United States District Court, E.D. New York
R. ALEXANDER ACOSTA, Secretary of Labor, United States Department of Labor, Plaintiff,
NEUROLOGICAL CARE P.C. et al, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
L. Pollak United States Magistrate Judge.
R. Alexander Acosta (the "plaintiff or the
"Secretary"), in his capacity as the Secretary of
Labor of the United States Department of Labor, filed this
suit on June 30, 2017 under the Fair Labor Standards Act of
1938 (the "FLSA" or the "Act"), 29 U.S.C.
§ 201 et seq. The Secretary seeks to restrain
the defendants, Neurological Care P.C, Sofia Amoashiy, and
Michael Amoashiy (collectively, the "defendants"),
from committing further violations of the Act and to recover
from them back wages and liquidated damages on behalf of
Secretary filed a letter motion to compel on February 7,
2018, which identified certain deficiencies in the
defendants' discovery responses. (See generally
PL's Mot., Feb. 7, 2018, ECF No. 25). Defendants filed
their opposition on February 12, 2018. (See
generally Defs.' Opp'n, Feb. 12, 2018, ECF No.
26). The Secretary filed his reply on February 14, 2018.
(See generally PL's Reply, Feb. 14, 2018, ECF
Court held a status conference in this matter on February 28,
2018, at which the Court resolved several of the parties'
disputes. This Order memorializes the Court's rulings
from the conference and resolves the remaining discovery
The Court's Rulings at the Conference
status conference, the Court ordered the defendants to
complete the search for electronically stored documents and
produce responsive documents by March 16.2018, or
submit a letter explaining why defendants are unable to meet
that deadline. If the search yields so many results that a
single production by the deadline would be unwieldy, the
defendants are Ordered to produce the documents on a rolling
March 16.2018. the defendants shall provide a letter
indicating the search terms they used to locate responsive
documents, the e-mail addresses searched, and the identity of
the third-party vendor providing discovery services.
Furthermore, defendants' counsel is Ordered to contact
the vendor to ensure that the documents which are identified
in response to any search are provided to counsel in the
first instance and at the same time such documents may be
produced to the client. "The obligation to conduct a
reasonable inquiry is fundamentally important, and although
it runs first to counsel, it applies with equal force to the
party itself." Martinez v. City of New York.
No. 16 CV 79, 2018 WL 604019, at *26 (E.D.N.Y.Jan. 24, 2018);
see also, e.g.. Zubulake v. UBS Warburg LLC
("Zubulake V"). 229 F.R.D. 422, 433 n.80
(S.D.N.Y.2004) (explaining that counsel "has a duty to
advise and explain to the client its [discovery]
obligations"). Counsel therefore must supervise the
discovery process, and he remains responsible for deficient
responses. See, e.g.. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(g)(1)(A).
Discovery Regarding Punitive Damages
The Parties' Positions
Secretary seeks to compel the defendants' to respond to
discovery requests regarding their assets. (See
PL's Mot. at 2). The Secretary submits that such
discovery is relevant and proper because this case involves a
claim for punitive damages. (See id. at 2-3).
regularly permit "discovery into a defendant's
assets, so as to avoid the burden on the parties, court, and
jury that would occur if discovery was not permitted until
after a finding of liability." (Id. at 3
(citing Munoz v. Manhattan Club Timeshare Ass'n.
Inc.. No. 11 CV 7037, 2012 WL 479429, at *2
(S.D.N.Y.Feb. 8, 2012)). Furthermore, the Secretary only
propounded formal discovery requests on this topic when the
defendants refused to provide a financial affidavit, an
option which was offered as "a means less intrusive than
[a] document request." (Id. at 3). Finally, the
Secretary contends that the defendants have waived all of
their objections because they have failed to satisfy the
specificity requirement of Rule 34(b)(2)(B), and have instead
asserted only general boilerplate objections of the type
universally found to be insufficient by federal courts.
(Id. at 3-4). As a salient example, the Secretary
points to defendants' objections to a request for
production on the basis that the Secretary "fail[ed] to
define the term 'Interrogatories.'" (Id
at 4; see id Ex. 3).
oppose the motion by arguing that discovery into
defendants' finances is irrelevant. First, defendants
argue that the parties stipulated that the defendants'
revenue exceeds $500, 000 to establish the applicability of
the FLSA. (See Defs.' Opp'n at 2). That
stipulation, defendants argue, renders records relating to
their finances irrelevant to the litigation. (Id.)
Second, defendants argue that punitive damages are unlikely
in this case and that discovery should only be allowed once
liability is established at trial, but such discovery is not
relevant at this time. (Id.) In support of this
contention, defendants rely solely on cases from New York
state courts and federal cases raising only state law claims.