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Bettis v. Hall

United States District Court, D. Kansas

March 19, 2015

TONY BETTIS, et al., Plaintiffs,
GARY L. HALL, et al., Defendants.


JAMES P. O'HARA, Magistrate Judge.

Following a jury trial in this breach-of-contract case, final judgment was entered in 2012 against defendant Gary L. Hall, awarding plaintiffs $302, 000, plus costs.[1] Defendant failed to pay the judgment in full. Subsequently, plaintiffs served post-judgment discovery to gather information regarding defendant's assets with which to execute and satisfy the judgment. Because defendant failed to adequately respond to the discovery, plaintiffs filed a motion to compel on February 19, 2015. The matter is currently before the undersigned U.S. Magistrate Judge, James P. O'Hara, on plaintiffs' motion to compel and for sanctions (ECF doc. 211).

Since judgment was entered against defendant, plaintiffs have attempted to collect the judgment via writs of garnishment, [2] subpoenas of third-parties' records, [3] a motion for issuance of charging orders, [4] and registration of the judgment in other states. Yet, plaintiffs have not been able to identify assets sufficient to satisfy the judgment.

In a continued effort to identify such assets, plaintiffs served discovery in aid of execution on June 5, 2014.[5] On July 2, 2014, defendant moved for a two-week extension of time to respond to the discovery.[6] Plaintiffs later agreed to stay the due date for responses to the discovery in exchange for defendant's promise to make monthly payments and to pay off the judgment in full by December 31, 2014. Although defendant made partial payments toward the judgment in August and September 2014, his October 2014 payment was returned unpaid for insufficient funds. That payment was eventually paid along with the November 2014 payment. However, defendant failed to make the last promised payment of approximately $128, 000 by December 31, 2014. Subsequently, defendant asked that plaintiffs accept smaller monthly payments and delay the deadline for his discovery responses. Plaintiffs declined, explaining that "due to Mr. Hall's history of failing to make payments, [they] could not accept unsecured promises and agree to further delay in identifying Mr. Hall's assets."[7]

On January 20, 2015, defendant served his answers to the discovery in aid of execution.[8] Plaintiffs assert that defendant failed to provide any of the information requested and did not identify or attach a single document. Instead, plaintiffs claim that defendant responded with "vague boilerplate objections."[9] Therefore, plaintiffs filed a motion seeking to compel defendant to fully respond to the discovery requests.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1) provides that generally the scope of discovery is limited to the parties' pleaded claims and defenses, but that "[f]or good cause, the court may order discovery of any matter relevant to the subject matter involved in the action." When a party files a motion to compel and asks the court to overrule objections, the objecting party must specifically show in its response to the motion how each discovery request is objectionable.[10] Objections initially raised but not supported in response to the motion to compel are deemed abandoned.[11] However, if the discovery requests appear facially objectionable in that they are overly broad or seek information that does not appear relevant, the burden is on the movant to demonstrate how the requests are not objectionable.[12] With these standards in mind, the court addresses defendant's objections and responses to the disputed requests.

I. General Objections

Defendant made six general objections in response to plaintiffs' interrogatories and eight general objections in response to plaintiffs' requests for production.[13] In the District of Kansas, general objections are considered "overly broad and worthless unless the objections are substantiated with detailed explanations."[14] Our courts disapprove of the practice of asserting a general objection "to the extent" it may apply to particular requests for discovery.[15] Defendant, as the party resisting discovery, has the burden of supporting all of his objections, including his general objections.[16] The court finds that defendant has made no meaningful effort to show how any of the general objections apply to a specific request. Most of defendant's general objections are listed "to the extent" that they apply to any of the discovery requests, rendering them meaningless and hypothetical because they are not applied to specific requests. Although defendant now attempts to "withdraw" the general objections in his response, the court still finds that defendant's "general objections" are overruled.

II. Objections to Requests

As earlier explained, when ruling upon a motion to compel, the court generally considers those objections which have been timely asserted and relied upon in response to the motion. The court generally deems objections initially raised but not relied upon in response to the motion as abandoned.[17] Because defendant only relies upon three objections in response to this motion, the court will only address those objections. Other objections initially raised but not supported in response to the motion to compel are deemed abandoned.

A. Location of Production

Plaintiffs served twenty-two requests in their requests for production in aid of execution.[18] Plaintiffs did not receive any documents in response. Instead, defendant objected to sixteen requests, responded that no documents were available, and/or stated that certain documents would be made available for inspection and copying at defendant's office in Galena, Kansas (about 150 miles south of the Kansas City metro area, where the case was tried and where both sides' lawyers have their offices).

Defendant asserts that the primary issue before the court is the location of his production. Defendant maintains that he is not objecting to producing documents. However, defendant refuses to produce documents in plaintiffs' counsel's office in Kansas City, Missouri, as requested. Instead, defendant has offered to produce the documents in Galena, Kansas where the documents are maintained. Alternatively, defendant has offered to put the documents on a disc but only if plaintiffs pay for fifty percent of the cost to do so. Finally, defendant has offered to make copies of the documents but only at plaintiffs' cost. Defendant argues that plaintiffs have failed to cite any precedent for their request for defendant to produce the documents "over 150 miles away from their location in another state."[19] Defendant explains that all of the documents would constitute four to five boxes of records, all of which are maintained in Galena, Kansas-more than 150 miles away from Kansas City. Defendant insists that transportation of the documents would be burdensome and that plaintiffs should pay for copies to avoid this dispute.

There is a general rule that the responding party should bear the costs of producing discovery.[20] However, our courts have held that under Rule 34, a responding party need only make requested documents available for inspection and copying-it need not pay the copying costs.[21] Plaintiffs argue this case is distinguishable because the discovery at issue here is discovery in aid of execution. Although plaintiffs ...

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