United States District Court, D. Kansas
CANDACE FOX, et. al., Plaintiffs,
TRANSAM LEASING, INC., et. al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
GERALD L. RUSHFELT, Magistrate Judge.
This matter is before the Court for resolution of the parties' discovery dispute regarding Interrogatories 4 and 6, and Requests for Production Nos. 2, 4, 6, 8, 9 and 10, sought pursuant to Plaintiffs' Second Set of Interrogatories and Request for Production. At the request of the parties the Court held a status conference on October 7, 2014, to address the issue. The Court heard arguments of counsel and ordered additional briefing by the parties. The matter is now fully briefed and the Court is prepared to rule.
Named plaintiffs Candace Fox, Anthony Gillespie, and Charles Schreckenbach, individually and on behalf of others similarly situated, filed their original 15-count Class Action Complaint on November 1, 2012, against Defendants TransAm Trucking, Inc. and TransAm Leasing, Inc. Plaintiffs and the putative class are independent truck drivers who own or lease motor vehicle equipment, namely semi-trucks, to Defendant TransAm Trucking. Defendant TransAm Leasing is a separate entity that leases semi-trucks to independent contractors who, in turn, lease those trucks and driving services to TransAm Trucking or some other motor carrier. Plaintiffs allege that the putative class members signed substantially identical Independent Contractor Agreements ("ICA") with TransAm Trucking. The ICAs are considered leases under federal truth-in-leasing regulations because the contractor is considered to be leasing the truck and driving services to a motor carrier.
Plaintiffs sought class certification on Counts I, II and III only. The District Court denied class certification for Counts I and II, and granted class certification on Count III. In Count III, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants violated 49 C.F.R. § 376.12(I), which provides that:
The lease shall specify that the lessor is not required to purchase or rent any products, equipment, or services from the authorized carrier as a condition of entering into the lease arrangement.
Plaintiffs allege that Defendants violated the provision by requiring Plaintiffs pursuant to the ICA to pay a satellite communications system usage fee of fifteen dollars per week. Defendants counter that the fee is not a forced purchase but is instead a specifically authorized charge-back. Defendants assert that TransAm Trucking must pay a service provider for its satellite communications system, and it charges back the cost of that to its drivers, as specifically authorized by 49 C.F.R. § 376.12(h).
The District Court certified a class on Count III, and subsequently Plaintiffs' sought leave to amend the complaint to extend by one year the class period in Count III. The Court granted the motion to amend and therefore redefined the class as follows:
All persons, including entities, who operated under an Independent Contractor Agreement that included a satellite communications system usage fee with TransAm Trucking, Inc. between November 2, 2008, through the present.
Plaintiffs served discovery seeking, among other things, the following: the identity of any documents provided to class members to permit them to determine the validity of the satellite communications fees (Interrogatory No. 4); whether or not Defendants informed class members of the terms of any agreement permitting the satellite fee deductions (Interrogatory No. 6), and all writings provided to class members to validate the charges, or reflecting any communications between Defendants and a satellite vendor concerning the satellite equipment or fees (Requests for Production Nos. 2, 4, 6, 8, 9 and 10). In response, Defendants objected to the interrogatories:
TransAm Trucking objects because this interrogatory seeks information outside the scope of discovery defined by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1). The interrogatory asks for information about class members in connection with what the Plaintiffs assert is a legal duty under 49 C.F.R. § 376.12(h) to provide certain documents to independent contractor drivers. But the only count for which a class was certified in this case, Count 3, does not assert a claim under this provision. In fact, none of the 15 counts in the Complaint assert such a claim.
Defendants likewise objected to the requests for production as seeking information outside the scope of discovery defined by Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1).
The parties dispute whether the discovery at issue is relevant pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). Rule 26(b)(1) provides that "[p]arties may obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, that is relevant to the claim or defense of any party...." In addition, "[f]or good cause, the court may order discovery of any matter relevant to the subject matter involved in the action." The Court must determine "whether the discovery is relevant to the claims or defenses and, if not, whether good cause exists for authorizing it so long as it is relevant to the subject matter of the ...