Wulf v. Dixon Construction Co., Inc. et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER denying 143 Plaintiff's Motion to Compel. Ordered by Magistrate Judge Cheryl R. Zwart. (JAB)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEBRASKA
RENEE A WULF,
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
DIXON CONSTRUCTION CO., INC.,
JOSEPH LEEKLEY, SUMMIT TRUCK
EQUIPMENT, LLC, AND TRAIL KING
This matter is before the court on Plaintiff’s motion to compel. (Filing No. 143).
Plaintiff requests an order compelling Defendant Dixon to produce financial documents
and tax returns. For the reasons stated below, the motion will be denied.
Plaintiff’s complaint alleges a semi-tractor trailer owned by Defendant Dixon
Construction Company (Dixon) “exploded” on the highway, and debris from that
explosion hit her vehicle and caused serious personal injuries. (Filing No. 1 at CM/ECF
p. 2). Plaintiff’s complaint alleges negligence claims against Dixon and alleges Dixon
failed to comply with multiple safety regulations that resulted in the trailer’s explosion.
In discovery, Plaintiff requested production of documents from Dixon. Specific to
this motion, she requested:
1. A list of all work contracts performed by Dixon from 2008 through
2013, including the party for whom the work was performed, the nature
of the work, the dates of the work, and the money received by Dixon
for each contract or job performed; and
2. Dixon’s tax returns for the 2008 through 2013 tax years.
(Filing No. 145-1 at CM/ECF p. 2).
Dixon objected to these requests as not reasonably calculated to lead to the
discovery of admissible evidence, and objected further that the requests sought to annoy,
embarrass, and oppress Dixon, and cause it undue burden and expense. Plaintiff’s motion
to compel seeks an order requiring production.
“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.” Fed. R. Civ. P.
In determining whether the requested discovery is warranted, the court
considers “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.” Id. The party resisting discovery
typically bears the burden of explaining why discovery should be limited. Streck, Inc. v.
Research & Diagnostic Sys., 250 F.R.D. 426, 436 (D. Neb. 2008). However the party
seeking discovery “must make a threshold showing of relevance.” Id.
Plaintiff argues the production of the requested documents would enable her to
respond to Dixon’s anticipated argument that it is a small, family-run business with one
truck. Plaintiff claims Dixon will use this fact to garner support from the jury and sway
the jury’s decision on damages.
Plaintiff acknowledges Dixon’s size and financial status are irrelevant to any
argument that Dixon was negligent and/or failed to comply with federal safety
regulations. (Filing No. 144 at CM/ECF p. 3). Punitive damages—for which financial
information may be relevant—are not at issue in this case. Finally, Plaintiff has not cited
and the court has not found any case law supporting Plaintiff’s request for a personal
injury defendant’s financial documents or tax returns under the circumstances presented
and argued by Plaintiff. Simply stated, Plaintiff has failed to make a threshold showing
that the requested documents are relevant; that Dixon’s financial information is important
in resolving the issues raised by the parties’ pleadings.
To the extent that evidence of Dixon’s financial status may help Plaintiff counter
any juror sympathy afforded to Dixon as a small, family-run business, jury instructions
prohibit consideration of such facts when making a determination of liability and
damages. This court stands by the judicial process, including the presumption that jurors
will comply with their oath and follow the instructions provided by the court.
As an alternative to granting her motion to compel, Plaintiff requests an order
precluding Dixon from stating it is a small business at trial.
The contours of this
admissibility issue are best addressed by a motion in limine, not a motion to compel
Dixon’s financial information.1
IT IS ORDERED that Plaintiff’s Motion to Compel, (Filing No. 143), is denied.
Dated this 5th day of January, 2016
BY THE COURT:
s/ Cheryl R. Zwart
United States Magistrate Judge
During verbal discussions on this motion, Dixon’s counsel stated he did not
intend to argue Dixon’s, but further explained the small size will likely become obvious
to a jury when employee(s) testify that they both drove and performed maintenance on
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