Knuth et al v. Regional Transit Authority of New Orleans
ORDER AND REASONS - IT IS ORDERED that Defendant's 21 Motion to compel is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART, and Defendant's 30 Motion to Quash is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART for the reasons stated herein. Signed by Magistrate Judge Donna Phillips Currault on 11/17/2020. (sa)
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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
SANDRA KNUTH ET AL
REGIONAL TRANSIT AUTHORITY
OF NEW ORLEANS
SECTION “E” (2)
ORDER AND REASONS
Defendant’s Motion to Compel (ECF No. 21) and Motion for Protective Order to Quash
Trial Deposition of Dr. Farng-Yang Arvin Foo (ECF No. 30) are pending before me in this matter.
Plaintiffs have filed timely Opposition Memoranda. ECF Nos. 27, 35. The Court held oral
argument on November 12, 2020. Defendant thereafter filed a Supplemental Memorandum (ECF
No. 37), as requested by the Court.
Having considered the record, the arguments of counsel, and the applicable law, IT IS
ORDERED that Defendant’s motion to compel is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART,
and Defendant’s Motion to Quash is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART for the
reasons stated herein.
Plaintiffs Sandra Knuth and Michael Knuth filed suit against Defendant Regional Transit
Authority of New Orleans seeking to recover damages for alleged injuries sustained after a
streetcar collision at the intersection of Canal Street and Carondelet Street on May 28, 2019. See
Complaint, ECF No. 1, ⁋⁋ 9-21; First Amended Complaint, ECF No. 9, ⁋⁋ 7-8. Plaintiffs are
residents of New York and were visiting New Orleans when the accident occurred. Complaint,
ECF No. 1, ⁋⁋ 1, 9.
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Defendant has filed a Motion to Compel Plaintiff Sandra Knuth to return to New Orleans
for Rule 30 deposition and Rule 35 independent medical examinations (ECF No. 21) after she
presented a letter from her treating neurologist advising her not to travel for the next three months
(i.e., through the end of this year) due to her concerns about catching coronavirus. Id. at 2.
Plaintiffs oppose the motion on the grounds that there is no automatic right to require a nonresident
plaintiff to travel to New Orleans for deposition or IME (ECF No. 27, at 1) and argue that the
expenses associated with any required travel should be borne by Defendant. Id. at 2. After oral
argument and the Court’s indication that the IME would need to take place within the Eastern
District of Louisiana, Plaintiffs’ counsel confirmed that Ms. Knuth will travel to New Orleans
during the first two weeks of January.
In addition, Plaintiffs have noticed the trial perpetuation deposition of Dr. Foo, Plaintiff
Sandra Knuth’s New York-based treating physician, for November 28, 2020. Defendant has filed
a Motion to Quash and for Protective Order precluding Plaintiffs from proceeding with that
deposition before Defendant has had an opportunity to take Dr. Foo’s discovery deposition. ECF
No. 30. In response, Plaintiffs argue that two depositions are unnecessary and that Defendant has
not established good cause to quash the November 28, 2020, deposition. ECF No. 35.
LAW AND ANALYSIS
A. Independent Medical Examinations
The court may issue an order for an independent medical examination (“IME”) “on motion
for good cause and on notice to all parties and the person to be examined” and such order must
specify “the time, place, manner, conditions, and scope of the examination, as well as the person
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or persons who will perform it.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 35(a)(2). The examiner shall issue a report,1
including when the IME is conducted pursuant to an agreement between the parties.2
Physical and mental examinations are governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 35.
That rule “should be liberally construed in favor of discovery.”3 Generally, Rule 35 allows the
Court to order “a party whose mental or physical condition ... is in controversy to submit to a
physical or mental examination” when there has been a “motion for good cause and on notice to
all parties and the person to be examined.”4 “A ‘suitably licensed or certified examiner’ under
Rule 35 includes a vocational-rehabilitation expert.”5
To demonstrate entitlement to conduct the examination, a party must satisfy two criteria:
the physical or mental state of the party must be in controversy; and
the moving party must show good cause as to why the motion should be granted.6
Whether the requirements (i.e., condition as to which the examination is sought is genuinely in
controversy and that good cause exists for ordering each particular examination) are met
necessarily depends on the particular facts of the case and the scope of the examination sought.7
“Good cause” generally requires a showing of specific facts that demonstrate the need for
the information sought and lack of means for obtaining it elsewhere.8 For example, a “plaintiff in
a negligence action who asserts mental or physical injury . . . places that mental or physical injury
Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 35(b)(1-2).
