Center for Individual Rights v. Chevaldina
ORDER denying 123 Defendant's Motion to Compel. Signed by Magistrate Judge Edwin G. Torres on 3/13/2018. (js02)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF FLORIDA
Case No. 16-20905-Civ-KING/TORRES
CENTER FOR INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS,
ORDER ON DEFENDANT’S MOTION TO COMPEL
This matter is before the Court on Irina Chevaldina’s (“Defendant” or
“Chevaldina”) motion to compel against the Center for Individual Rights
(“Plaintiff”). [D.E. 123]. Plaintiff responded to Chevaldina’s motion on March 2,
2018 [D.E. 126] to which Chevaldina replied on March 13, 2018.
Therefore, Chevaldina’s motion is ripe for disposition. After careful consideration of
the motion, response, reply, relevant authority, and for the reasons discussed below,
Chevaldina’s motion is DENIED.
This is an action for breach of contract. The complaint – filed on March 11,
2016 [D.E. 1] – alleges that Plaintiff successfully represented Defendant pro bono in
an appeal before the 11th Circuit in Katz v. Google, Appeal No. 14-14525, in which
the Eleventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Defendant in a copy
infringement action.1 See Katz v. Google, Inc., 802 F.3d 1178 (11th Cir. 2015), aff’g,
Katz v. Chevaldina, 12-cv-22211, 2014 WL 5385690 (S.D. Fla. Sept. 5, 2014).
Plaintiff alleges that Defendant had few financial obligations under the retainer
agreement in that case and that Plaintiff paid the out of pocket expenses of the suit.
Plaintiff contends that it only asked Defendant for (1) reasonable attorney fees and
expenses as permitted under law, and (2) that Defendant provide Plaintiff with any
fees or expenses that were attributable to Plaintiff’s expenditures and/or the work of
If Defendant decided to settle the case, Plaintiff alleges that
Defendant was also obligated to provide Plaintiff with a reasonable amount in
attorney’s fees and expenses.
In December 2015 – while being represented by another attorney –
Defendant settled all the remaining claims in the Katz case. In the settlement,
Plaintiff claims that Defendant obtained only $10,000 in attorney fees for the work
of Plaintiff’s attorneys as well as both taxable and non-taxable costs.
thereafter, Plaintiff sought to challenge the fee award in the Eleventh Circuit, but
Defendant allegedly instructed Plaintiff to withdraw its motion and Plaintiff
reluctantly complied. Therefore, Plaintiff suggests that Defendant did not obtain a
reasonable amount in attorney fees for the work of Plaintiff’s attorneys and that
Defendant breached the retainer agreement.
In exchange for the low sum of
$10,000 in attorney fees, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant agreed with Katz to drop a
substantial claim against Defendant in excess of $100,000.
Plaintiff is a public interest law firm organized under the laws of the District
alleges that it has been deprived of a reasonable attorney fee award, Plaintiff seeks
judgment against Defendant in an amount of no less than $105,000 – including
reasonable costs and expenses in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 1920.
Chevaldina’s motion is to compel Plaintiff to provide a better response to
interrogatory 1 in her second set of interrogatories and for sanctions under Rule 37.
Interrogatory 1 requests that Plaintiff identify any document or ESI information
that contains Chevaldina’s “personal information”:
Please identify any CIR’s [sic] document and ESI that contained,
contain [sic] Chevaldina’s personal information. For each such a
document (1) please identify any person who accessed, used, disclosed,
published, or emailed Chevaldina’s personal information, (2) please,
identify any CIR’s [sic] policy obtainment, use, access, disclosure, store,
protection of Chevaldina’s protected personal information.
[D.E. 123]. Plaintiff refused to identify any documents and provided the following
response to interrogatory 1:
CIR objects to Interrogatory No. 1 on the ground that it is overbroad
and burdensome, and not proportionate to the needs of the case. The
definition of “personal information” in 18 U.S.C. § 2725(3) is “any
information that identifies an individual” and includes a person’s name
and address. Thus, the interrogatory seeks the identification of all
documents in ClR’s possession, custody, or control that include
Chevaldina’s name or address, to identify persons who had any contact
with those documents, and to identify ClR’s policy regarding the
specific personal information in that document.
CIR further objects on the ground that the request is vague and
ambiguous in its use of the phrase “CIR’s document and ESI.” CIR
also objects on the ground that the word “store” and the phrase
“protected personal information” are vague and ambiguous. Further,
the interrogatory does not explain how CIR could identify a “policy”
concerning “protected personal information” for a document if the
document does not contain “protected personal information.”
CIR further objects on the ground that the request calls for the
identification of documents protected by the work-product doctrine and
attorney-client privilege created in anticipation, or after the
commencement, of this lawsuit.
