s) counsel is raising and the basis for the objections (i.e., why the response is overly broad, deficient, non-responsive, etc.). Counsel is expected to refer to relevant case law to support his/her position/objection as to the respective discovery demand. Compliance with Rule 37.1 is critical in ensuring that the Court does not waste judicial resources by having to constantly flip-flop between documents in order to locate the ...

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