Y & S Marine, Inc. v. Maza, No. 11-1425, 2011 WL 5825715, at *1 (E.D. La. Nov. 17, 2011); see also Dixon v.
Greyhound Lines, Inc., No. 13-179-JJB, 2014 WL 37284, at *3 (M.D. La. Jan. 6, 2014) (citing Barcia v. ENI U.S.
Operating Co., Inc., No. 05–4501, 2006 WL 1236053 (E.D. La. May 4, 2006) (citing Grossie v. Florida Marine
Transporters, Inc., No. 04–0699, 2006 WL 2547047 *2 (W.D. La. Aug. 31, 2006))); Lahr v. Fulbright & Jaworski,
L.L.P., 164 F.R.D. 204, 207 (N.D. Tex. 1996).
Fed. R. Civ. P. 35(a)(1)-(2).
Fischer v. Coastal Towing Inc., 168 F.R.D. 199, 201 (E.D. Tex. 1996) (quoting Olcott v. LaFiandra, 793 F. Supp.
487, 492 (D. Vt. 1992)).
Schlagenhauf v. Holder, 379 U.S. 104, 106, 116-20 (1964); see also Acosta v. Tenneco Oil Co., 913 F.2d 205, 208
(5th Cir. 1990).
In re Oil Spill by Oil Rig DEEPWATER HORIZON, MDL No. 2179, 2012 WL 607971, at *3 (E.D. La. Feb. 24,
2012) (quoting Schlagenhauf, 379 U.S. at 118)).
Schlagenhauf, 379 U.S. at 118-19.
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clearly in controversy and provides the defendant with good cause for an examination to determine
the existence and extent of such asserted injury.”9 A “plaintiff may not avoid a Rule 35
examination simply on the grounds that other sources of information, such as medical reports and
depositions of plaintiffs treating physicians, are available.”10
In this case, Plaintiffs do not suggest that Ms. Knuth’s mental or physical conditions are at
issue nor do they argue the absence of good cause. Rather, Plaintiffs object to Defendant’s desired
location for the IME in New Orleans and when the IME will occur. Accordingly, there is no issue
regarding the propriety of an IME, only when and where it will occur.
In selecting the independent expert to conduct the examination, “the usual attitude is that
although the moving party has no absolute right to the choice of the physician, when no serious
objection arises, it is probably best for the court to appoint the doctor of the moving party's
choice.”11 As to the location for the IME, over 50 years ago, Judge Alvin Rubin (then a district
judge) recognized that “most judges have, in the usual case, ordered the plaintiff to appear for
examination at the place where the trial would be held—that is, at the venue selected initially by
the plaintiff. This allows the examining physician to be available conveniently for testimony.”12
The usual case may give way where the plaintiff can demonstrate that “the trip would be
injurious to his health, or that there is any other compelling reason for his reluctance.”13 However,
Id. at 119; see also McClanahan v. Transocean Offshore Intern. Ventures Ltd., No. 05-2099, 2006 WL 2989243, at
*2-3 (W.D. La. Oct. 19, 2006) (citing cases).
Ornelas v. Southern Tire Mart, LLC, 292 F.R.D. 388, 391-92 (S.D. Tex. 2013).
Lahr, 164 F.R.D. at 202 (citing 8A C. Wright, A. Miller & R. Marcus, Federal Practice and Procedure § 2234.2
Baird v. Quality Foods, Inc., 47 F.R.D. 212, 212-13 (E.D. La. 1969); see also 8B C. Wright, A. Miller & R. Marcus,
Federal Practice and Procedure § 2234 (3d ed. 2016) (“Usually plaintiff will be required to come to the place where
he or she filed suit for the examination, in the absence of facts showing substantial reasons for insisting upon
examination at his or her residence.”).
Williams v. Nguyen, No. 16-13983, 2017 WL 1177914, at *2 (E.D. La. Mar. 30, 2017) (Roby, M.J.) (citing Baird,
47 F.R.D. at 213; see also In Re Bordelon Marine, Inc., No. 11-1473, 2012 WL 1902576 at *3 (E.D. La. May 25,
2012) (finding distance of 214 miles too far to make Plaintiff travel for IME where Plaintiff was a claimant in a
limitation of liability proceeding, not a plaintiff who chose venue)).
