CRABTREE et al v. ANGIE'S LIST, INC.
ORDER denying Defendant's 46 Motion to Compel. See Order. Signed by Magistrate Judge Mark J. Dinsmore on 1/31/2017. (SWM)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
ANGIE’S LIST, INC.,
ORDER ON MOTION TO COMPEL
This matter is before the Court on a Motion to Compel filed by Defendant Angie’s List,
Inc. [Dkt. 46.] Defendant seeks an order compelling Plaintiffs to respond to certain written
discovery requests. For the reasons set forth below, the Court DENIES Defendant’s Motion.
In this Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) action, Plaintiffs assert they were wrongfully
denied overtime compensation during a one-year period in which they worked as Senior Sales
Representatives, also known as “Closers.” In that position, Plaintiffs finalized sales with service
providers for advertising on the Angie’s List website and spent a significant portion of their
workday on the telephone. Because Defendant did not provide company-issued laptops or cell
phones for use outside the office, Plaintiffs often used their personal electronic devices for work
Plaintiffs believe they spent approximately 10-12 hours per day working for Defendant,
but were paid based upon an eight-hour day and 40-hour workweek. Defendant now seeks to
obtain GPS and location services data from Plaintiffs’ personal cell phones to “construct a
detailed and accurate timeline of when Plaintiffs were or were not working.” [Dkt. 47 at 8.]
Plaintiffs object, arguing that the request poses significant privacy concerns and that the GPS
data will not accurately portray whether Plaintiffs were working at any given time. Plaintiffs
further argue that Defendant has alternative, and far less intrusive, means to identify periods of
time when Plaintiffs were working.
Defendant also raises more general concerns about Plaintiffs’ responses to other Requests
for Production. Each of the relevant requests will be addressed in turn below.
A party may seek an order to compel discovery when an opposing party fails to respond
to discovery requests or provides evasive or incomplete responses. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(a). A
party objecting to the discovery request bears the burden of showing why the request is
improper. McGrath v. Everest Nat'l Ins. Co., 625 F. Supp. 2d 660, 670 (N.D. Ind. 2008).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) defines the scope of discovery as follows:
Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant
to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case,
considering the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount in
controversy, the parties' relative access to relevant information, the parties'
resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the
burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit.
Rule 26 further provides that the Court may impose additional limitations if a discovery request
is cumulative, late, or out of proportion to the needs of the case:
(C) When Required. On motion or on its own, the court must limit the frequency
or extent of discovery otherwise allowed by these rules or by local rule if it
the discovery sought is unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or can be
obtained from some other source that is more convenient, less
burdensome, or less expensive;
the party seeking discovery has had ample opportunity to obtain the
information by discovery in the action; or
the proposed discovery is outside the scope permitted by Rule 26(b)(1).
The Court has broad discretion when deciding discovery matters. Thermal Design, Inc. v.
Am. Soc'y of Heating, Refrigerating & Air-Conditioning Eng'rs, Inc., 755 F.3d 832, 837 (7th Cir.
2014). The Court is mindful of these standards as it turns to the substance of Defendant’s
A. Interrogatory No. 12 and Request for Production No. 19
Defendant initially sought the identification of all equipment used by Plaintiffs as part of
their employment with Defendant (Interrogatory No. 12) and requested that Plaintiffs submit for
forensic examination all such equipment (Request for Production No. 19). Defendant
subsequently narrowed its request to the production of GPS and/or location services data
between September 2014 and September 2015 from any and all computers, cellular telephones,
smartphones, tablets, and other communication devices used by Plaintiffs during work time
during their employment with Defendant. [Dkt. 47 at 6.]
Defendant asserts that this data is relevant to establishing how many hours Plaintiffs
worked during that yearlong period. For example, Defendant notes that Plaintiffs could remain
logged in to their computers on the SalesForce software, but be inactive for up to four hours.
Defendant asserts the GPS data would identify whether Plaintiffs left for the day, left for lunch
or some other unpaid break during that four-hour window when they were still logged on to
SalesForce. Yet if Plaintiffs were permitted, in fact expected, to work outside the office to
accommodate clients in different time zones, the fact that Plaintiffs’ phones had left the Angie’s
List building would have no meaningful impact on whether the employees were performing
work at that time.
Nevertheless, Defendant cites a number of district court cases purporting to support its
theory that other courts have allowed similar production requests, including one from this
district, Head v. Professional Transportation, Inc., Case No. 3:13-cv-0208-RLY-WGH (S.D.
Ind.). In Head, plaintiff was permitted to obtain GPS data from trucks used in defendant’s
business to test the accuracy of the run data previously provided by defendant. Head, Docket No.
51 (Feb. 20, 2015). Angie’s List asserts that the GPS data in conjunction with the SalesForce
data would create a more accurate picture of Plaintiffs’ work hours. But Defendant is
overlooking a clear distinction between its request and the one posed in Head: Plaintiffs’ privacy
interests. In Head, it was plaintiff who sought the GPS data from the device in the defendant
employer’s truck, which presumably tracked location while the truck was being driven during the
workday – a much more pointed request than seeking all GPS/location data for 24-hours a day
for a one year period from a personal device that would be tracking Plaintiffs’ movements well
outside of their working time.
