ENGLISH v. WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA TRANSIT AUTHORITY
MEMORANDUM OPINION, signed by Magistrate Judge Robin M. Meriweather on 10/13/2017. (lcrm2)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
CHIMWALA F. ENGLISH,
WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA
) Civil Action No. 16-02335 (ABJ/RMM)
Three discovery motions are pending before the Court. Plaintiff Chimwala F. English
(“Plaintiff” or “Ms. English”) filed a Motion to Compel [ECF No. 12], which challenges the
completeness of Defendant Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (“Defendant” or
“WMATA”) responses to certain interrogatories and requests for production of documents.
WMATA filed a Motion for Protective Order [ECF No. 15], which seeks to prohibit Ms. English
from taking a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30(b)(6) deposition of designated WMATA
employees. Ms. English opposed that motion and filed a Cross-Motion to Compel WMATA’s
Deposition [ECF No. 17], which seeks to compel Defendant WMATA to designate and produce
a witness to appear and testify at the 30(b)(6) deposition. The District Judge presiding over this
case has referred all discovery disputes to the undersigned Magistrate Judge pursuant to Local
Civil Rule 72.2(a). See Order, ECF No. 21. Having reviewed the parties’ written submissions,
the arguments presented at the July 17, 2017 motions hearing, and the entire record herein, the
Court will grant-in-part and deny-in-part Ms. English’s Motion to Compel [ECF No. 12], deny
Defendant’s Motion for Protective Order [ECF No. 15], and grant Ms. English’s Cross-Motion to
Compel [ECF No. 17] for the reasons set forth below.
Factual and Procedural History1
On the morning of September 3, 2015, Reginald Burrell boarded WMATA Bus 2360.
Compl. ¶ 7, ECF No. 1. Mr. Burrell felt lightheaded, and subsequently informed the WMATA
bus driver that he was not feeling well. Id. ¶¶ 8, 10. Mr. Burrell exited the bus at the next stop
from the passenger side door. Id. Upon exiting, Mr. Burrell attempted to steady himself by
leaning on the side of the bus. Id. ¶ 11. Shortly thereafter, the bus driver began to drive away
from the curb. Id. ¶ 12. Mr. Burrell was dragged under the rear right portion of the bus and
injured. Id. ¶ 13. After the accident Mr. Burrell was taken to Washington Hospital Center,
where he remained until he died on September 8, 2015. Id. ¶ 17.
On November 28, 2016, Ms. English, daughter of Reginald Burrell, filed this action
against WMATA alleging negligence and negligence per se in claims for wrongful death and a
survival action. See Compl. Ms. English asserts that the incident on September 3, 2015 (“the
Incident”) was the direct, sole, and proximate result of the negligence of WMATA’s bus driver.
Id. ¶¶ 21, 58. Ms. English alleges that the bus driver owed Mr. Burrell “a duty of care to operate
the WMATA bus in a proper fashion with the degree of care and skill that a reasonably
competent driver would have exercised under similar circumstances.” Id. at ¶¶ 22, 59. Ms.
English contends that WMATA, through its bus driver, breached the applicable duties and
standards of care owed to Mr. Burrell and thus was negligent, negligent per se, or both. Id. at ¶¶
51, 87. WMATA admits that at all relevant times the bus driver was acting within the scope of
Given the procedural posture of the case, the Court relies on the facts alleged in the
his employment as a WMATA bus operator, but denies that it or the driver was negligent.
Answer 2–3, ECF No. 5.
In April 2017, after the parties notified the Court that they had a pending discovery
dispute, Judge Amy Berman Jackson referred that dispute to the undersigned for resolution. See
Referral to Magistrate Judge Order, ECF No. 9. The parties filed a joint Status Report outlining
the nature and scope of outstanding discovery disputes, and the undersigned subsequently held a
Telephonic Discovery Conference. See Status Report, ECF No. 10; April 19, 2017 Minute
Entry. At that conference, the Court set a schedule for briefing of the outstanding discovery
Ms. English subsequently filed a Motion to Compel [ECF No. 12], WMATA sought a
Protective Order to preclude a Rule 30(b)(6) deposition [ECF No. 15], and Ms. English crossmoved to compel WMATA to produce a witness for the 30(b)(6) deposition [ECF No. 16]. The
Motion to Compel concerns WMATA’s responses to a number of Ms. English’s interrogatories
and requests for production of documents. In that motion, Ms. English requests that WMATA
produce a privilege log that fully complies with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, requests an
in camera review of redacted documents to ensure that all non-privileged information has been
released to Plaintiff, and seeks to compel WMATA to provide relevant and discoverable
information and documents in response to her interrogatories and requests for production. See
Pl.’s Mot. to Compel 1–2, ECF No. 12.
The Motion for Protective Order seeks to prohibit Ms. English from taking a Rule
30(b)(6) deposition for which WMATA was asked to designate one or more witnesses to testify
regarding eighteen topics. See Mot. for Protective Order of WMATA 1 (Def.’s Mot. for
Protective Order), ECF No. 15 & Ex. 1, ECF No. 15-2 (Notice of Fed. R. Civ. P. 30(b)(6) Dep.
of Def. Wash. Metro. Area Transit Auth.). In its motion, WMATA challenges the scope of Ms.
English’s request for a 30(b)(6) deposition and questions the deposition’s purpose, indicating
that it duplicates other discovery requests and appears intended to burden or harass. See Def.’s
Mot. for Protective Order 2. In her response, Ms. English cross-moves to compel the deposition.
See Pl.’s Opp’n to Def.’s Mot. for Protective Order and Cross-Mot. to Compel WMATA’s Dep.
9, ECF Nos. 16 & 17.
On July 6, 2017, Judge Jackson expanded the referral to encompass the resolution of all
discovery disputes. See Order, ECF No. 21. The undersigned held a motions hearing on July 17,
2017, and on July 18, 2017 requested supplemental briefing regarding the applicability of the
work product protection. See Order, ECF No. 25.
Motion to Compel Responses to Interrogatories and Requests for Production
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37, a party seeking discovery through an
interrogatory under Rule 33 or the production of documents under Rule 34, and who believes
that the opposing party has failed to meet its obligations under the relevant Rules, may — after
conferring in good faith with the opposing party — seek to compel a response. See Fed. R. Civ.
P. 37(a)(1), 37(a)(3)(B)(iii)–(iv). To satisfy Rule 33, “[a] party to whom an interrogatory is
propounded ‘must provide true, explicit, responsive, complete, and candid answers.’”
Guantanamera Cigar Co. v. Corporacion Habanos, S.A., 263 F.R.D. 1, 7 (D.D.C. 2009)
(quoting Equal Rights Ctr. v. Post Props., Inc., 246 F.R.D. 29, 32 (D.D.C. 2007)); see Fed. R.
Civ. P. 33(b)(3) (“Each interrogatory must, to the extent it is not objected to, be answered
separately and fully in writing under oath.”). A party served with Rule 34 requests for
production must produce or allow inspection of the requested records unless it has asserted a
viable objection. See Fed. R .Civ. P. 34(b)(2). Rule 37 further provides that evasive or
incomplete answers or responses to written discovery requests will be treated as a failure to
answer or respond. Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(a)(4).
A party may serve written interrogatories or requests for production provided such
requests fall within the scope of Rule 26(b). Fed. R. Civ. P. 33(a)(2) (“An interrogatory may
relate to any matter that may be inquired into under Rule 26(b)”); Fed. R. Civ. P. 34(a) (“A party
may serve on any other party a request within the scope of Rule 26(b)”). Rule 26(b) permits
parties to “obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's
claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1).
Where a relevance objection has been raised, the moving party seeking to compel
discovery “must demonstrate that the information sought to be compelled is discoverable.”
Meijer, Inc. v. Warner Chilcott Holdings Co., III, 245 F.R.D. 26, 30 (D.D.C. 2007); see also
Felder v. Wash. Metro. Area Transit Auth., 153 F. Supp. 3d 221, 224 (D.D.C. 2015). Once that
showing has been made, “the burden shifts to the non-moving party ‘to explain why discovery
should not be permitted.’” Felder, 153 F. Supp. 3d at 224 (quoting Jewish War Veterans of the
U.S., Inc. v. Gates, 506 F. Supp. 2d 30, 42 (D.D.C. 2007)); see also United States v. All Assets
Held at Bank Julius Baer & Co., 202 F. Supp. 3d 1, 6 (D.D.C. 2016).
Motion for Protective Order
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26, a party may move for a protective order “on
matters relating to a deposition.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(c)(1). “[F]or good cause,” the court may
“issue an order to protect a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or
undue burden or expense.” Id. The party requesting the protective order bears the burden of
showing good cause. Alexander v. FBI, 186 F.R.D. 71, 75 (D.D.C. 1998). In meeting this
burden, the party “must make a specific demonstration of facts in support of the request as
opposed to conclusory or speculative statements about the need for a protective order and the
harm which will be suffered without one.” Alexander, 186 F.R.D. at 75; see also Huthnance v.
Dist. of Columbia, 255 F.R.D. 285, 296 (D.D.C. 2008).
“The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure encourage the exchange of information through
broad discovery.” In re England, 375 F.3d 1169, 1177 (D.C. Cir. 2004). Specifically, Rule 26
permits parties to:
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 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
Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1); see also Pederson v. Preston, 250 F.R.D. 61, 63–64 (D.D.C. 2008).
The discovery objections at issue in the pending motions primarily concern privilege and
relevance. Each motion will be addressed in turn below.
Motion to Compel Further Responses To Written Discovery
Ms. English contends that WMATA has “failed to comply with its discovery obligations
and wrongfully withheld plainly discoverable materials.” Pl.’s Mot. to Compel 1, ECF No. 12.
Specifically, Ms. English moves to compel the following:
A privilege log that fully complies with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
Disclosure of any non-privileged material that WMATA redacted from its
Production of all documents in response to Ms. English’s Requests for
Production 3, 7, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 18, and 24;
Substantive responses to Ms. English’s Interrogatories 2, 5, 6, 8, 9, 11, 12,
13, 19, 21, and 23; and
A response to Plaintiff’s second set of interrogatories.