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the burden is not on the defendant to demonstrate that a satisfactory examination cannot be had a
nearer locale to the plaintiff; rather, the burden is on the plaintiff to show that traveling to the
examination poses undue burden or hardship.”14 And given the inability to compel an out of
district IME to appear in the forum for trial, ordering an IME outside the district should not be
done absent evidence of hardship or burden. Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate the required
hardship necessary to justify re-locating the IME from the Eastern District of Louisiana.
Plaintiff also argues that Defendant should bear her costs to travel to New Orleans for the
IME. Judge Rubin addressed that issue in Baird as well, stating:
The only federal decision that appears to have considered this issue is Warren v.
Weber & Heidenthaler, Inc., supra. There the court initially refused to order the
defendant to advance expenses. Later, on a showing that the plaintiff was destitute
and unable to pay travel expenses, the defendant was ordered to pay them. There
has been no showing in this case that the plaintiff is indigent, nor has any other
reason been shown why he should not pay his travel expense to come to New
Orleans for an examination, just as he will eventually be obliged to do when he
comes here for the trial.15
As in Baird, Plaintiffs have not shown that they are indigent, nor have they provided evidence of
any other reason why Ms. Knuth should not pay the travel expense to come to New Orleans for an
examination, just as she will eventually be obliged to do when she comes here for the trial.
B. Plaintiff’s Deposition Location
“The Court has considerable discretion in determining the place of a deposition, and may
consider the relative expenses of the parties.”16 The general rule, however, is that the place of
examination for deposition is to be determined by the examining party.17 Ordinarily, that will be
Thomas v. W & T Offshore, Inc., No. 16-14694, 2018 WL 501508, at *2 (E.D. La. Jan. 22, 2018) (van Meerveld,
M.J.) (citing Ornelas, 292 F.R.D. at 400 (quoting McDonald v. Southworth, No. 07-217, 2008 WL 2705557, at *6
(S.D. Ind. July 10, 2008))).
Baird, 47 F.R.D. at 213; see also Dixon v. Greyhound Lines, Inc., No. 13-179, 2014 WL 37284, at *3 (M.D. La. Jan.
Birkland v. Courtyards Guest House, No. 11-0349, 2011 WL 4738649, at *2 (E.D. La. Oct., 7, 2011).
Reyes v. Cooper Tire & Rubber Co., No. 09-3680, 2010 WL 2038046, at *1 (E.D. La. May 20, 2010 (citing 8A
WRIGHT, MILLER & MARCUS, FED. PRAC. AND PROC. § 2112, at 527–28 (3d ed. 2010)).
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the district in which the suit was brought as plaintiff selected the forum and thus will not be heard
to complain about having to appear there for a deposition.18
Of course, the court maintains the authority, upon a showing of good cause, to issue an
order to protect a party or person from undue burden or expense, including specifying terms, such
as time and place, for discovery. Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(c)(1)(B). Further, Rule 30(b)(4) of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure also provides that the parties “may stipulate—or the court may on motion
order—that a deposition be taken by telephone or other remote means.” “[A]bsent a specific
showing of hardship tied to an individual's circumstances, a general order requiring that the
deposition of an out-of-town plaintiff be taken telephonically is not warranted.”19 “The ability to
observe a party as he or she answers deposition questions is an important aspect of discovery which
the Court will not modify except in cases of extreme hardship.”20
In assessing hardship, courts consider the party’s (1) age, (2) physical condition,
(3) finances, and (4) other factors that might result in extreme hardship.”21 During oral argument,
Plaintiff’s counsel confirmed that his client is 53 years old, does not have any relevant health
conditions, and is not claiming financial hardship. Plaintiff is simply uncomfortable traveling
during COVID-19. Numerous courts have found that the COVID-19 pandemic is a sufficient basis
to refuse to require a plaintiff to travel to the forum for deposition, particularly when the plaintiff
is elderly or suffers from health conditions making her particularly susceptible to Covid-19.22
Id.; see also Birkland, 2011 WL 4738649, at *2 (same) (citations omitted).
Birkland, 2011 WL 4738649, at *2.
Id. at *3.