Likewise, none of the other cases cited by Defendant were persuasive on this issue. In
Baclawski v. Mountain Real Estate Capital LLC, the court denied defendant’s request to image
plaintiff’s cell phone and computer and allowed access only to data from a Time Recording app.
Baclawski, 2016 WL 3381258, at *2–3 (W.D.N.C. June 10, 2016). In each of the other cases
relied upon by Defendant, the courts compelled the production of cell phone records – such as
the call history – not data as intrusive as GPS data that would track Plaintiffs’ locations at every
moment of the day for a year. Plaintiffs have already produced cell phone records that are the
equivalent of those ordered to be produced in the cases cited by Defendant.
Rule 26 requires the Court to limit discovery if it can be obtained from another source
that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive. Rule 26(b)(2)(C)(i). Additionally,
the Advisory Committee Notes to the Federal Rules advises the courts to act with caution when
evaluating requests to inspect a party's electronic devices or systems for ESI, in order to avoid
unduly impinging on a party's privacy interests:
Inspection or testing of certain types of electronically stored information or of a
responding party's electronic information system may raise issues of
confidentiality or privacy. The addition of testing and sampling to Rule 34(a) with
regard to documents and electronically stored information is not meant to create
a routine right of direct access to a party's electronic information system,
although such access might be justified in some circumstances. Courts should
guard against undue intrusiveness resulting from inspecting or testing such
Fed. R. Civ. P. 34, Advisory Committee Notes—2006 Amendment (emphasis added).
Discovery must also be “proportional to the needs of the case.” Rule 26(b)(1). In this
FLSA action, the parties will need to establish when Plaintiffs were performing work for
Defendant. Plaintiffs assert they have already provided Defendant with cell phone records that
would allow Defendant to identify business-related calls. Defendant also has access to data from
SalesForce that will show when Plaintiffs were logged into the software as well as data that will
show when Plaintiffs were present at Angie’s List’s offices such as badge swipe data and log in
data from their work computers. Defendant has not demonstrated that the GPS/location services
data from Plaintiffs’ electronic devices will be more probative than any of the above data
Defendant already has in its possession. Therefore, the Court finds that the forensic examination
of Plaintiffs’ electronic devices is not proportional to the needs of the case because any benefit
the data might provide is outweighed by Plaintiffs’ significant privacy and confidentiality
interests. See Hespe v. City of Chicago, 2016 WL 7240754 at *3 (N.D. Ill. 2016). Defendant’s
Motion is DENIED as to Request for Production No. 19.
In response to Interrogatory No. 12, Plaintiffs state they have identified their cell phones
by virtue of producing their cell phone records to Defendant. Plaintiffs assert that they have no
other personal devices or equipment to identify that was used as part of their employment with
Defendant. Consequently, Defendant’s Motion is DENIED as to Interrogatory No. 12.
B. Request for Production No. 2
This request seeks documents referencing Plaintiffs’ employment with Angie’s List.
Plaintiffs objected to the request as overbroad and unduly burdensome, however Plaintiff Myers
produced documents responsive to the request. Plaintiffs Crabtree and Town responded that they
had no documents to produce. Defendant asserts Plaintiffs responses are incomplete because they
did not clarify that they are not withholding any responsive documents.
Parties are obligated to affirmatively state that documents are being withheld in two
scenarios. First, Rule 26 provides that when any information or documents are withheld during
discovery on the basis of privilege or the work product doctrine, the withholding party must (1)
expressly claim the privilege and (2) describe each document, communication, or tangible thing
being withheld “in a manner that, without revealing information itself privileged or protected,
will enable the other parties to assess the claim [of privilege].” Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(5)(A).
Second, Rule 34(b)(2)(C) requires parties to state whether any documents are being withheld on
the basis of an objection.
In their response to the Motion, Plaintiffs unequivocally state that Plaintiff Myers
produced responsive documents and the remaining plaintiffs had no documents to produce. If
Plaintiffs are withholding responsive documents, they are obligated to either identify the
documents on a privilege log (if privileged or work product) or to state that responsive
documents are being withheld on the basis of an objection as required by Rule 34(b)(2)(C).
However, Plaintiffs have no obligation to affirmatively state that they are not withholding
documents. Accordingly, Defendant’s Motion is DENIED as to this request.
C. Request for Production No. 3
This request seeks any documents removed by Plaintiffs from Defendant’s premises.
Plaintiffs Myers and Crabtree stated in response that responsive documents were produced to
Angie’s List in a previous unrelated lawsuit. Plaintiff Town responded that he had no documents
to produce. Defendant now seeks clarification that it may use the previously produced
confidential documents in this case. There does not appear to be a dispute here that requires a
ruling from the Court. Plaintiffs’ response to a request for production in this lawsuit points
Defendant to documents produced in a prior lawsuit. The Court finds this response clearly
implies Plaintiffs intend for the documents to be utilized in this lawsuit. Consequently, this
request is DENIED AS MOOT.