Pl.’s Mot. to Compel 1–2; Pl.’s Mem. in Support of Mot. to Compel (“MTC Mem.”), ECF No.
Ms. English’s request for a privilege log that fully complies with the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure is moot because WMATA provided a revised privilege log under seal, to both
Ms. English and the Court, on July 13, 2017. See Am. Privilege Log, ECF No. 23.2 The portion
of the Motion to Compel that seeks a response to Plaintiff’s second set of interrogatories also has
been rendered moot by intervening events; at the July 17, 2017 Motions Hearing, Plaintiff’s
counsel advised the Court that WMATA had responded to Plaintiff’s Second Set of
Interrogatories. Therefore, the following analysis addresses only the dispute regarding
WMATA’s response to Ms. English’s requests for production of documents and her first set of
WMATA’s Assertion of Privileges to Redact Responsive Documents
Ms. English challenges WMATA’s redaction of documents that are responsive to
Plaintiff’s Interrogatory 2. See MTC Mem. 5. Plaintiff’s Interrogatory 2 seeks the following:
Interrogatory 2: Identify and describe in detail all information regarding the
Incident communicated or provided by you (or anyone acting on your behalf) to,
or for the benefit of, the United States Department of Transportation, including
the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, relating, reflecting or referring
to the Incident.
The revised privilege log was submitted in response to this Court’s July 11, 2017 Order
directing WMATA to file a privilege log that “state[s] the basis upon which the privilege is
claimed, the subject matter, number of pages, author, date created, and the identity of all persons
to whom the original or any copies of the document were shown or provided.” Order, ECF No.
22 (quoting Loftin v. Bande, 258 F.R.D. 31, 33 (D.D.C. 2009)) (internal quotation marks
MTC Mem. 5. The redacted documents responsive to that interrogatory include documents from
an “investigative file” produced to Ms. English as part of WMATA’s initial disclosures and a
Safety Report later produced by WMATA in response to Plaintiff’s Interrogatory 2. See id. at 5–
WMATA relies primarily on the self-evaluative privilege to redact information from the
responsive documents, and also has redacted information that it describes as work product,
“post-remedial measures,” and “Confidential Employee Numbers.” See Am. Privilege Log; see
also Opp’n to Pl.’s Mot. to Compel Ex. 1 (“Privilege Log”), ECF No. 13-1. Ms. English
disputes the applicability of the privileges and protections asserted. See MTC Mem. 5–7.
Accordingly, Ms. English requested that the Court undertake an in camera review to determine
whether the redacted information is privileged and then order WMATA to release to Plaintiff any
information that was improperly withheld. See id.
When a party claims a privilege as the basis for withholding documents, that party “bears
the burden of proving the communications are protected.” Felder, 153 F. Supp. 3d at 224
(quoting In re Lindsey, 158 F.3d 1263, 1270 (D.C. Cir. 1998)); see also United States v. Legal
Servs. for N.Y.C., 249 F.3d 1077, 1081 (D.C. Cir. 2001). To carry that burden, the party
asserting the privilege must “present the underlying facts demonstrating the existence of the
privilege,” and “conclusively prove each element of the privilege.” In re Lindsey, 158 F.3d at
1270 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). “[T]he proponent of a privilege . . . must
offer more than just conclusory statements, generalized assertions, and unsworn averments of its
counsel.” United States v. ISS Marine Servs., Inc., 905 F. Supp. 2d 121, 127 (D.D.C. 2012)
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted). If the party asserting the privilege fails to
present sufficient facts to allow the Court to “state with reasonable certainty that the privilege
applies, this burden is not met.” FTC v. TRW, Inc., 628 F.2d 207, 213 (D.C. Cir. 1980)
WMATA relies principally on the self-evaluative privilege as justification for its
redaction of documents from the investigative file. See Am. Privilege Log 1–2; Privilege Log 1–
2. The self-evaluative privilege “encourage[s] confidential self-analysis and self-criticism” by
shielding from discovery documents that reflect the conclusions an entity has reached as part of
its internal investigation or evaluation of certain incidents or conduct. First E. Corp. v.
Mainwaring, 21 F.3d 465, 467 (D.C. Cir. 1994) (quoting TRW, Inc., 628 F.2d at 210) (internal
quotation marks omitted); see also Felder, 153 F. Supp. 3d at 224–25. The privilege reflects
courts’ recognition that “it is not realistic to expect candid expressions of opinion or suggested
changes in policies, procedures or processes knowing that such statements or suggestions may
very well be used against colleagues and employees in subsequent litigation.” Felder, 153 F.
Supp. 3d at 225 (citing Bradley v. Melroe Co., 141 F.R.D. 1, 3 (D.D.C. 1992)).
This Court first recognized the self-evaluative privilege in Bredice v. Doctors Hospital,
where the privilege was held applicable to hospital staff meeting notes documenting physicians’
retrospective reviews and critiques of the treatment and care provided by their colleagues. 50
F.R.D. 249, 251 (D.D.C. 1970). In Bredice, the Court found “an overwhelming public interest in
having those staff meetings held on a confidential basis so that the flow of ideas and advice can
continue unimpeded,” and therefore concluded that the records should not be discoverable absent
“extraordinary circumstances.” Id. Courts evaluating claims of the self-evaluative privilege
have considered similar public policy concerns, assessing whether the value of candid and
comprehensive self-evaluations outweighs a requestor’s need for the information. See Martin v.
Potomac Elec. Power Co., Nos. 86-0603, 87-1177, 87-2094, 88-0106, 1990 WL 158787, at *3
(D.D.C. May 25, 1990) (unpublished); Wainwright v. Wash. Metro. Area Transit Auth., 163
F.R.D. 391, 396; see also Bradley, 141 F.R.D. at 3.
Although parties rarely succeed in invoking the self-evaluative privilege, the cases where
the privilege has been applied share common traits. First, the D.C. Circuit has suggested that the
self-evaluative privilege should apply only in cases that implicate public health or safety.
Mainwaring, 21 F.3d at 467 n.1; see also Wade v. Wash. Metro. Area Transit Auth., No. Civ. 010334, 2006 WL 890679, at *5 (D.D.C. Apr. 5, 2006) (citing Mainwaring) (noting that “the [D.C.
Circuit] would be reluctant to expand [the self-evaluative privilege] beyond cases involving
public health or safety”). Second, the applicability of the privilege frequently turns on whether a
“document was created for the purpose of retrospective self-criticism to improve health and
safety.” Felder, 153 F. Supp. 3d at 227; see also Wade, 2006 WL 890679, at *5 (citing
Mainwaring, 21 F.3d at 467 n.1); Wainwright, 163 F.R.D. at 396. Members of this Court also
have required that the privileged document be “a critique submitted as part of a mandatory
government report.” Wainwright., 163 F.R.D. at 396; see also Mahnke v. Wash. Metro. Area
Transit Auth., 821 F. Supp. 2d 125, 150 n.16 (D.D.C. 2011) (quoting Wainwright’s standard but
declining to rule on the applicability of a self-evaluative privilege); Martin, 1990 WL 158787, at
*3; cf. Felder, 153 F. Supp. 3d at 227 (questioning whether a document must be submitted as
part of a mandatory government report to qualify for the self-evaluative privilege). Finally, the
privilege applies only to the conclusions, subjective judgments, or mental impressions reached
during the evaluative process, and “does not protect purely factual material appearing alongside
self-critical analysis.” Felder, 153 F. Supp. 3d at 225; see also Martin, 1990 WL 158787, at *3
n.4. In these cases, courts have concluded that the privilege is necessary to avoid a “chilling
effect” that otherwise might hinder a company or public entity from engaging in self-critical
analysis. Felder, 153 F. Supp. 3d at 225 (quoting Granger v. Nat’l R.R. Passenger Corp., 116
F.R.D. 507, 509 (E.D. Pa. 1987)).
WMATA invokes the self-evaluative privilege to redact portions of reports and other
documents prepared as part of its post-accident investigation of the Incident. See Am. Privilege
Log; Privilege Log. WMATA argues that “[r]equiring [it] to produce the mental impressions,
conclusions and opinions of WMATA personnel and consulting experts who evaluated the
incident and made decisions on how to make the work environment safer would chill and deter
future evaluations aimed at improving WMATA’s safety.” Opp’n to Pl.’s Mot. to Compel 3–4
(“Def.’s Opp’n”), ECF No. 13. Citing precedent applying the self-evaluative privilege to
recommendations and conclusions made during post-accident evaluations, WMATA contends
that it properly redacted portions of records from the investigative file that reflect: (1)
recommendations, conclusions, and the results of WMATA’s investigation or review; 3 and (2)
post-accident remedial measures and actions taken by WMATA.4 See Felder, 153 F. Supp. 3d at
226–28 (finding that the self-evaluative privilege applied to recommendations and conclusions in
a disciplinary memorandum that was prepared as part of a post-accident safety evaluation);
Gilbert v. WMATA, No. 85-535, slip op. at 1 (D.D.C. Sept. 3, 1986) (applying self-evaluative
privilege to materials from safety evaluation after finding that the “public policy exception
encouraging evaluations and improvements to safety outweighs the plaintiff’s needs for the
This category pertains to information that may be found in the Accident Report Form and
WMATA Dept. of Safety Final Report of Investigation.
This category pertains to information that may be found in the Accident Report Form,
Remedial Bus Operator Training Form, WMATA Dept. of Safety Final Report of Investigation
Ms. English concedes that the self-evaluative privilege applies to any self-critical analysis
and conclusions that appear in the redacted documents, and therefore does not challenge
WMATA’s redactions of such information. Instead, she seeks only “all factual information that
may be contained in the redacted reports WMATA has produced.” Pl.’s Reply in Further
Support of Pl.’s Mot. to Compel Disc. Resps. 3 (“Pl.’s Reply”), ECF No. 14 (emphasis in
original); see also MTC Mem. 6–7.
