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Schumacher v. Hardwoods Specialty Products

United States District Court, D. Kansas

September 26, 2019

CHARLES SCHUMACHER, Plaintiff,
v.
HARDWOODS SPECIALTY PRODUCTS, US, LP; et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER GRANTING MOTIONS TO QUASH SUBPOENAS DUCES TECUM

          KENNETH G. GALE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Before the Court are Defendants’ Motion to Quash Plaintiff’s Subpoena to T-Mobile (Doc. 68) and Defendants’ Motion to Quash Plaintiff’s Subpoenas to Liberty Hardwoods, Inc., U.S. Foods, and Foundation Recovery Systems (Doc. 70). After review of the parties’ motions, the Court GRANTS Defendants’ Motions to Quash (Docs. 68, 70).

         BACKGROUND

         The present lawsuit results from a motor vehicle accident between Plaintiff and the individual Defendant that occurred on October 26, 2016. (Doc. 28, at 4.) Plaintiff alleges that the individual Defendant was acting as an agent/employee of the corporate Defendants at the time of the accident. (Id.) Plaintiff contends that he “sustained extensive and severe personal injuries, resulting in multiple surgeries, multiple procedures, and multiple hospitalizations and other damages” as a result of the accident. (Id., at 6.)

         In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that on October 26, 2016, at approximately 6:30 a.m., he was driving northbound on Highway K-177 towards Manhattan, Kansas, in an area without artificial lighting. (Doc. 28, at 4.) Plaintiff continues that Defendant Higgs, while acting as an employee/agent of Defendant Hardwood Specialty Products, and/or Defendant Paxton Hardwoods, LLC, “was operating a tractor-trailer rig that was at least 63 feet in total length and was heading northbound on highway K-177 well in front of the Plaintiff.” (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that the trailer being pulled by Defendant Higgs was covered with a very dark black tarp and Defendant Higgs “was operating the … tractor-trailer without the required operable lamps and … without wearing his corrective lenses as required.” (Id., at 5.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Higgs

was proceeding northbound on highway K-177 in Riley County, Kansas, he pulled the tractor-trailer unit onto a paved area between the north and south bound lanes of the highway with the vehicle partially into the southbound lanes; Defendant Troy Higgs then began to negligently back the entire tractor-trailer rig across the northbound lanes of highway K-177 in an apparent attempt to back the tractor-trailer into Acorn Lane.
… In the process of negligently backing this tractor-trailer rig across highway K-177, Defendant Troy Higgs completely blocked both lanes of northbound traffic for highway K-177 with the trailer, which was covered with a black tarp and which did not have the required operating lighting.

(Id.) Plaintiff contends that he “did not have sufficient time, distance, or opportunity to avoid the Defendant’s tractor-trailer as it blocked both lanes of northbound traffic, and the front of Plaintiff’s vehicle crashed into the rear driver’s side of the defendant’s tractor and the front left side of the defendant’s trailer, ” resulting in several personal injuries to Plaintiff.[1] (Id., at 5-6.)

         Currently pending before the Court is the Motion to Quash Subpoena to T-Mobile filed by Defendants. (Doc. 68.) The subpoena duces tecum instructs nonparty T-Mobile to produce cell phone records for Defendant Higgs, including calls received, calls made, length of calls, text messages received, text messages sent, data sent, data received, and data usage from October 25 – 27, 2016.[2] (Id., at 2.) In an effort to resolve this matter, counsel for Defendants sent Plaintiff’s counsel an email, which proposed a narrower scope for the subpoenaed records with a time frame of 4:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. on October 26, 2016, the date of the occurrence. (Id., at 2, 8.) Plaintiff would not agree to this compromise.

         Also pending is Defendants’ Motion to Quash Plaintiff’s Subpoena to Liberty Hardwoods, Inc., U.S. Foods, and Foundation Recovery Systems.[3] (Doc. 70.) These subpoenas instruct the nonparties to produce employment records for Defendant Higgs, including his complete employment file, all documents related to his employment, documents relating to pre-employment investigations, and documents relating to his termination. (Id., at 2.)

         ANALYSIS

         I. Legal Standard.

         Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b) states that

[p]arties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party’s claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case, considering the importance of the issues at state 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. Information within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.

         As such, the requested information must be nonprivileged, relevant, and proportional to the needs of the case to be discoverable.

         Fed.R.Civ.P. 45 governs subpoenas, with section (d) of that Rule relating to “protecting a person subject to a subpoena” as well as “enforcement.” Subsection (d)(1) of the Rule states that

[a] party or attorney responsible for issuing and serving a subpoena must take reasonable steps to avoid imposing undue burden or expense on a person subject to the subpoena. The court for the district where compliance is required must enforce this duty and impose an appropriate sanction-which may include lost earnings ...

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