Whitley v. McClain et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER :IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiff's motion to compel [Doc. # 18 ] is granted in part and denied in part. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that defendants shall have until April 25, 2014, to answer Interrogatories 2(b), 19, and 21 in full, and to respond to Requests for Production 10 and 11 in full.. Signed by District Judge Carol E. Jackson on 4/10/14. (KKS)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
JENNIFER McCLAIN, et al.,
Case No. 4:13-CV-994 (CEJ)
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on plaintiff’s motion to compel defendants
Jennifer McClain, Carl Coleman, and Timothy Tayon to fully answer Interrogatories
2(b), 8, 11, 19, and 21, and to respond to Requests for Production 3, 10, and 11.
Defendants have responded in opposition, and the issues are fully briefed.1
Plaintiff brings suit against defendants, police officers for the municipality of
University City, Missouri, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He claims that defendants violated
his rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments when they illegally seized
him, searched his vehicle, and falsely arrested him on August 1, 2012. Plaintiff also
asserts state law claims of false imprisonment and malicious prosecution, and claims
of municipal liability against defendant University City.
Answers Subject to Objections
Defendants have responded to some interrogatories and requests for production
“subject to” their stated objections. Plaintiff argues that those objections must be
The Case Management Order issued in this case requires that motions to compel be
filed within 15 days following the event that is the subject of the motion. The instant motion
was filed over five months after defendants objected to plaintiff’s discovery requests. Plaintiff
explains that his counsel’s serious health issues and surgeries prevented the timely filing of his
motion. Because there is good cause for plaintiff’s delay, and because defendants did not raise
an objection based on the tardiness of the motion, the Court will consider the motion on the
overruled. He relies on Mann v. Island Resorts Dev., Inc., No. 3:08cv297/RS/EMT,
2009 WL 6409113, at *3 (N.D. Fla. Feb. 27, 2009), which held that answers subject
to objections are not allowed under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. However,
Mann did not take into account the 1993 amendment to Rule 33, expressly allowing for
both objections and answers. “Where previously the Rule said that if an objection was
asserted it would be in lieu of answer, the 1993 amendment provided that the
responding party must answer to the extent the interrogatory is not objectionable,
despite the objection.” Schipper v. BNSF Ry., 2:07-CV-2249-JWL-DJW, 2008 WL
2358748, at *1 (D. Kan. June 6, 2008); Thermapure, Inc. v. Giertsen Co. of Ill., Inc.,
No. 10-C-4724, 2013 WL 1222330, at *2-3 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 25, 2013); but see Sprint
Comm’cns Co., L.P. v. Comcast Cable Comm’cn, LLC, Nos. 11-2684-6-JWL, 2014 WL
545544, at *2-3 (D. Kan. Feb. 11, 2014) (holding that an answer accompanied by an
objection constitutes a waiver of the objection, and that “asserting objections and then
answering ‘subject to’ or ‘without waiving’... objections.... is manifestly confusing (at
best) and misleading (at worse)...”).
Defendants’ objections to plaintiff’s requests are neither confusing nor
misleading. It is clear from those objections and answers which portions of plaintiff’s
interrogatories and requests for production defendants find objectionable. The Court
disagrees with plaintiff’s argument that defendants’ objections must be overruled on
this basis, and accordingly, the Court will address those objections on the merits.
Interrogatory 2(b) asks for the date of birth of each defendant. Defendants
objected that this interrogatory is not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery
of admissible evidence. Subject to those objections, defendants disclosed their ages
but not their dates of birth. Plaintiff explains that he will use the birth date information
to conduct independent background checks, which may lead to evidence regarding
prior arrests, convictions, and lawsuits. The Court find that this evidence is relevant
and defendants will be required to answer Interrogatory 2(b) in full.
Defendant Coleman was the only defendant to object to Interrogatory 8, which
requests information on prior civil lawsuits related to his actions as a law enforcement
officer. Defendant objected to the interrogatory as overbroad and not reasonably
calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Defendant went on to state,
“[s]ubject to this objection, none with respect to police misconduct regarding searches
or seizures.” Prior lawsuits are only relevant insofar as they involve allegations of
misconduct similar to those alleged in plaintiff’s complaint. The defendant’s objection
is sustained, and the motion to compel is denied as to Interrogatory 8.
