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Carter v. Spirit Aerosystems, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Kansas

November 29, 2018




         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's two Motions to Quash Subpoenas (ECF Nos. 131, 138). After consideration of the parties' briefing, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's motions for the reasons stated below.

         I. Background

         The nature of this 2016 case has been explored numerous times in prior orders, and will not be repeated in detail here. (See, e.g., ECF Nos. 20, 62, 64, 67.) Briefly, Plaintiff claims his former employer, defendant Spirit Aerosystems, Inc. (“Spirit”), unlawfully terminated him in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”)[1] and Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”).[2] He contends his termination was a result of discrimination and in retaliation for making formal complaints about Spirit's treatment of him. Plaintiff seeks $2.5 million in emotional distress damages for the pain and suffering his entire family has endured as a result of his termination. (ECF No. 21 at 15.)

         The discovery period is set to end November 30, 3018; however, shortly prior to the close of discovery, Plaintiff filed two motions to quash subpoenas issued by Defendant. The first motion seeks to quash two documents subpoenas to Plaintiff's medical providers at Wesley Medical Center and Via Christi Clinic. (ECF No. 131.) The second motion seeks to quash a deposition subpoena to Plaintiff's wife. (ECF No. 138.) Each motion is addressed in turn.

         II. Legal Standards

         Plaintiff's request to quash the subpoenas and issue a protective order implicates two primary Federal Rules of Civil Procedure: provisions under Rule 45, and provisions under Rule 26. Each rule is addressed in turn.

         A. Fed.R.Civ.P. 45

         Fed. R. Civ. P. 45 provides guidelines for the issuance of subpoenas to non-parties. Rule 45(d)(3)(A) requires the court to quash or modify a subpoena that requires disclosure of privileged or protected information or subjects a person to undue burden. Although Rule 45 does not specifically include relevance or overbreadth as bases to quash a subpoena, “this court has long recognized that the scope of discovery under a subpoena is the same as the scope of discovery under Rule 26(b) and Rule 34.”[3] “A motion to quash a subpoena must be made by the party to whom the subpoena is directed, except in circumstances in which a party challenging the subpoena has a personal right or privilege with respect to the subject matter requested in the subpoena.”[4]

         B. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26

         Rule 26(b)(1) permits discovery of “any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense.” Relevance, at discovery, is broad, [5] and does not mean the information obtained would necessarily be admitted at trial. If the party seeking discovery meets its initial, minimal burden to demonstrate its request is relevant on its face, [6] the resisting party cannot rely upon a conclusory statement that the requested discovery is irrelevant.[7] It “must either demonstrate the discovery sought does not come within the broad scope of relevance defined in Rule 26(b)(1), or that it is of such marginal relevance that the potential harm caused by the discovery would outweigh the presumption in favor of broad disclosure.”[8] “Courts should lean towards resolving doubt over relevance in favor of discovery, ”[9] and the court has broad discretion over discovery matters and to decide when a protective order is appropriate.[10]

         Additionally, under Rule 26(b), the scope of discovery must be “proportional ‘to the needs of the case, considering the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties' relative access to relevant information, the parties' resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit.'”[11] “A subpoena that seeks irrelevant, overly broad, or duplicative discovery causes undue burden, and the trial court may quash it on those bases.”[12]

         Rule 26(c) allows the court, for good cause, to issue an order to protect a party from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense. The Court then has broad discretion to utilize such a protective order to specifically define and/or narrow the disclosure or discovery, including the terms, timing, and method of discovery.[13]

         With these standards in mind, the Court reviews each motion to quash.

         III. Plaintiff's Motion to Quash or Modify Subpoenas for Medical Records (ECF No. 131)

         During a hearing held before the undersigned on October 12, 2018, regarding a potential motion to compel by Defendant (and other disputes), the Court and parties Plaintiff's deposition in August 2018 that he failed to disclose certain medical providers who treated him from January 1, 2013 to present, which are relevant to both Plaintiff's underlying claims and his damages. Defendant planned to compel Plaintiff to identify those providers. During the hearing, Plaintiff orally identified two immediate care providers: “Wesley on Hillside” and Via Christi “Immediate Care on Ridge, ” who treated him during the relevant period. (ECF No. 134 at 45-46.) The records subpoenas issued ...

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