Given that Ms. English does not challenge WMATA’s redaction of any self-critical
analysis and conclusions, the Court need not determine whether the self-evaluative privilege
protects those portions of the redacted documents.5 Instead this case presents the narrower
question of whether the redactions include factual information that is outside the scope of the
self-evaluative privilege. WMATA contends that all the redacted information is evaluative and
thus not discoverable.
Distinguishing between factual and evaluative information is more complex than it may
initially appear. While some information may be purely factual or purely evaluative, other
information falls on a continuum between those two extremes. For example, a document may
contain factual information regarding actions an entity takes in response to an incident that, if
disclosed, would implicitly reveal the self-critical analysis, evaluation, or conclusions upon
which the decision to take those actions was based. Compelling the disclosure of such
information would defeat the purpose of the self-evaluative privilege. On the other hand, some
Thus the Court need not and will not decide whether to follow Wainwright and limit the
applicability of the self-evaluative privilege to documents that contain “a critique submitted as
part of a mandatory government report.” 163 F.R.D. at 396. However, it appears that WMATA
could have provided evidence demonstrating that the documents at issue were prepared for such
a purpose. See, e.g., Felder, 153 F. Supp. 3d at 227 (applying self-evaluative privilege to
WMATA disciplinary memorandum and safety reports prepared pursuant to WMATA’s
“legally-mandated obligation to investigate [an] accident”).
actions responsive to an incident may be as consistent with a positive self-evaluation as with a
negative one; in those cases, disclosing the action would not reveal the conclusions drawn in the
underlying self-critical analysis. Accordingly, when determining whether the self-evaluative
privilege applies to the redacted documents, the Court focused on the impact that disclosure of
the redacted material would have, and applied the privilege to information whose disclosure
would reveal WMATA’s self-critical evaluation, conclusions, or safety recommendations.
The Court’s in camera review of the redacted documents, analyzed under the foregoing
legal standards, reveals that the self-evaluative privilege applies to some, but not all, of the
information that WMATA has redacted. While reviewing the claim of privilege, the Court also
remained mindful that privileges generally are narrowly construed and that WMATA bears the
burden of proving that the self-evaluative privilege applies here. See United States v. Nixon, 418
U.S. 683, 710 (1974) (“Whatever their origins, these exceptions to the demand for every man’s
evidence are not lightly created nor expansively construed, for they are in derogation of the
search for truth.”); In re Sealed Case, 676 F.2d 793, 806–07 (D.C. Cir. 1982) (noting that “courts
are careful to construe recognized privileges narrowly”); Coastal States Gas Corp. v. Dep’t of
Energy, 617 F.2d 854, 862 (D.C. Cir. 1980). The specific rationale for applying or disallowing
the privilege is explained below on a document-by-document basis.
Accident Report Form
WMATA has redacted several sections of the Accident Report Form. See ECF No. 12-4
at 3–6; ECF No. 23-1 at 2–5.6 Some of the redacted material contains the conclusions drawn in
WMATA submitted the redacted documents in multiple filings. See ECF No. 12-4 (redacted
documents from investigative file); ECF No. 12-8 (redacted Final Report of Investigation); ECF
No. 23-1 (redacted documents from investigative file annotated to clearly identify the asserted
privilege). This Opinion’s citations to page numbers refer to the ECF page numbers of a filing
WMATA’s evaluation of the Incident, the disclosure of which would reveal WMATA’s internal
self-critical analysis; the self-evaluative privilege shields that information from discovery. See
Felder, 153 F. Supp. 3d at 226–28 (finding that the self-evaluative privilege applied to
recommendations and conclusions in a disciplinary memorandum that was prepared as part of a
post-accident safety evaluation); Gilbert v. WMATA, No. 85-535 (D.D.C. Oct. 9, 1986)
(recognizing that the privilege applies to WMATA safety evaluations and candid self-criticism of
WMATA employees). Accordingly, WMATA properly redacted the following portions of the
Accident Report Form: on page three of ECF No. 12-4, the first four boxes in the line that
commences with box number 1 and all of box number 16 except the last five words; on page four
of ECF No. 23-1, all of the redacted material;7 and on page six of ECF No. 12-4, all of the
redacted material except for the four lines of text in the final redacted paragraph.
Some of the redacted material simply identifies the nature of certain proposed remedial
actions and contains no self-critical analysis. WMATA argues that its recommendations and
proposed remedial actions are privileged because their disclosure “would chill and deter future
evaluations aimed at improving WMATA’s safety.” Def.’s Opp’n 3–4. But the proposed
remedial actions at issue would logically follow any accident, regardless of who is at fault.
Consequently, the fact that WMATA recommended or took those actions does not reveal the
that contains WMATA’s redacted or annotated redacted documents, and do not refer to the
individual pagination that may appear within each redacted document. As ECF No. 23-1 was
filed under seal, the Court will cite to that filing only if the redactions differ from those in
WMATA’s publicly docketed submission of the redacted documents.
On page four of ECF No. 23-1, WMATA also could have invoked the self-evaluative
privilege to redact certain language in the paragraph (“Redacted Paragraph”) that immediately
follows the paragraph ending in the words, “Medical Examination.” In the Redacted Paragraph,
WMATA could have redacted the language which follows the last comma of that paragraph.
Although WMATA redacted that entire paragraph in an earlier production, WMATA disclosed it
in its more recent submission. Compare ECF No. 12-4 at 5 with ECF No. 23-1 at 4.
nature or outcome of WMATA’s self-critical assessment of the Incident, and disclosing those
recommendations should not chill candid and objective self-evaluation. This material is,
therefore, outside the scope of the self-evaluative privilege and is discoverable unless another
privilege applies. See generally Felder, 153 F. Supp. 3d at 228 (concluding discipline imposed
by WMATA was factual and thus must be disclosed to the plaintiff); Sutton v. Wash. Metro.
Area Transit Auth., Civil Action No. 07-1197, slip op. at 3–4 (D.D.C. Dec. 17, 2007)
(concluding self-evaluative privilege did not extend to factual information concerning actions
WMATA took after an accident). Accordingly, WMATA improperly invoked the selfevaluative privilege to withhold the following portions of the Accident Report Form: on page
three of ECF No. 12-4, the last five words in box numbers 16; and on page six of ECF No. 12-4,
the four lines of text located above “Employee’s Comments” and at the bottom of the redacted
WMATA also redacted portions of the Accident Report Form containing information
about the driver’s appeal rights. WMATA already has disclosed to Ms. English that the bus
driver filed an appeal, by releasing with minimal redactions a document titled “Accident Appeal
Form” wherein the driver states that he “disagree[s] with the rating of the accident.” ECF No.
12-4 at 3. That disclosure waived any self-evaluative privilege that arguably might protect
information regarding the driver’s right to appeal. See generally In re Sealed Case, 121 F.3d
729, 741 (D.C. Cir. 1997) (noting, in the context of executive and deliberative process privileges,
that the release of a document waives the privilege for the document or information specifically
released); Ivy Sports Med., LLC v. Sebelius, No. 11-CV-1006 RLW, 2012 WL 5248176, at *2
(D.D.C. Oct. 24, 2012) (unpublished) (noting waiver of deliberative process privilege where
information was made public). Even if WMATA had not waived the privilege, disclosing the
driver’s right to appeal would not reveal any self-critical analysis. Accordingly, WMATA
improperly relied on the self-evaluative privilege to redact the following portions of the Accident
Report Form: on page three of ECF No. 12-4, box numbers 14 and 15 and the row of text
between box 15 and box 16.
Report for Incident
WMATA also invoked the self-evaluative privilege as a basis for redacting two partial
lines of text in the “Report for Incident.” See ECF No. 12-4 at 7. The text following “Response
Level,” if disclosed, would reveal information about the conclusions drawn during WMATA’s
assessment of the Incident; therefore it was properly redacted pursuant to the self-evaluative
privilege. See id. However, the information redacted in the text immediately following
“B47546” would not reveal any analysis or conclusions, self-critical or otherwise; therefore that
text must be disclosed to Ms. English unless another privilege protects it.8 See id.
Remedial Bus Operator Training Form
WMATA also contends that the self-evaluative privilege applies to portions of the
“Remedial Bus Operator Training Form.” See ECF No. 12-4 at 14–15. The first redacted line on
pages 14 and 15, immediately below “Activity Details,” simply duplicates information that
appears in unredacted form elsewhere in the document. Therefore WMATA has waived the selfevaluative privilege even if it otherwise might have protected this information. Moreover, these
lines contain factual information regarding training, and the fact that training may have occurred
does not disclose any self-critical analysis. Similarly, the remaining redactions of text under the
categories “Start Date”, “End Date”, “Date”, “Start Time”, “End Time”, “Time Zone”, and
WMATA asserts the work product protection for all the information that it seeks to shield
under the self-evaluative privilege. See Privilege Log at 2; Am. Privilege Log at 2. The
applicability of that privilege will be addressed below.
“Location” consist of purely factual information which, if disclosed, would not reveal any selfcritical analysis, evaluation, or conclusions. Accordingly, this information is not protected by
the self-evaluative privilege and must be disclosed to Ms. English unless the work product
WMATA Dept. of Safety Final Report of Investigation
WMATA also asserts the self-evaluative privilege as a basis for redacting portions of the
“Final Report of Investigation. See ECF No. 12-8 at 2–7. The redacted five paragraphs under
the heading “Investigation” consist almost entirely of factual information concerning the
background of the driver and the steps WMATA took to investigate the Incident. If disclosed,
those facts would reveal no self-critical analysis, evaluation, or conclusions. The only evaluative
information within the redacted paragraphs on page five of ECF No. 12-8 appears in the last
sentence, immediately preceding the heading “Operator of Metrobus #2360 thirty day work
history.” That sentence describes the conclusions WMATA reached regarding the driver’s
actions, and therefore was properly redacted. The remaining redacted sentences on this page,
however, are not evaluative and therefore must be disclosed to Ms. English unless the work
product protection applies.
Most, but not all, of the remaining redactions in this document were proper. The text
under the headings “Findings/Analysis” and “Conclusion” contains WMATA’s substantive
analysis and conclusions, which epitomize the type of information protected by the selfevaluative privilege. See ECF No. 12-8 at 7. However, the privilege protects only a portion of
the text under the final heading on page seven, titled “Mitigation to Prevent Re-Occurrence.”