See, e.g., Leja v. Brousseau Management Co., LLC, No. 19-269, 2020 WL 5352011 (M.D. La. Sept. 4, 2020)
(concerns related to the pandemic constitute a legitimate reason to conduct the depositions here by videoconferencing);
see also SAPS, LLC v. EZCare Clinic, Inc., No. 19-11229, 2020 WL 1923146 (E.D. La. Apr. 21, 2020) (van Meerveld,
M.J.); Thomas v. Wallace, Rush, Schmidt, Inc., No. 16-572, 2020 WL 3247380, at *1 (M.D. La. Mar. 18, 2020).
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Even though Plaintiff Knuth is not elderly and does not appear to have any relevant health
condition, this Court will not require her to travel to New Orleans simply for her deposition. This
Court will not, however, require that Defendant take her deposition by remote means. If Defendant
desires an in-person deposition, Defendant may either notice Ms. Knuth’s deposition to take place
in New York, provided Defendant ensures that the deposition will occur in physical facilities
adequate to allow proper social distancing and other protective measures in accordance with
governing guidelines regarding avoidance of potential transmission of COVID-19, or depose her
when she is in New Orleans for her IME.23 If Defendant elects not to travel to New York for
Plaintiff’s deposition and not to delay the deposition until she is in New Orleans for the IME, then
the deposition must occur remotely, via telephone or videoconference, at Defendant’s election.
C. Discovery versus Trial Depositions
Defendant seeks to quash Plaintiffs’ Notice of Deposition of Dr. Foo, Ms. Knuth’s treating
neurologist in New York, which Plaintiffs have noticed for trial purposes. Plaintiffs have
scheduled Dr. Foo’s deposition for November 28, 2020, which Plaintiffs stated is the only day that
he is available between now and the discovery deadline. Citing Charles v. Wade, 665 F.2d 661
(5th Cir. 1982), and district court decisions from outside of the Eastern District of Louisiana,
Defendant argues that there is a significant difference between a discovery deposition and a trial
deposition, and that Defendant is entitled to conduct a discovery deposition before Plaintiff
deposes Dr. Foo for trial purposes. ECF No. 30-1, at 2; ECF No. 37, at 1-3. Charles is inapposite,
however, because the issue in that case was not whether a witness could be deposed twice; rather,
the issue was whether the district court abused its discretion in refusing to grant leave to depose a
Of course, delaying Plaintiff’s deposition places Defendant at risk of being unable to complete discovery before the
applicable deadline, which the Court will not likely further extend. That, however, is a strategic decision that
Defendant may make.
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prisoner for trial purposes in lieu of live testimony after the discovery period had closed where the
prisoner had not been deposed during the discovery period.24
The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not contain an express distinction between
depositions for discovery purposes and depositions for use at trial in lieu of live testimony. In
Battle v. Memorial Hospital, 228 F.3d 544, 551 (5th Cir. 2000), the defendant relied on the
distinction between a discovery and trial deposition with regard to an expert witness. The Fifth
Circuit avoided the issue because it found that the witness was properly characterized as both a
fact and expert witness, which required that the witness must be treated as an ordinary witness.
The Fifth Circuit thus found it was unnecessary to “venture [an] opinion concerning whether Rule
26 supports the distinction between trial and discovery depositions of experts.”25 As Plaintiff’s
treating physician, Dr. Foo would likewise be treated as an ordinary witness.
As the Fifth Circuit noted in Battle, “nothing prohibits the use of a discovery deposition at
trial.”26 Indeed, the Federal Rules would appear not to contemplate two depositions of the same
witness. In fact, Rule 30(a)(2)(A)(ii) specifically requires leave of court before a party may depose
a witness for a second time. In addition, the Rules authorize a court to issue a protective order to
protect against “undue burden or expense,”27 including imposing a limit on duplicative
discovery.28 Moreover, Rule 26(d)(3) provides:
665 F.2d at 664; see also Allen v. C&H Distrib., LLC, No. 10-1604, 2014 WL 2589711, at *2 (W.D. La. June 10,
2014) (allowing trial deposition after discovery deadline of witnesses who were not deposed during trial but listed on
228 F.3d at 552. In Battle, the defendant objected in a deposition that the deposition could only be used for discovery
purposes and the plaintiff countered that the deposition was being taken for all purposes allowed under the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure. On appeal, plaintiff challenged the distinction between trial and discovery depositions. In
response, defendant cited Rule 26(b)(4)’s comments for expert depositions and argued that the drafters recognized
that effective cross-examination of an expert witness requires advanced preparation. Id. 551-52. Citing a later portion
of that same comment, the Fifth Circuit concluded that the witness was properly characterized as an ordinary witness,
and thus avoided the general issue of trial versus discovery depositions.
