Doe et al v. Swift Transportation Co., Inc. et al

Filing 645

ORDER granting in part and denying in part 631 Motion to Compel. Defendants are directed to respond to the requests listed in Exhibit E in compliance with the guidance provided in this order, but Defendants need not provide documents specifically related to drivers not involved in this litigation. Given that the motion has been denied in part, the court concludes that the sanctions requested by both parties are not warranted. Signed by Judge John W Sedwick on 7/15/15.(JWS)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 DISTRICT OF ARIZONA 10 11 12 13 14 15 John Doe 1, et al., ) ) Plaintiffs, ) ) vs. ) ) Swift Transportation Co., Inc., et al., ) ) Defendants. ) ) 2:10-cv-00899 JWS ORDER AND OPINION [Re: Motion at Docket 631] 16 17 18 I. MOTION PRESENTED At docket 631 Plaintiffs filed a motion to compel discovery responses, arguing 19 that Defendants have unjustifiably failed to respond to many of their discovery requests 20 based on relevancy, breadth, and undue burden. Defendants respond at docket 634. 21 Plaintiffs reply at docket 635. Oral argument was requested, but would not be of 22 additional assistance to the court. 23 24 II. BACKGROUND For readers needing to familiarize themselves with the case, a full recitation of 25 facts and the procedural history of the case can be located at dockets 223 and 605. At 26 issue in the motion at hand is whether Plaintiffs are entitled to discovery materials 27 related to their employment classification and working relationship with Defendants or 28 whether discovery should be more limited in nature given the court’s rulings at dockets 546, 605, and 622. Plaintiffs argue that Defendants have failed to cooperate 1 with discovery and have yet to turn over materials in relation to fifty specific discovery 2 requests, which are listed and described in Exhibit E of their motion. Defendants argue 3 that Plaintiffs’ discovery requests are irrelevant and overbroad. They argue that 4 discovery should be limited to the parties’ intent with regards to the named Plaintiffs’ 5 contractor agreements and should not include materials related to the parties’ functional 6 employment relationship. 7 8 III. STANDARD OF REVIEW Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) provides for liberal discovery: “Parties 9 may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party’s 10 claim or defense.”1 Relevance for purposes of discovery is defined broadly; “[r]elevant 11 information need not be admissible at the trial if the discovery appears reasonably 12 calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.”2 The court must limit the 13 requested discovery if it is shown to be “unreasonably cumulative or duplicative;” if “the 14 party seeking the discovery has had ample opportunity to obtain the information;” or if 15 “the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit, 16 considering the needs of the case, the amount in controversy, the parties’ resources, 17 the importance of the issues at stake in the action, and the im portance of the discovery 18 in resolving the issues.”3 Additionally, Rule 26(c)(1) permits the court, with good cause, 19 to limit discovery in order “to protect a party or person from annoyance, 20 embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense.” 21 On a motion to compel, the party seeking to compel discovery has the initial 22 burden of establishing that its request satisfies the relevancy requirements of 23 Rule 26(b).4 In turn, the party opposing discovery has the burden to demonstrate that 24 25 1 Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). 26 2 27 3 28 4 Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2)(C). Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). -2- 1 discovery should not be allowed due to burden or cost and must explain and support its 2 objections with competent evidence.5 3 4 IV. DISCUSSION Defendants argue that they do not need to respond to many of Plaintiffs’ 5 discovery requests because the scope of permissible discovery here is exceedingly 6 narrow and should exclude any evidence regarding the Plaintiffs’ working relationship 7 with Defendants. This is the third formulation of the same argument Defendants have 8 made at docket 542 and at docket 566, which is that the court need only review the 9 contract itself when determining whether they are “contracts of employment” within the 10 meaning of Section 1 of the Federal Arbitration Act. In other words, Defendants assert 11 that the issue of whether Plaintiffs entered into contracts of employment for purposes of 12 arbitration exemption is distinct from the issue of whether Plaintiffs functioned as 13 employees. The court rejected that argument at docket 546 and then again at 14 docket 605 after a detailed analysis of other Section 1 cases and applicable case law 15 regarding employment classification. Defendants attempt to make the same argument 16 in their response to Plaintiffs’ motion to compel, although they seem to concede that 17 some evidence outside the contracts could be relevant to provide insight into “the 18 intention of the parties at the time they formed the contract.” 