WMATA asserts the work product protection for all the information that it seeks to shield
under the self-evaluative privilege. See ECF No. 23-1 at 12–13; see also Privilege Log at 2; Am.
Privilege Log at 2. The applicability of that privilege will be addressed below.
See ECF No. 12-8 at 7. The last nine words of the first bullet point under that heading contain
facts that implicitly reveal one of the conclusions reached by WMATA, and therefore are within
the scope of the self-evaluative privilege. The remainder of the redacted information under this
heading identifies future actions that likely would be pursued regardless of the conclusions
WMATA reached when evaluating the cause of the Incident. Therefore the self-evaluative
privilege does not apply to that portion of the report and the redacted information should be
disclosed to Ms. English unless the work product protection applies.
Finally, Ms. English asks the Court to compel WMATA to disclose the names of the
individuals involved in generating and approving the Safety Report; the redacted report simply
attributes the drafting, review, and approval of the report to individuals designated by the
notation “SAFE” and a number in a box at the bottom of each page. See MTC Mem. 6. The
Court’s in camera review has shown, however, that those individuals’ names do not appear in
the unredacted document; the original unredacted document also identifies those individuals only
with the notation “SAFE” and a number. Therefore this information was not withheld under the
Work Product Protection
WMATA asserts the work product protection as an alternative basis for withholding all
of the information it redacted under the self-evaluative privilege. See Privilege Log; Am.
Privilege Log; Def.’s Opp’n 6. The work product doctrine is codified in Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 26(b)(3), which provides that a requesting party ordinarily may not “discover
documents and tangible things that are prepared in anticipation of litigation or for trial by or for
another party or its representative (including the other party’s attorney, consultant, surety,
indemnitor, insurer, or agent).” Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(3)(A); see also FTC v. Boehringer
Ingelheim Pharm., Inc., 180 F. Supp. 3d 1, 17 (D.D.C. 2016). “At its core, the work-product
doctrine shelters the mental processes of the attorney, providing a privileged area within which
he can analyze and prepare his client’s case.” United States v. Nobles, 422 U.S. 225, 238 (1975).
The party invoking the work product protection bears the “burden of proving, by
competent evidence and to a reasonable certainty, each of the essential elements” necessary to
support the applicability of that protection. In re Veiga, 746 F. Supp. 2d 27, 41 (D.D.C. 2010);
see also United States v. Clemens, 793 F. Supp. 2d 236, 255–56 (D.D.C. 2011). First, it is
necessary to establish that the requested documents were “prepared in anticipation of litigation.”
Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(3); see also In re Sealed Case, 146 F.3d 881, 884 (D.C. Cir. 1998). After
that showing has been made, the discoverability of the material turns on whether it is “fact” or
“opinion” work product. Clemens, 793 F. Supp. 2d at 244; see also Upjohn Co. v. United States,
449 U.S. 383, 400–01 (1981). Opinion work product reveals the “mental impressions,
conclusions, opinions, or legal theories of a party’s attorney or other representative concerning
the litigation” and is “virtually undiscoverable.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(3)(B); Dir., Office of
Thrift Supervision v. Vinson & Elkins, LLP, 124 F.3d 1304, 1307 (D.C. Cir. 1997); see also
Hickman v. Taylor, 329 U.S. 495, 508, 511–12 (1947); FTC v. Boehringer Ingelheim Pharm.,
Inc. (Boehringer II), 778 F.3d 142, 149 (D.C. Cir. 2015). By contrast, a party may obtain fact
work product by showing that it has a “substantial need for the materials to prepare its case and
cannot, without undue hardship,” obtain the materials by other means. Fed. R. Civ. P.
26(b)(3)(A)(ii); see also Boehringer II, 778 F.3d at 153.
WMATA has failed to demonstrate that these records were created because of a
reasonable anticipation of litigation and otherwise qualify for work product protection.10
WMATA’s opposition to Plaintiff’s Motion to Compel gives the work product protection scant
attention; WMATA fails to identify the work product protection by name and states only that
“[t]he investigative reports are also not discoverable as prepared in anticipation of litigation.”
Def.’s Opp’n 6. Given the important purposes that the work product doctrine serves, the Court
provided WMATA a second opportunity to establish the applicability of the work product
protection and issued an order requesting supplemental briefing on this issue. See Order, ECF
No. 25. That order specifically advised WMATA that a party asserting a privilege must “present
the underlying facts demonstrating the existence of the privilege,” and “conclusively prove each
element of the privilege.” Id. at 2 (quoting In re Lindsey, 158 F.3d at 1270) (internal quotation
marks omitted). Yet WMATA still has not presented facts that support the application of the
work product protection. In its supplemental brief, WMATA continues to rely on “conclusory
statements, generalized assertions, and unsworn averments of its counsel.” ISS Marine Servs.,
Inc., 905 F. Supp. 2d at 127 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). That falls far short
of carrying WMATA’s burden to present sufficient facts to allow the Court to “state with
reasonable certainty that the privilege applies.” TRW, Inc., 628 F.2d at 213.
WMATA’s reliance on Whisenton v. WMATA, No. 88-2637 (D.D.C. Dec. 22, 1988), and
other precedent reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the evidentiary hurdle that it must
clear to invoke the work product protection. WMATA appears to believe that the fact that a
judge on this Court concluded in a different case that reports created by a WMATA supervisor or
Given WMATA’s failure to clear this threshold requirement for work product protection, the
Court need not and will not address whether these documents constitute fact or opinion work
safety committee were prepared in anticipation of litigation and thus protected by the work
product protection requires this Court to reach the same conclusion. See WMATA’s Mem.
Regarding Work Product Privilege 1–2, ECF No. 26. But this Circuit’s precedent requires that
courts ask “whether, in light of the nature of the document and the factual situation in the
particular case, the document can fairly be said to have been prepared or obtained because of the
prospect of litigation.” United States v. Deloitte LLP, 610 F.3d 129, 137 (D.C. Cir.2010)
(emphasis added) (quoting In re Sealed Case, 146 F.3d 881, 884 (D.C. Cir.1998)). Thus
WMATA must articulate specific facts to prove that the redacted documents at issue in this case
were created because WMATA anticipated that litigation would ensue. See In re Veiga, 746 F.
Supp. 2d at 41. It has wholly failed to do so. The fact that WMATA carried that burden in a
different case does nothing to advance WMATA’s obligation to establish its reasons for creating
the documents at issue here.
For the foregoing reasons, WMATA’s assertion of the work product protection fails.
WMATA shall release to Ms. English any information that was redacted pursuant to the work
product protection that is not independently protected by the self-evaluative privilege.
Post Remedial Measures
WMATA’s privilege log identifies “Post Remedial Measures” as a basis for redacting
portions of the investigative file. See Am. Privilege Log; see also Privilege Log (noting “Post
Remedial Measure(s)” in the “Privilege” column). WMATA also argues that post accident
remedial measures are inadmissible and “therefore any exhibit related to that subject calls for
information that is immaterial and irrelevant.” Def.’s Opp’n 5. However, the annotated
documents submitted with the privilege log do not contain any redactions attributed to the fact
that the materials describe post-remedial measures. At the motions hearing, counsel for
WMATA was unable to articulate any independent privilege applicable to post-remedial
measures, and instead appeared to argue that the self-evaluative privilege shielded WMATA’s
post-remedial actions from disclosure.11 Therefore the Court concludes that the Privilege Log’s
reference to “post-remedial measures” merely describes a sub-category of the information that
WMATA contends is within the scope of the self-evaluative privilege.
To the extent WMATA means to invoke Federal Rule of Evidence 407 — which it has
not cited — that rule would not provide a basis to withhold materials describing post-accident
remedial measures in discovery. Rule 407 addresses the admissibility of post-accident remedial
measures.12 But under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26, information “need not be admissible
in evidence to be discoverable.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). Further, Rule 407 expressly
contemplates that evidence of post-accident remedial measures may be admitted for
impeachment or certain other purposes. Fed. R. Evid. 407. See Mahnke, 821 F. Supp. 2d at 152.
Therefore the rule does not support WMATA’s blanket assertion that all information regarding
post-accident remedial measures is irrelevant and outside the scope of discovery. See generally
Sutton, Civil Action No. 07-1197, slip op. at 4 (ordering the production of information regarding
During the July 17, 2017 Motions Hearing WMATA, upon inquiry from the Court and very
briefly, contended that Rule 407 overlaps with the self-evaluative privilege.
Federal Rule of Evidence 407 states:
When measures are taken that would have made an earlier injury or harm less
likely to occur, evidence of the subsequent measures is not admissible to prove:
• culpable conduct;
• a defect in a product or its design; or
• a need for a warning or instruction.
But the court may admit this evidence for another purpose, such as impeachment
or — if disputed — proving ownership, control, or the feasibility of precautionary
Fed. R. Evid. 407.
post-remedial measures and “express[ing] no view on the admissibility, as opposed to the
discoverability, of this information”).
Confidential Employee Numbers
The Privilege Log identifies “Confidential Employee Number” as a basis for redacting
portions of several documents from the investigative file. See Am. Privilege Log; Privilege Log.
WMATA explained at the Motions Hearing that an employee number is a confidential
identification number, similar to a Social Security Number, which is unique to each employee
and can be used to access employee benefits such as metro passes. However, WMATA has cited
no recognized privilege that insulates those numbers from discovery. Nor does there appear to
be an agreement among the parties to allow the redaction of Confidential Employee Numbers.
Although no privilege protects Confidential Employee Numbers, Ms. English has not
established that they are relevant to her claims. As the moving party, Ms. English bears the
burden of proving the relevance of the information whose production she seeks to compel. See
Jewish War Veterans of the U.S., Inc., 506 F. Supp. 2d at 42. The Confidential Employee
Numbers convey no substantive information regarding the Incident, and Ms. English has not
explained how having the numbers would advance any of her claims. The numbers would not
permit Ms. English to identify potential witnesses, because she would need additional
information to match those numbers to a specific employee. Further, an interrogatory asking
WMATA to identify the individuals who participated in the investigation would be a more
efficient and straightforward means of obtaining that information. Therefore, the Court denies
Ms. English’s request to compel WMATA to release the WMATA Confidential Employee
Numbers that have been redacted from the investigative file documents. Those numbers —
which appear on the Accident Appeal Form, Accident Report Form, Report for Incident, Post
Accident Decision, and Witness or Employee Statement Form — may remain redacted.