Interrogatory 11 reads as follows:
Please state the facts of what occurred when you encountered Plaintiff on
the date of the incident mentioned in Plaintiff’s Complaint. Your
description should include, but not be limited to:
(a) The circumstances in which you encountered Plaintiff and the reasons
why you went to the location of the incident described in the Complaint;
(b) The names and badge numbers of all University City police officers,
law enforcement personnel or employees present during or having
anything to do with the incident described in the Complaint;
(c) The nature of the contact with Plaintiff, if any, and the reasons for the
contact made with Plaintiff;
(d) Any searches you performed; and
(e) Any statements to or from the other University City police officers,
law enforcement personnel or employees at the scene where Plaintiff was
detained as described in the Complaint.
Defendants objected to this interrogatory as overbroad and vague. Subject to that
objection, defendants answered by citing to the written police report produced to
The Court agrees that this generalized request for a statement of the facts is
overly broad and vague. See, e.g., Brassell v. Turner, No. 3:05-CV-476LS, 2006 WL
1806465, at *2 (S.D. Miss. June 29, 2006) (“[T]he court finds
interrogatory] overly broad and unduly burdensome, as it asks for the Defendant’s
‘actions’ on the subject date, which could include every time he scratched his nose....
Similarly ... a description of the Defendant’s encounter with the Plaintiff could include
a recitation of weather conditions.”). Defendants’ citation to the police report is a
reasonably narrowed response to plaintiff’s unreasonable request. Plaintiff may seek
additional information through depositions, during which questions may be clarified and
tailored to lead to relevant responses.
The motion to compel is denied as to
Interrogatory 21 asks whether the defendants stopped, questioned, or detained
plaintiff, or searched plaintiff’s vehicle, and if so, why. Defendants raised several
objections, including overbreadth. The Court disagrees, and finds no fault with this
interrogatory, which seeks relevant information through a reasonably tailored question.
The motion to compel is granted as to Interrogatory 21.
Interrogatory 19 and Requests for Production 10 and 11
Interrogatory 19 requests a statement of defendants’ real estate and personal
assets, including the location, fair market value, and co-owners of those assets, the
length of time of ownership, and liens or encumbrances on the assets. Requests for
Production 10 and 11 request all federal, state and local income tax returns filed by
defendants and corporate entities owned by defendants for the years 2011 and 2012.
Defendants objected to this interrogatory and these requests for production as overly
broad, unduly burdensome, not reasonably calculated to lead to admissible evidence,
a “fishing expedition,” harassing, and contrary to Missouri law.
The Court disagrees with defendants’ objections. Information relating to
defendants’ net worth is relevant to plaintiff’s claim for punitive damages, and is
discoverable at this time. See Eastman Kodak Credit Corp. v. Gustin, No. 89-0355-CVW-6, 1990 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13500, at *2 (W.D. Mo. Oct. 9, 1990) (“When punitive
damages are claimed it is well settled that the net worth of the defendant is
discoverable.”); see also Evantigroup, LLC v. Mangia Mobile, LLC, No. 4:11-CV-1328
(CEJ), 2013 WL 74372, at *1 (E.D. Mo. Jan. 7, 2013). This well-established rule
applies in equal force to suits brought under § 1983, despite that Section’s demanding
standard for an award of punitive damages. Defendants’ citations to Missouri law are
unpersuasive, as the Court is exercising federal question jurisdiction over this case,
and federal law applies. Any privacy concerns may be addressed in a motion for a
protective order. The motion to compel as to Interrogatory 19 and Requests for
Production 10 and 11 is granted.
Request for Production 3
Plaintiff requests all records of any disciplinary actions taken against defendants
by law enforcement employers throughout their careers through August 1, 2012.
Defendants objected to this request as overly broad, and responded that, “regarding
any discipline for matters actually identified in the claims made in Plaintiff’s Complaint:
None.” While prior disciplinary action for misconduct similar to that alleged in plaintiff’s
complaint is relevant to the claim of municipal liability, the Court agrees that plaintiff’s
request, as phrased, is overbroad. The motion to compel is denied as to Request for
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiff’s motion to compel [Doc. #18] is
granted in part and denied in part.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that defendants shall have until April 25, 2014,
to answer Interrogatories 2(b), 19, and 21 in full, and to respond to Requests for
Production 10 and 11 in full.
CAROL E. JACKSON
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated this 10th day of April, 2014.
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