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Doe v. Swift Transportation Co., Inc.

United States District Court, D. Arizona

November 13, 2015

John Doe 1, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Swift Transportation Co., Inc., et al., Defendants.

ORDER AND OPINION [RE: MOTIONS AT DOCKET 644, 652, 654]

JOHN W. SEDWICK SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

I. MOTIONS PRESENTED

At docket 644 Plaintiffs filed a motion to compel Defendants Swift Transportation Co., Inc. (“Swift”) and Interstate Equipment Leasing (“IEL”; collectively, “Defendants”) to testify regarding the topics set forth in Plaintiffs’ Rule 30(b)(6) deposition notices. They argue that Defendants have unjustifiably objected to the topics listed in the deposition notices based on relevancy, breadth, and undue burden. Before filing a response, Swift, at docket 652, filed a motion for a protective order regarding Plaintiffs’ Rule 30(b)(6) deposition notice, requesting that the court preclude the deposition as it is currently noticed. IEL filed the same motion at docket 654. Swift and IEL then jointly responded to Plaintiffs’ motion to compel docket 663. Plaintiffs filed a joint response to Defendants’ motions at docket 671 and filed a reply to their own motion at docket 672. Swift filed a reply at docket 678, and IEL filed a reply at docket 677. Oral argument was requested but would not be of additional assistance to the court.

II. BACKGROUND

For readers needing to familiarize themselves with the case, a full recitation of facts and procedural history can be located at dockets 223 and 605. The primary issue in the motions here is again the proper scope of discovery.

At docket 605 the court ruled that discovery on the Section 1 exemption issue is warranted. The court stressed that determination of the Section 1 exemption issue will necessarily involve an analysis of the functional relationship between Plaintiffs and Defendants. At docket 645 the court again stressed that discovery was not exceedingly narrow as suggested by Defendants. It ruled that discovery could include requests for information related to Plaintiffs’ working relationship with Defendants. Specifically, the court set the scope of discovery as follows:

Information about [Plaintiffs’] contracts, leases, contract modifications, insurance, job performance, personnel files, fuel surcharges, and work instructions, are examples of relevant information. Information about certain actions Defendants took in relation to Plaintiffs are also relevant; for example, any violation notices issued, disciplinary actions instigated, route changes authorized, invoices and bills sent, data gathered from monitoring efforts, credit reporting or collection efforts taken, and reimbursements issued. Other general information not specifically related to Plaintiffs is also relevant, such as standard form contracts and leases, recruitment information, materials regarding Defendants’ rules or policies related to training, discipline, benefits, subcontracting, repair services, safety holds and the like are relevant. However, to the extent Plaintiffs seek communications or documents specifically related to all other drivers not named in the lawsuit-such as disciplinary actions taken against, authorizations granted to, or agreements with other drivers-the court concludes that the relevance of such items is outweighed by the likely burden and expense of tracking down the information for all drivers, given the needs of the case and the information’s marginal importance to resolving the single issue at hand.[1]

Plaintiffs subsequently issued Rule 30(b)(6) deposition notices to both Swift and IEL.[2] Swift objects to its notice, arguing that the 63 topics listed therein are too broad and seek class-wide merits and certification discovery when the only issue for determination at this stage is whether the named plaintiffs had an employment contract with Swift. It acknowledges the court’s past rulings but argues that the court’s previous orders did not contemplate such class-wide discovery. IEL argues that its corporate representatives should not be deposed at all because the employment contracts at issue were with Swift and not IEL. It also objects to the broad nature of the notice.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) provides for liberal discovery: “Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party’s claim or defense.”[3] Relevance for purposes of discovery is defined broadly; “[r]elevant information need not be admissible at the trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.”[4] The court must limit the requested discovery if it is shown to be “unreasonably cumulative or duplicative;” if “the party seeking the discovery has had ample opportunity to obtain the information;” or if “the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit, considering the needs of the case, the amount in controversy, the parties’ resources, the importance of the issues at stake in the action, and the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues.”[5] Additionally, Rule 26(c)(1) permits the court with good cause to limit discovery in order “to protect a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense.”

On a motion to compel, the party seeking to compel discovery has the initial burden of establishing that its request satisfies the relevancy requirements of Rule 26(b).[6] In turn, the party opposing discovery has the burden to demonstrate that discovery should not be allowed due to burden or cost and must explain and support its objections with competent evidence.[7]

IV. DISCUSSION

A. The Swift notice

Swift argues that Plaintiffs’ proposed Rule 30(b)(6) deposition should be prohibited by the court because it encompasses such a wide range of topics that Swift will have to designate more than five representatives for the deposition, causing Plaintiffs to exceed their five-deposition limit. However, the Advisory Committee notes to Rule 30 state that “[a] deposition under Rule 30(b)(6) should . . . be treated as a single deposition even though more than one person may be designated to testify.”[8]Thus, the deposition limit set in this case does not require that the court prohibit the Rule 30(b)(6) as noticed by Plaintiffs. Also, a witness for a Rule 30(b)(6) deposition does not have to have personal knowledge in order to testify on a subject. The representative is testifying on behalf of the corporate entity about what the corporate entity “knows.”[9] Swift, ...


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