Responses to Interrogatories and Requests for Production
In addition to challenging WMATA’s assertions of privilege, Ms. English contends that
WMATA’s responses to certain interrogatories and requests for production are deficient. See
MTC Mem. 7–13. The disputed discovery requests seek information regarding how the Incident
occurred, the facts supporting WMATA’s defenses, the characteristics of the bus, the bus driver
(including his personnel file and history of safety checks), and WMATA’s training and
instruction of bus drivers. See id. WMATA contends that it has produced all pertinent
information, and that the information Ms. English seeks is neither relevant nor likely to lead to
the discovery of admissible evidence. See Def.’s Opp’n 6–9. Ms. English counters that the
information and documents requested are relevant to her claims and will help her fully evaluate
WMATA’s defenses. See MTC Mem. 7–13.
“[C]onsiderations of both relevance and proportionality . . . govern the scope of
discovery” allowed under Rule 26. United States ex rel. Shamesh v. CA, Inc., 314 F.R.D. 1, 8
(D.D.C. 2016). Specifically, a party may “take discovery ‘regarding any nonprivileged matter
that is relevant to any party’s claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case.’”13 Fed
R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). Relevance is “construed broadly to encompass any matter that bears on, or
Courts weigh six factors to evaluate the proportionality of a discovery request: “(1) the
importance of the issues at stake in this action; (2) the amount in controversy; (3) the parties’
relative access to relevant information; (4) the parties’ resources; (5) the importance of the
discovery in resolving the issues; and (6) whether the burden or expense of the proposed
discovery outweighs its likely benefit.” Oxbow Carbon & Minerals LLC v. Union Pac. R.R. Co.,
No. 11-CV-1049 (PLF/GMH), 2017 WL 4011136, at *3 (D.D.C. Sept. 11, 2017) (quoting
Williams v. BASF Catalysts, LLC, No. 11-1754, 2017 WL 3317295, at *4 (D.N.J. Aug. 3, 2017)
(citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1)) (internal quotation marks omitted). WMATA has not raised a
proportionality objection to the disputed interrogatories and document requests.
that reasonably could lead to other matter[s] that could bear on” a party’s claim or defense.
Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 351 (1978); see Shamesh, 314 F.R.D. at 8
(quoting Oppenheimer); Jewish War Veterans of the U.S., Inc., 506 F. Supp. 2d at 41 (noting that
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26 permits “broad access to relevant information at the
discovery stage”). Information “need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.” Fed. R.
Civ. P. 26(b)(1). Further, Rule 26, as amended, no longer limits discovery to information that is
“reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.” Shamesh, 314 F.R.D. at
8 (discussing changes implemented in December 2015 amendments to Rule 26); Fed. R. Civ. P.
26 advisory committee’s note to 2015 Amendment (noting that the “former provision for
discovery of relevant but inadmissible information . . . is also deleted”)).
As the party seeking to compel further responses to interrogatories and requests for
production of documents, Ms. English “bears the initial burden of explaining how the requested
information is relevant.” Jewish War Veterans of the U.S., Inc., 506 F. Supp. 2d at 42; see also
Cartagena v. Centerpoint Nine, Inc., 303 F.R.D. 109, 112 (D.D.C. 2014). If Ms. English meets
that burden, WMATA must then show “why discovery should not be permitted.” All Assets
Held at Bank Julius Baer & Co., 202 F. Supp. 3d at 6 (quoting Alexander v. FBI, 194 F.R.D.
316, 326 (D.D.C. 2000)) (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Shamesh, 314 F.R.D. at 8.
Most of the information Ms. English seeks is relevant and discoverable, and the Court therefore
partially grants Ms. English’s Motion to Compel.
How the Incident Occurred
Plaintiff’s request for WMATA’s description of how the Incident occurred concerns
Interrogatory 9, which states:
Interrogatory 9: Describe in detail and in chronological order how you contend that
the Incident occurred, identifying each individual(s) upon whom or document(s) upon
which you rely for your answer and the specific information provided by each
See MTC Mem. 7, 9 n.8; Pl.’s Mot. to Compel Ex. 4 at 3, ECF No. 12-5. In response, WMATA
objected on the grounds that Terry Smith lacked personal knowledge of the Incident and then
directed Ms. English to “see, investigative file and video previously produced.” Pl.’s Mot. to
Compel Ex. 5 at 7, ECF No. 12-6. At the motions hearing WMATA clarified that it believes that
only the investigative file and video of the Incident are relevant, and thus contends that it should
not be required to provide any more information regarding the Incident.
Information concerning how the Incident occurred is obviously relevant and goes to the
heart of Ms. English’s claims. Indeed, it is difficult to conceive of any facts that would be more
significant than those requested here. WMATA’s assertion that the video provides the “best
evidence” of how the Incident occurred, and thus any further description would be irrelevant,
misses the mark. See Def.’s Opp’n 6–7. WMATA identifies no precedent, and this Court is
aware of none, that defines relevant evidence as that which constitutes the “best evidence” of an
allegation or fact. To the contrary, discovery generally should be allowed “unless it is clear that
the information sought can have no possible bearing on the claim or defense of a party.” Zelaya
v. UNICCO Serv. Co., 682 F. Supp. 2d 28, 32 (D.D.C. 2010).
Given the obvious relevance of the information requested in Interrogatory 9, WMATA’s
response is incomplete. WMATA has refused to describe the Incident and simply directs Ms.
English to the investigative file and a video. Rule 33(d) permits a party to provide business
records instead of preparing a narrative written response to an interrogatory. Fed. R. Civ. P.
33(d); see Haughton v. Dist. of Columbia, 161 F. Supp. 3d 100, 102 (D.D.C. 2014). But such a
response must “specify the records that must be reviewed, in sufficient detail to enable the
interrogating party to locate and identify them as readily as the responding party could.” Fed. R.
Civ. P. 33(d)(1). Here, WMATA has not identified any specific unredacted document in the
investigative file that provides a detailed and comprehensive description of how the Incident
occurred, and WMATA redacted portions of that file to withhold self-evaluative material.
WMATA cannot, therefore, rely on Rule 33(d) to justify its refusal to provide a narrative
response to this interrogatory. Further, the video does not capture the entirety of the Incident as
it does not show what occurred inside the bus. See MTC Mem. 10. Thus neither the
investigative file nor the video provides a complete answer to Ms. English’s Interrogatory 9. Ms.
English is entitled to have a verified interrogatory response in which WMATA provides its
account of how the Incident occurred. WMATA’s response to Interrogatory 9 is deficient, and
WMATA must supplement it to provide non-privileged information regarding how the Incident
Facts Supporting WMATA’s Defenses
Ms. English’s request for information concerning WMATA’s defenses arises from the
following two discovery requests:
Interrogatory 21: Describe in detail all factual bases for any affirmative defenses that
you are asserting in this action, including, but not limited to, all facts that support any
contention that Mr. Burrell was contributorily negligent and/or assumed the risk.
Request for Production 3: All documents which relate, reflect, or refer to the grounds
of, and substance of, each defense, affirmative or otherwise, asserted by you in this
Pl.’s Mot. to Compel Ex. 4 at 5. In response to Interrogatory 21, WMATA raised privilege
objections and then stated that “WMATA has previously produced all relevant documents in its
Initial Disclosures.” Id. Ex. 5 at 11. WMATA further noted that it needed to review Mr.
Burrell’s medical records in order “to understand the nature and extent of Decedent’s medical
condition(s) both while Decedent was on the bus, exiting the bus, leaning against the bus, falling
under the bus and while in the hospital.” Pl.’s Mot. to Compel Ex. 5 at 11. In response to
Request for Production 3, WMATA objected on the grounds of the work product protection, the
attorney-client and self-evaluative privileges, and then indicated that it had already produced
non-privileged documents. See Pl.’s Mot. to Compel Ex. 6 at 3, ECF No. 12-7.
Interrogatory 21 is a contention interrogatory. Such interrogatories “ask a party: to state
what it contends, . . . [or] to state all the facts upon which it bases a contention.” Everett v.
USAir Grp., Inc., 165 F.R.D. 1, 3 (D.D.C. 1995) (quoting B. Braun Med. Inc. v. Abbott Labs.,
155 F.R.D. 525, 527 (E.D. Pa. 1994)) (internal quotation marks omitted). WMATA argues that
this type of interrogatory is “contrary to law.” Def.’s Opp’n 6. But it is well settled that
contention interrogatories that seek non-privileged information are permissible and warrant a
response. See Barnes v. Dist. of Columbia, 270 F.R.D. 21, 24 (D.D.C. 2010); see also Fed. R.
Civ. P. 33(a)(2) (“An interrogatory is not objectionable merely because it asks for an opinion or
contention that relates to fact or the application of law to fact, but the court may order that the
interrogatory need not be answered until designated discovery is complete . . . or some other
time.”). However, the obligation to respond is often deferred “until near the end of the discovery
period unless the proponent carries its burden of demonstrating why they are necessary earlier
on.” Everett, 165 F.R.D. at 3 (citing In re Convergent Techs. Sec. Litig., 108 F.R.D. 328, 335–36
(N.D. Cal. 1985)). WMATA cannot object to the timing of this contention interrogatory at this
stage of litigation. Discovery closed on September 15, 2017, and WMATA should therefore
possess all the facts necessary to formulate its response. See 7/18/17 Minute Entry (Status
Conference before Judge Jackson).
The work product protection and the privileges WMATA asserts do not relieve it of its
duty to respond to this interrogatory. Where, as here, a contention interrogatory seeks only “the
factual specifics which the party contends supports a claim,” the work product doctrine does not
allow the responding party to withhold information. Barnes, 270 F.R.D. at 24. WMATA has not
offered any evidence that would indicate that the relevant facts are subject to the attorney-client
privilege, nor has it identified any such information on the Privilege Log. Finally, the selfevaluative privilege protects only conclusions reflecting WMATA’s self-critical analysis of the
Incident, and thus poses no bar to WMATA’s release of facts supporting its affirmative defenses.