Id. at 551 (citing Savoie v. Lafourche Boat Rentals, Inc., 672 F.2d 722, 724 (5th Cir. 1980)).
Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(c)(1).
Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2)(C)(i).
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Unless the parties stipulate or the court orders otherwise for the parties’ and
witnesses’ convenience and in the interests of justice:
(A) methods of discovery may be used in any sequence; and
(B) discovery by one party does not require any other party to delay its
Thus, there is no rule stating that either a plaintiff or a defendant is entitled to pursue discovery
prior to the other. Further, Dr. Foo is more than 100 miles from New Orleans and cannot be
compelled to appear by deposition. As such, it would appear that his deposition would fall under
A party may use for any purpose the deposition of a witness . . . if the court finds:
. . . (B) that the witness is more than 100 miles from the place of hearing or trial . .
. [or] (D) the party offering the deposition could not procure the witness’s
attendance by subpoena . . . .30
There are two lines of cases on the issue of a second trial deposition versus a discovery
deposition. One line of cases strictly construe the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to conclude
that there is no provision for a second trial depositions, and the other line of cases recognize the
common practice of taking trial depositions after discovery depositions given the differing
purposes of those two type of depositions.31 Given the divergent lines of cases, some courts have
refused to allow two depositions32 while other courts have allowed two depositions.33 Other courts
have compromised by allowing a short discovery deposition to immediately precede a trial
See also Fed. R. Civ. P. 16(c)(2) (“the court may . . . take appropriate action on . . . (F) controlling and scheduling
discovery, including orders affecting . . . discovery under Rule 26 and Rules 29 through 37”).
Fed. R. Civ. P. 32(a)(4).
See Lenius v. Deere & Co., Nos. 12-2063, 12-2072, 2014 WL 6879311 (N.D. Iowa Dec. 4, 2014) (citing cases).
See, e.g., Fairley v. ART Catering, Inc., No. 16-3488, 2017 WL 3456298, at *3 (E.D. La. Aug. 11, 2017) (refusing
to allow a separate “discovery deposition” before the scheduled “trial deposition”) (Roby, C.M.J.); see also Global
epoint, Inc. v. GTECH Corp., No. 11-197, 2015 WL 113979 (D.R.I. Jan. 8, 2015) (refusing to allow second
Lucas v. Pactiv Corp., No. 08-79, 2009 WL 5197838 (W.D. Va. Dec. 22, 2009); Estenfelder v. The Gates Corp.,
149 F.R.D. 351 (D. Colo. 2001).
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deposition, thereby avoiding any undue burden and expense associated with two separate
depositions at different times.34
Given the divergent cases and particular facts in this case, including Dr. Foo’s limited
availability, this Court will not quash Plaintiffs’ noticed deposition of Dr. Foo. The Court will,
however, allow Defendant up to two hours to conduct a discovery deposition before Plaintiffs
proceed with their trial deposition and Defendant then cross-examines Dr. Foo. As in Truiche, the
parties are instructed not to repeat questions and testimony during the perpetuation phase that have
already been covered during the discovery deposition phase.
For the foregoing reasons, having considered the record, the written and oral arguments of
counsel, and the applicable law,
IT IS ORDERED that Defendant’s motion to compel is GRANTED IN PART AND
DENIED IN PART;
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Defendant’s Motion to Quash is GRANTED IN PART
AND DENIED IN PART.
New Orleans, Louisiana, this 17th day of November, 2020.
DONNA PHILLIPS CURRAULT
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
See, e.g., Truiche v. Overnite Transp. Co., No. 95-691, 1996 WL 252402, at *1 (E.D. La. May 10, 1996) (Wilkinson,
M.J.) (refusing to allow two separate depositions, but allowing the party desiring to conduct a discovery deposition to
proceed first with discovery questions and then allow the parties to proceed to trial deposition questions); see also
Pinnock v. Board of County Commissioners, No. 14-293, 2016 Lexis 192256 (D.N.M. Feb. 29, 2016) (allowing brief
discovery deposition to immediately precede trial deposition).
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