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Patel v. Snapp

United States District Court, Tenth Circuit

October 31, 2013

KAMAL K. PATEL, and K & A MOTEL, INC., Plaintiffs,


James P. O’Hara U.S. Magistrate Judge

This matter comes before the court on the motions of movants[1] Wilson and Grace Parmar, Peace, Inc. (doc. 336), and The Peoples Bank (doc. 337) to quash subpoenas issued by pro se plaintiff Kamal Patel to: (1) Wilson Parmar; (2) Grace Parmar; (3) The Peoples Bank; (4) and Bank of America. For the reasons discussed below, the motions are granted in part and denied in part.[2]

I. Background

Plaintiff brings this breach of contract action as the assignee of plaintiff K&A Motel, Inc. (“K&A”).[3] Plaintiff alleges K&A retained defendants, David Snapp and Waite, Snapp & Doll, to represent K&A to pursue litigation against Mitesh Patel and Shiva Hotel, Inc., seeking specific performance of a contract to purchase a Hampton Inn in Garden City, Kansas.[4] Plaintiff asserts that defendants breached their contract to provide legal services.[5]

Although K&A granted Wilson and Grace Parmar a limited power of attorney to make decisions regarding the Hampton Inn purchase, [6] plaintiff alleges defendants breached their contractual duty by taking direction from Wilson and Grace Parmar regarding plaintiff’s legal representation.[7] For example, plaintiff alleges Wilson and Grace Parmar refused certain settlement offers and directed defendant David Snapp to dismiss the suit with prejudice.[8] As a result of the dismissal, plaintiff claims K&A was deprived of the opportunity to obtain specific performance of the contract or damages.[9]Consequently, plaintiff asks for $13, 580, 000 in damages, plus interest, punitive damages, attorney’s fees, and costs of this action.[10]

Neither plaintiff nor K&A ever filed direct claims against Wilson and Grace Parmar and none of the movants, including The People’s Bank, are parties to this action. Former defendant and third-party plaintiff Michael Doll asserted claims for contribution and indemnity against Wilson and Grace Parmar.[11] However, Wilson and Grace Parmar were dismissed from the suit with prejudice after Mr. Doll was dismissed from this action.[12]

II. Discussion

Fed. R. Civ. P. 45(c)(3)(A) outlines circumstances under which a court must quash or modify a subpoena, including when the subpoena does not allow a reasonable time for compliance, requires excessive travel, seeks disclosure of privileged or protected material, or subjects a person to undue burden. The court may quash or modify a subpoena if it requires the disclosure of a trade secret or other confidential research, development, or commercial information.[13] Non-parties responding to a Rule 45 subpoena are generally offered heightened protection from discovery abuse.[14]

Whether a subpoena imposes an undue burden upon a witness is a case-specific inquiry that “turns on such factors as relevance, the need of the party for the documents, the breadth of the document request, the time period covered by it, the particularity with which the documents are described and the burden imposed.”[15] “Courts are required to balance the need for discovery against the burden imposed on the person ordered to produce documents, and the status of a person as a non-party is a factor that weighs against disclosure.”[16]

The movants seek to quash the subpoenas issued by plaintiff because they request “wide-sweeping and unlimited personal/private information related to the Parmars and Parmars’ business interests in companies wholly unrelated to this case.” The movants further assert that plaintiff is using the subpoena power to harass and annoy them.

A. Standing

As a general rule, a motion to quash or modify a subpoena may only be made by the party to whom the subpoena is directed except where the party seeking to challenge the subpoena has a personal right or privilege with respect to the subject matter requested in the subpoena.[17] Two of the subpoenas were issued to The Peoples Bank and Bank of America; therefore, the parties entitled to challenge those subpoenas under Fed.R.Civ.P. 45(c)(3)(A) are The Peoples Bank and Bank of America, unless a showing is made that Wilson Parmar, Grace Parmar, or Peace, Inc. has a personal right to be protected or that the documents are subject to privilege. To satisfy the standing requirement on this basis, a conclusory assertion that the documents “are private, confidential, and proprietary” is insufficient; instead the challenging party must specifically identify the personal right or privilege on which he relies.”[18]

Court decisions do not define what constitutes a “personal right” for this purpose, but have applied the exception to specific factual circumstances.[19] For example, courts have held that individuals whose banking records are subpoenaed “have a privacy interest in their personal financial affairs that gives them standing to move to quash a subpoena served on a non-party financial institution.”[20]

The subpoena issued to The People’s Bank seeks the financial records of Grace Parmar, Wilson Parmar, and Peace, Inc. These non-parties clearly have a privacy interest in their financial information. Consequently, the court finds that the movants have standing to quash The People’s Bank subpoena. ...

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