WMATA’s reference to its prior production of “all relevant documents in its Initial
Disclosure” does not satisfy its obligation to respond to Interrogatory 21. Rule 33 requires a
complete response, and a generic reference to prior productions lacking any citation to specific
documents does not meet that requirement. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 33(d)(1); United States v.
Kellogg Brown & Root Servs., Inc., 284 F.R.D. 22, 30 (D.D.C. 2012) (noting that Rule 33(d)
requires a party to “specify  the records that must be reviewed, in sufficient detail to enable the
interrogating party to locate and identify them as readily as the responding party could”) (internal
quotation marks omitted); Haughton, 161 F. Supp. 3d at 103 (quoting Kellogg Brown & Root
Servs., Inc.). Therefore, WMATA must supplement its response to Interrogatory 21 to provide
the facts supporting its affirmative defenses.
WMATA’s response to the corresponding document request, Request for Production 3,
also is deficient. WMATA states that it has produced all non-privileged responsive documents,
but fails to identify which document(s) it deems responsive to this request. If WMATA has
produced these documents, it must supplement its response to identify the responsive documents.
See Weaver v. Gross, 107 F.R.D. 715, 718 (D.D.C. 1985) (finding summary response to
document request insufficient and requiring party to provide a “precise and specific response . . .
identifying the document or documents produced”). If WMATA possesses responsive non-
privileged documents that it has not yet produced, it must produce those documents to Ms.
Information Regarding the Bus
Ms. English seeks to compel the production of information regarding the Metrobus
involved in the Incident. Specifically, Plaintiff’s Interrogatory 5 requests that WMATA:
[g]ive a complete description of the vehicle that was involved in the Incident
including the year, make, model, color, motor, length, weight, type of transmission,
type of brake system, type of steering system, horsepower, width of driver’s seat,
height of driver’s seat from the ground, and any modifications to the vehicle,
including the present location of the vehicle during hours of non-operation.
Pl.’s Mot. to Compel Ex. 4 at 2. In response, WMATA stated that “[t]he subject vehicle was a
2001 New Flyer passenger bus” and identified the VIN and License Plate Number. Id. Ex. 5 at
4. WMATA’s response raised no objection to the relevance or discoverability of the remaining
information sought in Interrogatory 5.
The information WMATA omitted — the motor, length, weight, type of transmission,
type of brake system, type of steering system, horsepower, width of driver’s seat, height of
driver’s seat from the ground, modifications to the vehicle, and information about the present
location of the vehicle — is relevant to Ms. English’s claims. Ms. English could use those facts
to establish the bus driver’s range of sight and whether he could see the bus’s blind spots. MTC
Mem. 11; see also Pl.’s Reply 9–10. The information requested also would inform an expert’s
assessment of how the accident occurred, including whether the driver should have seen Mr.
Burrell, and what safety precautions may have been necessary given the size and structure of the
bus in relation to the driver. At the Motions Hearing, counsel represented that the relevant bus
manual does not appear to be publicly available. See also MTC Mem. 11. As the bus is no
longer available for physical inspection, Ms. English cannot obtain this critical information from
any other source.
WMATA’s response to Interrogatory 5 is, therefore, clearly deficient. WMATA ignored
and failed to provide most of the requested details regarding the bus, and has offered no
justification for its refusal to do so. Therefore WMATA must supplement its response to
Interrogatory 5 to provide all the information requested.
Information Regarding the Bus Driver
Ms. English also seeks information regarding the bus driver in Interrogatories 6 and 8,
and Requests for Production 10, 11, 15, 18, and 24. See MTC Mem. 11–12. These
interrogatories and requests for production span a range of information, including the bus
driver’s physical characteristics, employment information and duties, health records, and any
prior traffic and criminal charges. Specifically, Ms. English’s Interrogatories 6 and 8 request the
Interrogatory 6: Identify the operator (at the time of the Incident) of the WMATA
vehicle involved in the Incident (including his height and weight at the time of
Incident), and describe the operator’s employment history with you, including all
employment assignments, positions, and responsibilities, and whether the operator
was ever disciplined, reprimanded, suspended, demoted, placed on leave, reassigned
or otherwise punished during the operator’s employment with you, and any such
action taken in connection with the Incident.
Interrogatory 8: Describe in detail what you believe to be all of the work-related
activities of the operator of the vehicle involved in the Incident during what you
maintain to be the operator’s working hours on September 3, 2015, including all such
activities undertaken by him on your behalf.
MTC Mem. 11 n.11, 12 n.14; Pl.’s Mot. to Compel Ex. 4 at 2–3. In response to Interrogatories 6
and 8, WMATA identified the bus driver and identified the route he drove, but objected to
providing any further information; WMATA based its objection on the self-evaluative privilege
and relevance. See Pl.’s Mot. to Compel Ex. 5 at 4–6.
Requests for Production 10, 11, 15, 18, and 24 seek the following documents:
Request for Production 10: All documents which relate, reflect or refer to the location
of, and/or any activities, conducted by the operator of the WMATA Bus on
September 3, 2015, including but not limited to, the operator’s conduct of business,
whether for you or otherwise.
Request for Production 11: All documents and things concerning the employment
duties, tasks, and responsibilities of the operator of the WMATA Bus involved in the
Incident (in general and on the day of the Incident), including all documents
concerning the operator’s job description, work schedule, and use of your vehicles.
Request for Production 15: All documents and things concerning any analyses,
discussion, evaluation, or other appraisal concerning the physical, mental, emotional,
and psychological health of the operator of the WMATA Bus involved in the
Incident, conducted by or on behalf of you. This request specifically includes, all
documents and medical records concerning the eyesight, hearing, and/or fitness to
operate a motor vehicle of the operator of the WMATA Bus involved in the Incident,
including, but not limited to, his most recent eyeglass or contact-lens prescription.
Request for Production 18: All documents concerning any and all traffic and/or
criminal charge(s) brought against the operator of the WMATA Bus involved in the
Incident in the past ten (10) years, including any charges concerning the Incident.
This request includes, but is not limited to, charging document(s), evidence,
negotiation(s), plea(s), disposition(s), convictions, allocution(s) and sentencing(s).
Request for Production 24: All personnel files of your agents, servants, and/or
employees who were involved in the Incident.
MTC Mem. 11 n.11, 12 n.14; Pl.’s Mot. to Compel Ex. 4 at 6–8. In response to the requests for
production, WMATA directed Ms. English to: the video of the Incident and unspecified
documents that already had been produced (see Response to Request for Production (“RFP”)
10); WMATA’s Standard Operation Procedures Manual (see Response to RFP 11); and the
driver’s commercial license and post occurrence drug/alcohol test results (see Response to RFP
15). Pl.’s Mot. to Compel Ex. 6 at 5–6, 8, 9–10, 11–12. WMATA declined to provide any
further documents, citing the attorney-client and self-evaluative privilege, work product
protection, and privacy concerns. WMATA also asserts that the lack of any viable claim of
negligent hiring, supervision, or training14 renders most of the requested documents irrelevant.
Ms. English argues that WMATA’s responses to these discovery requests are inadequate,
and asks the Court to compel WMATA to supplement those responses. Although WMATA’s
opposition memorandum does not specifically discuss many of the discovery requests at issue, at
the Motions Hearing WMATA clarified that it raises a broad relevance objection to support its
withholding of most of the requested information and documents. The following analysis
discusses each disputed subcategory of information and documents regarding the bus driver that
Ms. English seeks.
The Bus Driver’s Physical Characteristics
Ms. English seeks certain of the bus driver’s physical characteristics, including the
driver’s height and weight. See Pl.’s Mot. to Compel Ex. 4 at 2 (Interrogatory 6). She contends
that this information will help establish what the driver could see and what movements would be
necessary for him to view the bus’s blind spots. See MTC Mem. 11. Those details are highly
relevant to Ms. English’s negligence claims. None of WMATA’s objections purport to explain
why this information would not be relevant. To the extent WMATA relies on its broad assertion
that the video provides the best evidence of what happened on the day of the Incident, see Def.’s
Opp’n 8, that argument fails because the video would not reveal specific details about the
driver’s physical characteristics. Therefore, if WMATA possesses information about the driver’s
Sovereign immunity protects WMATA from suit on tort claims that allege negligent hiring,
training, or supervision. See Burkhart v. Wash. Metro. Area Transit Auth., 112 F.3d 1207, 1217
(D.C. Cir. 1997) (“[W]e hold that decisions concerning the hiring, training, and supervising of
WMATA employees are discretionary in nature, and thus immune from judicial review.”);
Martin v. Wash. Metro. Area Transit Auth., 273 F. Supp. 2d 114, 118 (D.D.C. 2003) (limiting
Burkhart’s finding of immunity regarding “decisions concerning hiring, training, and
supervising” to tort claims). Ms. English has not asserted any such claims in this action.
height and weight at the time of the Incident, it must supplement its response to Interrogatory 6
to provide that information to Ms. English.
The Bus Driver’s Activities on the Day of the Incident
Ms. English also seeks information regarding the work-related activities the bus driver
engaged in on the day of the Incident. See MTC Mem. 12; Pl.’s Mot. to Compel Ex. 4 at 3, 6
(Interrogatory 8 and RFP 10). WMATA contends that any activities that occurred before or after
the time of the Incident are irrelevant. See Def.’s Opp’n 8. At the Motions Hearing WMATA
emphasized that discovery should be narrowly focused on the precise moment when the accident
occurred, and argued that a video capturing that moment renders superfluous any other
information. But the driver’s pre- and post-Incident activities are relevant because they could
reveal whether the bus operator performed a pre-trip inspection prior to departing, performed
safety checks when leaving bus stops, warned passengers of potential hazards, or dealt with
medical situations. MTC Mem. 12. WMATA’s production of the video does not satisfy its
obligation to respond to these discovery requests because the video does not capture all of the
driver’s daily activities. Therefore, WMATA must supplement its response to Interrogatory 8
and produce the documents requested in Request for Production 10.