D. Request for Production No. 8
This request seeks “communications with any person . . . regarding any allegation in the
Complaint.” [Dkt. 47-1 at 22.] Plaintiffs assert they have produced the relevant documents and
have no additional documents to produce. Defendant maintains Plaintiffs’ response is “evasive
and incomplete” because it fails to indicate whether “responsive” documents have been
produced. [Dkt. 53 at 7 (emphasis in original).] In their response, Plaintiffs unequivocally state
that they “have no additional documents to produce.” [Dkt. 52 at 10.] Defendant appears to be
arguing a semantical issue; there is no discovery dispute here for the Court to rule upon. This
request is DENIED AS MOOT.
E. Request for Production No. 14
This request seeks documents “prepared or obtained” by Plaintiffs during their
employment with Defendant. [Dkt. 47-1 at 24.] Plaintiff Myers produced documents responsive
to this request. Plaintiffs Crabtree and Town assert they have no responsive documents to
produce. Defendant again asserts Plaintiffs responses are incomplete because they did not clarify
that they are not withholding any responsive documents. As noted above, Plaintiffs are under no
obligation to affirmatively state they are not withholding documents. Defendant’s Motion is
DENIED as to this request.
F. Request for Production No. 27
This request seeks documents such as email messages, social media posts, work
schedules, journals, diaries, calendars, text messages, blog or website posts, Twitter messages or
other social media posts “prepared, created, obtained, or used by” Plaintiffs from September
2014 to September 2015 that related to absences from or attendance at work. [Dkt. 47-8 at 4.]
Plaintiffs respond that they did not “keep any diaries, journals, calendars, or appointment books”
and have no documents responsive to the requests for those items. Plaintiffs further state that to
the extent the request seeks emails, text messages and social media posts, it is a “fishing
expedition” not relevant to the claims or defenses in the case. 1
As Judge Posner has noted, “of course pretrial discovery is a fishing expedition and one
can't know what one has caught until one fishes. But Fed. R. Civ. P. 45(c) allows the fish to
object.” Northwestern Memorial Hosp. v. Ashcroft, 362 F.3d 923, 931 (7th Cir. 2004). In this
instance, the Court shares Plaintiffs’ concerns that Defendant casts too wide a net as it does not
Plaintiffs interpret this request as seeking evidence that Plaintiffs may not have been working productively during
their work hours because, for example, they were posting to social media instead of working. The Court interprets
“related to absences from or attendance at work” more narrowly to include only that which is directly related to
absences or attendance.
sufficiently justify the breadth of the request. Defendant argues that it is entitled to discovery if
Plaintiffs “took 2-hour lunches, were gone running errands during the day, or remained logged in
to SalesForce during periods they were not working.” [Dkt. 53 at 9.] And on this point Defendant
is correct. However, Defendant has not shown how emails, text messages or social media posts
from this one year time period may be more probative as to these issues than other less intrusive
data already within its control, such as the SalesForce data, computer log ins, or badge swipe
data. As discussed with regard to the GPS/location services data, the Court has an obligation to
guard against intrusive discovery. Defendant’s broad request would encompass clearly personal
communications such as an email string relating to an upcoming vacation between an employee
and his or her spouse, or text messages planning a lunch date. These communications “relate to
absences from work” yet have absolutely no relevance to this lawsuit. Additionally, the scope of
the information sought by Defendant is plainly not proportional to the needs of this case.
Therefore, Defendant’s Motion is DENIED as to this request.
G. Request for Production No. 28
Finally, this request seeks calendars, appointment books, work schedules, and planners,
electronic and otherwise, from September 2014 to September 2015 relating to any time off work
Plaintiffs took during their employment with Defendant. Plaintiffs note in their response to this
Motion that they have no documents responsive to this request. In its reply, Defendant contends
that Plaintiffs should clarify and amend their discovery responses to clearly state they have no
responsive documents. The Court finds that Plaintiffs’ response to the Motion is sufficient and
therefore DENIES Defendant’s Motion as to this request.
Both parties seek fees and costs associated with this Motion. Under Rule 37(a)(5), if a
motion to compel is denied, the Court may order the moving party to pay the reasonable
expenses incurred in opposing the motion, including attorney’s fees. Although the Court denied
this Motion, Defendant’s position with regard to the GPS/location services data was not so
unreasonable as to justify a fee award. However, the Court notes that much of the remainder of
Defendant’s Motion appeared to be ground clutter with no real dispute to resolve. The Court
cautions Defendant that such clutter in future discovery motions may warrant a fee award.
Based on the foregoing, Defendant’s Motion to Compel [Dkt. 46] is DENIED.
Dated: 31 JAN 2017
Service will be made electronically
on all ECF-registered counsel of record via
email generated by the court’s ECF system.
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