Chevaldina argues that Plaintiff must be compelled to provide a better
response because the information sought is relevant to Chevaldina’s counterclaim
under the Driver Protection Privacy Act (“DPPA”). Chevaldina also contends that
there is no ambiguity with respect to the term “personal information” because
paragraph 14 of her first amended complaint [D.E. 90] defines the term as
Chevaldina’s driver’s license number (including its date of issuance), date of birth,
height, and social security number. Because Plaintiff failed to adequately respond
to interrogatory 1, Chevaldina concludes that Plaintiff (1) must be compelled to
provide a better response and (2) must be sanctioned for its unreasonable conduct.
Chevaldina’s motion fails at the outset because it omits
Plaintiff’s work product objection. Local Rule 26.1(g) is clear that in filing any
motion to compel, the movant must state the specific objections in response to the
relevant discovery request:
(2) Motions to Compel. Except for motions grounded upon complete
failure to respond . . . motions to compel discovery . . . shall, for each
separate . . . request for admission . . . state (A) verbatim the specific
item to be compelled; (B) the specific objections; (C) the grounds
assigned for the objection (if not apparent from the objection); and (D)
the reasons assigned as supporting the motion as it relates to that
specific item. The party shall write this information in immediate
succession to enable the Court to rule separately on each individual
item in the motion.
Local Rule 26.1(g)(2).
Here, Chevaldina omitted Plaintiff’s work-product objection and any related
discussion on why the items sought should be compelled notwithstanding the
And despite the parties’ disagreement on whether the omission was
intentional or not, it was Chevaldina’s responsibility to comply with the Local
Because Chevaldina did not comply with the Local Rules, we are not
required to go any further in the disposition of her motion.2
However, in the interests of justice, we will set aside that issue and consider
Chevaldina’s motion on the merits. The first problem with Chevaldina’s motion is
that interrogatory 1 is unreasonably broad.
The request fails to include any
parameters on the items sought – such as a temporal limitation – and requires
Plaintiff to produce nearly every email or correspondence that includes Chevaldina’s
name, address, or telephone number. The request further requires (without any
justification) that for each document Plaintiff must identify any person who
“accessed, used disclosed, published, or emailed Chevaldina’s personal information”
and to identify “policy obtainment, use, access, disclosure, store, protection of
Chevaldina’s protected personal information.”
This request is not
Chevaldina is reminded that the “[l]ocal rules generally reflect the courts’
traditional ‘authority to manage their own affairs so as to achieve the orderly and
expeditious disposition of cases.’” Levin v. Nationwide Home Loans, Inc., 2014 WL
11531634, at *1 (S.D. Fla. Mar. 14, 2014) (quoting Reese v. Herbert, 527 F.3d 1253,
1267-68 (11th Cir. 2008)). They are also significant because they require the parties
to organize the issues “rather than leaving the burden upon” the Court. Id. In
other words, “the Local Rules are not optional,” and failure to comply with them
may result in the denial of non-compliant motions and possible sanctions. Zhanjian
Go-Harvest Aquatic Prod. Co. v. Se. Fish & Seafood, Co., 2008 WL 516109, at *1
(S.D. Fla. Feb. 25, 2008).
proportionate to the needs of this case because Chevaldina’s DPPA claim is only
premised on Plaintiff obtaining, using, and disclosing personal information from a
motor vehicle record or for a purpose not otherwise permitted.
Chevaldina’s motion fails on this basis as well.
The next reason Chevaldina’s motion must be denied is because her discovery
request is confusing and inconsistent.
Specifically, Chevaldina’s definition of
“personal information” in her interrogatories is different than the one she defined in
her first amended complaint.
Chevaldina claims in her discovery request that
“personal information” is defined by 18 U.S.C. § 2725(3), which means “information
that identifies an individual, including an individual’s photograph, social security
number, driver identification number, name, address (but not the 5-digit zip code),
telephone number, and medical or disability information, but does not include
information on vehicular accidents, driving violations, and driver's status.”
U.S.C. § 2725(3).
She then claims in her motion that the appropriate definition is the one
included in paragraph 14 of her first amended complaint. Yet, in paragraph 14, the
definition provided is labeled as “protected personal information” and includes a
different set of items sought, including drivers’ license number (and its date of
issue), date of birth, and height.
Even if we ignore the inconsistency that the
counterclaim uses a different term than the motion, the definitions are not the same
because the one in the interrogatories is far broader than the one in the
counterclaim. Because Chevaldina relies on inconsistent definitions of “personal
information”, she has failed to put Plaintiff on notice of the items sought.
In sum, Chevaldina’s motion is DENIED because (1) she failed to comply
with the Local Rules, (2) the discovery sought is unreasonably broad, and (3) the
definitions underlying the discovery request are inconsistent.
The denial of the
motion does not preclude Chevaldina from serving a more narrowly tailored and
particularized request that furthers Chevaldina’s stated need.
For the foregoing reasons, it is hereby ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that
Chevaldina’s motion to compel is DENIED. [D.E. 123].3
DONE AND ORDERED in Chambers at Miami, Florida, this 13th day of
/s/ Edwin G. Torres
EDWIN G. TORRES
United States Magistrate Judge
As for Plaintiff’s request for sanctions against Chevaldina, that motion is also
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