The Bus Driver’s Personnel Records Regarding Safety, Driving, and Bus Operation
Ms. English also seeks production of the bus driver’s entire personnel file.15 See Pl.’s
Mot. to Compel Ex. 4 at 8 (RFP 24); MTC Mem. 11. She contends that the information in that
file would reveal whether the bus driver had previously had difficulties executing his duties; for
example, the file may reveal whether the driver had a history of failing to properly conduct
Ms. English appears to use the phrase “personnel files” and “employment files”
interchangeably. See MTC Mem. 11 & n.13; Pl.’s Mot. to Compel Ex. 4 at 8 (Request 24).
safety checks prior to departing a bus stop, failing to stop sufficiently close to the curb, or
spending too much time at bus stops. See MTC Mem. 11–12. Ms. English notes that the
requested information would “shed light” on the actions taken by the bus driver on the day of the
Incident. Id. WMATA asserts that the employee file is: (1) confidential; (2) not relevant as
there are no claims of negligent hiring, training, or supervision against WMATA; and (3) not
relevant because the video provides the best evidence of the Incident. See Def.’s Opp’n 7–8.
Ms. English has established that the personnel file is relevant to the extent that it contains
information relating to safety, driving, and operation of the bus. WMATA provides no credible
argument to the contrary. The absence of any negligent hiring, training, or supervision claims is
immaterial because information about the bus driver’s safety and driving history is relevant to
the negligence claims that have been raised here. Finally, WMATA’s insistence that discovery
should focus solely on the precise moment of the Incident, and that the video is the best and only
discoverable evidence, lacks merit for the reasons discussed above.
WMATA’s vague reference to “privacy laws” and its assertion that personnel files are
confidential do not justify its refusal to provide the requested information. See Pl.’s Mot. to
Compel Ex. 6 at 11–12 (Response to Request 24). “[R]esponsive information cannot be
withheld merely because it is contained within a personnel file.” Nuskey v. Lambright, 251
F.R.D. 3, 11 (D.D.C. 2008); see also Waters v. U.S. Capitol Police Bd., 216 F.R.D. 153, 164
(D.D.C. 2003) (ordering production of certain responsive documents from personnel files). Thus
even if those files normally remain confidential, that does not place them outside the scope of
discovery. Confidential materials are routinely produced in discovery, and a protective order can
be used to safeguard sensitive personal information. See Sperling v. Harman Int’l Indus., Inc.,
No. 10-2415 (JTB) (ETB), 2011 WL 4344165, at *2 (E.D.N.Y. Sept. 14, 2011) (quoting Duck v.
Port Jefferson Sch. Dist., No. 07 CV 2224, 2008 WL 2079916, at *4 (E.D.N.Y. May 14, 2008))
(internal quotation marks omitted) (“[I]n most cases, a protective order can appropriately remedy
privacy concerns arising from discovery of personnel records.”). Accordingly, WMATA must
produce non-privileged responsive information from the bus driver’s personnel file pertaining to
safety, driving, and operation of the bus. The discoverability of other information in the files
will be addressed below.
Additional Information Regarding the Bus Driver
The remainder of the interrogatories and requests for production cover several areas: (1)
employment history;16 (2) the driver’s employment duties, tasks, and responsibilities;17 (3)
disciplinary information;18 (4) traffic and criminal charges;19 and (5) health records.20 As this
entire case turns on whether or not the driver properly operated the bus at the time of the
Incident, information about his professional background, responsibilities, disciplinary record,
and any traffic and criminal charges is highly relevant to Ms. English’s claims. WMATA has
identified no legitimate grounds for refusing to provide that information. Thus, to the extent that
this information exists in the personnel file or other WMATA records, WMATA must
supplement its discovery responses to provide it to Ms. English.
However, Ms. English has not explained why all the health records requested in Request
for Production 15 would be relevant and discoverable. WMATA has produced the results of the
post-Incident drug and alcohol test. See Pl.’s Mot. to Compel Ex. 6 at 8 (Response to Request
15). Documents “concerning the eyesight, hearing, and/or fitness to operate a motor vehicle,
See Interrogatory 6.
See Interrogatory 6, Request for Production 11
See Interrogatory 6.
See Request for Production 18.
See Request for Production 15.
including, but not limited to, [the driver’s] most recent eyeglass or contact-lens prescription,” see
Pl.’s Mot. to Compel Ex. 4 at 7 (Request 15), are relevant because they might establish whether
the driver had any impairments that rendered him unfit to operate the vehicle or that affected his
ability to observe the passengers and the exterior of the bus at the time of the Incident. Thus, to
the extent that WMATA possesses that information, it must provide it to Ms. English.
However, the language in this document request seeking all documents concerning any
appraisal of the driver’s health is not limited to issues that affect the driver’s ability to operate
the bus. This category encompasses information that is not germane to Ms. English’s negligence
claims. For example, if the driver missed work due to an illness several months prior to the
incident, that would not be relevant to Ms. English’s negligence claims. Accordingly,
WMATA’s obligation to produce the requested health records shall be limited to those records
that concern the driver’s eyesight, hearing, and/or fitness to operate a motor vehicle during his
tenure as a WMATA employee.
Information Regarding Training and Instruction
Finally, Ms. English requests information regarding the training and instruction of
WMATA bus drivers in Interrogatories 19 and 23, and Requests for Production 12 and 14. See
MTC Mem. 12 n.15. Those discovery requests provide as follows:
Interrogatory 19: Identify and describe in detail all training that the operator of the
bus at the time of the Incident had received with respects [sic] to the following: (1)
dealing with bus passengers who complained of illness while riding; (2) ensuring that
alighting passengers were clear of the bus prior to leaving the bus stop; (3) ensuring
that it was safe to depart a bus stop; (4) utilizing mirrors (exterior and interior) to
determine whether it was safe to depart a bus stop; and (5) inspecting and adjusting
mirrors prior to operating a bus.
Interrogatory 23: To the extent not already described in your responses to
Interrogatory 19, describe any training or instruction that the operator of the vehicle
involved in the Incident received, prior to the Incident, concerning the operation of
buses, including the bus involved in the Incident. Include in your answer the date,
place, and time of such training or instruction; identify the sponsoring entity for such
training or instruction and the persons who provided such training or instruction;
describe the nature of the training; state whether the training or instruction was
mandated by you or anyone else; and identify any documents regarding, referring to,
relating to or evidencing the training or instruction.
Request for Production 12: All documents which relate, reflect or refer to training or
instruction provided to, or received by, the operator of the WMATA Bus involved in
the Incident prior to the Incident concerning the operation of buses, including the
Request for Production 14: All documents which relate, reflect, or refer to your policy
concerning the responsibility of your employees and/or agents to operate motor
vehicles and buses in a competent and safe manner and in accordance with all motor
vehicle laws and regulations while acting on your behalf.
Pl.’s Mot. to Compel Ex. 4 at 4–7. In response to Interrogatories 19 and 23, WMATA declined
to provide any responsive information and asserted that “there is no claim of negligent hiring,
training, supervision, etc.” Id. Ex. 5 at 10, 11–12. In response to Requests for Production 12 and
14, WMATA averred that it produced its SOPs, admitted that its drivers must operate buses in a
safe manner, and declined to provide any further responsive documents because this case does
not involve a claim of negligent hiring, training, or supervision. See id. Ex. 6 at 5–6.
The information and documents that Ms. English seeks are highly relevant to her
negligence claims. Her ability to prevail will hinge upon defining the standard of care and
establishing whether the driver’s actions met that standard. Safety policies and information
about driver training would provide evidence of how WMATA expects bus drivers to operate
their buses and what actions they should take (including reasonable safety and operating
precautions) if properly performing their duties. See MTC Mem. 13. The requested information
about training, instruction, and standard operating procedures also potentially provides insight
into the bus driver’s habits, which may be relevant under Federal Rule of Evidence 406 (Habit;
WMATA argues that its internal rules and policies do not establish the national standard
of care. See Def.’s Opp’n 9. WMATA correctly states that the policies may not be sufficient,
standing alone, to establish the national standard of care. See Robinson v. Wash. Metro. Area
Transit Auth., 774 F.3d 33, 39 (D.C. Cir. 2014) (noting that internal agency manuals “do not, on
their own, establish the national standard”). But that does not render the policies or documents
regarding driver training undiscoverable. Relevant information encompasses “‘any matter that
bears on, or that reasonably could lead to other matter that could bear on’ any party’s claim or
defense.” Shamesh 314 F.R.D. at 8 (quoting Oppenheimer, 437 U.S. at 351). The D.C. Circuit
has recognized that “internal agency manuals such as WMATA’s standard operating procedures
may provide evidence bearing on the standard of care.” Robinson, 774 F.3d at 39. Therefore the
records Ms. English seeks are clearly relevant.
Given the obvious relevance of the requested information, WMATA’s responses to these
discovery requests are incomplete. Although WMATA has produced its Standard Operating
Procedures, it has not produced the other information and documents that Ms. English seeks.
Therefore, WMATA must supplement its responses to Interrogatories 19 and 23 and Requests
for Production 12 and 14.
Motion for Protective Order and Cross-Motion to Compel
WMATA seeks a protective order to prohibit Ms. English from taking the Rule 30(b)(6)
deposition noticed on June 5, 2017. See Def.’s Mot. for Protective Order, ECF No. 15 & Ex.1,
ECF No. 15-2. The deposition notice outlines 18 “Subjects for Examination,” which overlap
substantially with the interrogatories and requests for production at issue in the Motion to
Compel considered above. Def.’s Mot. for Protective Order Ex. 1. WMATA contends that the
proposed 30(b)(6) topics are duplicative, cumulative, and “appear intended to annoy,
embarrass, oppress or unduly burden WMATA.” Def.’s Mot. for Protective Order 2. WMATA
notes that it requested that Ms. English’s counsel “narrow the ‘shot gun’ approach to discovery
which amounts to a ‘fishing expedition.’” Id. at 2.