19 For the same reasons set forth in detail at docket 605, the court rejects 20 Defendants’ arguments once again. The Ninth Circuit remanded the case and directed 21 the court to determine whether the parties formed employment contracts, which are 22 exempt under Section 1 of the FAA, and whether Plaintiffs had employment contracts 23 necessarily involves a factual inquiry apart from the contract itself. It requires the court 24 to look at the economic realities of the parties’ working relationship and not just the 25 26 27 28 5 See Lind v. United States, No. 13-cv-032, 2014 WL 2930486, at * 3 (D. Ariz. June 30, 2014); Integrated Global Concepts, Inc. v. j2 Global, Inc., No. 5:12-cv-03434, 2014 WL 232211, at *1 (N.D. Cal. Jan. 21, 2014). -3- 1 contract at issue or the parties’ subjective intent.6 The fact that the inquiry necessary to 2 resolve the arbitration exemption issue is intertwined with the merits of the underlying 3 dispute does not prohibit the court from looking at the parties’ working relationship. 4 Indeed, the Ninth Circuit directed the court to decide the ex emption issue despite “the 5 law’s repeated admonishments that district courts refrain from addressing the merits of 6 an underlying dispute.”7 Despite Defendants’ repeated assertion that discovery should 7 nonetheless be restricted, they cite no precedent requiring the court to impose more 8 stringent discovery limitations here. 9 Turning to the disputed discovery requests, which are summarized in Exhibit E to 10 Plaintiffs’ motion, the court concludes that many of the requests are relevant to whether 11 Plaintiffs were hired as employees or contractors. Most of the requests are limited to 12 the named Plaintiffs. Information about their contracts, leases, contract modifications, 13 insurance, job performance, personnel files, fuel surcharges, and work instructions are 14 examples of relevant information. Information about certain actions Defendants took in 15 relation to Plaintiffs are also relevant; for example, any violation notices issued, 16 disciplinary actions instigated, route changes authorized, invoices and bills sent, data 17 gathered from monitoring efforts, credit reporting or collection efforts taken, and 18 reimbursements issued. Other general information not specifically related to Plaintiffs is 19 also relevant, such as standard form contracts and leases, recruitment information, 20 materials regarding Defendants’ rules or policies related to training, discipline, benefits, 21 subcontracting, repair services, safety holds and the like are relevant. However, to the 22 extent Plaintiffs seek communications or documents specifically related to all other 23 drivers not named in the lawsuit—such as disciplinary actions taken against, 24 authorizations granted to, or agreements with other drivers—the court concludes that 25 26 27 28 6 Real v. Driscoll Strawberry Assocs., Inc., 603 F.2d 748, 755 (9th Cir. 1979) (noting that economic realities of the parties’ working relationship determines employment status, not contractual labels or parties’ subjective intent). 7 In re Van Dusen, 654 F.3d 838, 846 (9th Cir. 2011). -4- 1 the relevance of such items is outweighed by the likely burden and expense of tracking 2 down the information for all drivers, given the needs of the case and the information’s 3 marginal importance to resolving the single issue at hand. 4 Defendants have not specified any particular objection to one of the fifty disputed 5 discovery items listed in Exhibit E. Rather, Defendants’ arguments in response to the 6 motion to compel are more general in nature. Thus, the court will not address each of 7 the disputed items and instead the parties should use the court’s discussion abov e as 8 guidance in proceeding with discovery going forward. To the extent Defendants have 9 some specific objection, they have not clearly identified what item they are disputing, 10 and they have not met their burden of demonstrating with appropriate evidence why 11 that disputed discovery item is irrelevant or overbroad. 12 13 V. CONCLUSION Based on the preceding discussion, Plaintiffs’ motion at docket 631 is GRANTED 14 IN PART AND DENIED IN PART. Defendants are directed to respond to the requests 15 listed in Exhibit E in compliance with the guidance provided in this order, but 16 Defendants need not provide documents specifically related to drivers not involved in 17 this litigation. Given that the motion has been denied in part, the court concludes that 18 the sanctions requested by both parties are not warranted. 19 DATED this 15th day of July 2015. 20 21 22 /s/ JOHN W. SEDWICK SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 23 24 25 26 27 28 -5-

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