Ms. English opposes the motion and has cross-moved to compel WMATA to produce
one or more witnesses to testify on its behalf in accordance with Rule 30(b)(6). First, Ms.
English argues that WMATA’s motion should be denied because it failed to comply with Local
Civil Rule 7(m). Pl.’s Opp’n to Def.’s Mot for Protective Order and Cross-Mot. to Compel
WMATA’s Dep. 2–6 (“Pl.’s Opp’n to MPO”), ECF Nos. 16 & 17. In the alternative, she argues
that WMATA has not established good cause to issue a protective order, and therefore should be
compelled to produce witnesses who will testify regarding the subjects outlined in the Notice.
Id. at 6–7, 9.
Compliance With Local Civil Rule 7(m)
The Local Rules require that “[b]efore filing any nondispositive motion in a civil action,
counsel shall discuss the anticipated motion with opposing counsel in a good-faith effort to
determine whether there is any opposition to the relief sought and, if there is, to narrow the areas
of disagreement.” Local Civil Rule 7(m). The purpose of this rule “is to promote the resolution
of as many litigation disputes as possible without court intervention, or at least to force the
parties to narrow the issues that must be brought to the court.” Ellipso, Inc. v. Mann, 460 F.
Supp. 2d 99, 102 (D.D.C. 2006); see also Dist. Hosp. Partners, L.P. v. Sebelius, 971 F. Supp. 2d
15, 21 (D.D.C. 2013); Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(c)(1) (requiring that a motion for protective order
“include a certification that the movant has in good faith conferred or attempted to confer with
other affected parties in an effort to resolve the dispute without court action”). “The obligation
to confer may not be satisfied by perfunctory action, but requires a good faith effort to resolve
the non-dispositive disputes that occur in the course of litigation.” United States ex rel. Pogue v.
Diabetes Treatment Ctrs. of Am., 235 F.R.D. 521, 529 (D.D.C. 2006). This Court routinely
denies non-dispositive motions for failure to comply with Rule 7(m). See, e.g., Ellipso, Inc., 460
F. Supp. 2d at 102; Alexander v. FBI, 186 F.R.D. 185, 187 (D.D.C. 1999).
Ms. English contends that WMATA’s attempts to confer with plaintiff’s counsel were too
perfunctory to constitute a “good faith” effort to resolve the parties’ dispute. Specifically, Ms.
English asserts that WMATA’s failure to provide substantive objections despite repeated
requests from Ms. English’s counsel deprived the parties of an opportunity to narrow the
disputed issues. Pl.’s Opp’n to MPO 2–6. WMATA’s motion does not include a Rule 7(m)
certification, but WMATA attached the parties’ email communications to its motion and appears
to believe that those emails were sufficient to satisfy Rule 7(m). See generally Def.’s Mot. for
Protective Order Ex. 2, ECF No. 15-3.
The parties’ communications were too perfunctory to satisfy Rule 7(m). In the email
exchange, counsel for WMATA asked plaintiff’s counsel what information Ms. English truly
wanted and insisted that Plaintiff narrow the scope of the proposed 30(b)(6) deposition. See
Def.’s Mot. for Protective Order Ex. 2; Pl.’s Opp’n to MPO Ex. 1, ECF No. 16-1. Plaintiff’s
counsel requested specific objections to the noticed deposition topics, but contends that
WMATA failed to provide any. See Pl.’s Opp’n to MPO Ex. 1. Simply stating an objection
without elaborating further upon it or engaging in any meaningful dialogue is unlikely to narrow
a dispute, and thus does not meet Rule 7(m)’s requirement to confer in good faith. See Pogue,
235 F.R.D. at 529.
Notwithstanding the lack of meaningful pre-filing discussions, the Court will consider the
Motion for Protective Order on its merits. The Court may, in the interest of judicial economy,
reach the merits of a motion despite the parties’ failure to satisfy Local Civil Rule 7(m). See
Styrene Info. & Research Ctr., Inc. v. Sebelius, 851 F. Supp. 2d 57, 62 n.3 (D.D.C. 2012). The
breadth of the parties’ disputes regarding written discovery, which they could not resolve on
their own despite protracted discussions and discovery status conferences, makes it highly
unlikely that further discussions would narrow this discovery dispute. Accordingly, the Court
will not require the parties to engage in likely futile efforts to resolve or narrow this dispute on
Showing of Good Cause
A protective order prohibiting a deposition is an “extraordinary measure which should be
resorted to only in rare occasions.” Jennings v. Family Mgmt., 201 F.R.D. 272, 275 (D.D.C.
2001); see Alexander v. FBI, 186 F.R.D. 71, 75 (D.D.C. 1998). The moving party “must make a
specific demonstration of facts” that establish good cause to grant this extraordinary relief.
Alexander, 186 F.R.D. at 75. Courts reviewing such motions generally employ a balancing test
“weighing the movant’s proffer of harm against the adversary’s ‘significant interest’ in preparing
for trial.” Jennings, 201 F.R.D. at 275; Huthnance, 255 F.R.D. at 296; see also Alexander, 186
F.R.D. at 75.
There is nothing extraordinary about the 30(b)(6) notice that would warrant a protective
order. WMATA contends that allowing this deposition to proceed would subject it to
“unreasonably cumulative and/or duplicative discovery in violation of FRCP 26.” Def.’s Mot.
for Protective Order ¶ 3. Although the Motion for Protective Order does not identify why the
requested deposition testimony would be cumulative or duplicative, WMATA clarified at the
Motions Hearing that it objects to the fact that the notice encompasses the same topics as written
discovery, and objects on relevance grounds to many of those topics for the same reasons that it
challenged the corresponding interrogatories.
There is no rule that prohibits a party from deposing witnesses on the same topics that
have been addressed in written discovery. To the contrary, depositions typically provide an
opportunity to further probe the facts elicited through interrogatories and requests for production.
See Tri-State Hosp. Supply Corp. v. United States, 226 F.R.D. 118, 126 (D.D.C. 2005) (“By its
very nature the discovery process entails asking witnesses questions that have been the subject of
other discovery.”). Therefore this is not a legitimate objection to the deposition notice.
WMATA’s assertion that the identified topics are not relevant also lacks merit. Ms.
English seeks testimony regarding: documents, photographs, videotapes, or other materials
concerning the Incident and/or Mr. Burrell; communications concerning the Incident and/or Mr.
Burrell; information concerning the Metrobus involved in the Incident; surveillance and/or
security cameras on the Metrobus involved in the Incident; WMATA’s policies, procedures,
training, and practices concerning bus operations and passenger safety at the time of the Incident,
including how WMATA implements those policies; the manner in which WMATA trains and
supervises its employees about its bus operations and passenger safety policies and procedures;
WMATA’s communications with the federal government regarding the Incident; what WMATA
believes to be the applicable standards of care concerning certain aspects of bus operation;
actions WMATA took in response to the Incident; how WMATA contends the Incident
occurred; WMATA’s retention and destruction of documents relevant to this case; the details,
substance, and content of WMATA’s answers to Ms. English’s Interrogatories; the identity,
responsibilities, and certain other details concerning WMATA employees and agents responsible
for the transportation and safety of Mr. Burrell at the time of the Incident; information regarding
the Final Report of Investigation including the factual findings and the identities of the
employees identified by “SAFE” and a number; and information regarding the schedule and
route of the Metrobus involved in the Incident.
Assuming arguendo that it would be appropriate for this Court to reject Rule 30(b)(6)
topics on relevance grounds,21 the identified topics are all appropriate lines of inquiry for
discovery because they concern the Incident, the applicable standard of care, training, and
WMATA’s safety and bus operation policies. At the Motions Hearing, when invited to elaborate
on the basis for its objection to the deposition topics and corresponding interrogatories, WMATA
argued that only the events that occurred at the moment of the Incident are relevant. That
argument is no more persuasive with respect to deposition testimony than it was regarding
written discovery. WMATA’s suggestion that discovery must be limited to such a narrow
window of time is at odds with Rule 26, which encourages “broad discovery.” In re England,
375 F.3d 1169, 1177 (D.C. Cir. 2004).
Finally, WMATA has offered no facts to support its assertion that the “precise purpose”
of the deposition “is questionable, and appears to annoy, embarrass, oppress or unduly burden
WMATA.” Def.’s Mot. for Protective Order ¶ 8. Nor has it proffered facts to establish that
permitting this deposition would cause any harm. WMATA appears to consider it burdensome
to prepare witnesses to address such a variety of topics. But that is the nature of litigation. If
WMATA had provided more robust answers to the written discovery, perhaps Ms. English
Another judge on this Court has suggested that courts should not rule in advance on the
relevance of Rule 30(b)(6) topics, given that in ordinary depositions a witness must answer
irrelevant questions. See Banks v. Office of Senate Sergeant at Arms, 222 F.R.D. 7, 18 (D.D.C.
2004) (“[I]nsisting that a federal court act to prevent the possibility that irrelevant questions will
be asked at a deposition is completely unprecedented and would require the court to micromanage the discovery process.”).
would not have felt compelled to use a 30(b)(6) deposition to obtain basic facts regarding her
claims and WMATA’s defenses. The time limitations applicable to depositions, as well as
Plaintiff’s counsel’s interest in efficiently using his time, should deter the prolonged “fishing
expedition” that WMATA fears.
For the foregoing reasons, WMATA has failed to show that a protective order should be
issued. Accordingly, the Court denies Defendant’s Motion for Protective Order and grants
Plaintiff’s Cross-Motion to Compel. Defendant WMATA shall designate one or more witnesses
to testify at a 30(b)(6) deposition.
For the foregoing reasons, the Court hereby GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART
Plaintiff’s Motion to Compel [ECF No. 12]; DENIES Defendant’s Motion for Protective Order
[ECF No. 15]; and GRANTS Plaintiff’s Cross-Motion to Compel [ECF No. 17]. A separate
Order will accompany this Memorandum Opinion.
Digitally signed by Robin M.
Date: 2017.10.13 18:25:31 -04'00'
DATED: October 13, 2017
ROBIN M. MERIWEATHER
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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