United States of America v. Bridger-Riley et al
OPINION AND ORDER by Magistrate Judge Frank H McCarthy ; granting in part and denying in part 25 Motion to Compel (tjc, Dpty Clk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OKLAHOMA
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
NITA KAY BRIDGER-RILEY a/k/a KAY
BRIDGER RILEY, ERIN BORDELON f/k/a
ERIN BRIDGER-RILEY, SHANNON
BRIDGER-RILEY, AND TULSA COUNTY,
OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff’s Motion to Compel Discovery Responses, [Dkt. 25], is before the
undersigned United States Magistrate Judge for decision. The matter has been fully
Plaintiff’s motion seeks an order compelling Defendants1 to answer interrogatories
and produce requested documents, including documents identified in Defendants’ initial
disclosures, business records Defendants promised to produce in lieu of answering
interrogatories, documents responsive to requests for production of documents concerning
federal tax liabilities and trust fund recovery penalties, and documents responsive to
discovery requests concerning affirmative defenses. Defendants responded, asserting that
Plaintiff failed in its obligation to meet and confer about the discovery disputes in a good
faith effort to resolve the disputes without court intervention.2 Defendants further assert
Throughout this Opinion and Order, the reference to Defendants means Nita Kay Bridger-Riley, Erin
Bordelon, and Shannon Bridger-Riley.
The court is satisfied that counsel for Plaintiff made an attempt to comply with the obligation to meet
and confer in good faith to resolve discovery disputes.
that since the filing of the Motion to Compel they have produced over 4,000 documents
which they claim renders much of the discovery dispute moot. They also assert that their
objections to discovery were timely3 and proper. In addition, they claim that deferring
responses to contention interrogatories and requests for production until discovery is
complete is appropriate.
In its reply brief Plaintiff asserts that despite Defendants’ production, there remain
numerous outstanding issues: Defendants produced business records, but did not specify
which documents were responsive to each interrogatory; some interrogatories remain
unanswered or unsupplemented; the contention interrogatories were not objectionable;
Defendants failed to identify whether any documents were withheld on the basis of an
objection; production was limited to documents that are “materially responsive” and to
documents that are in Defendants’ possession, rather than under Defendants’ possession,
custody, or control; and Defendants have not responded to some document requests.
Due to the large number of objections asserted on every discovery request, the
structure of the arguments presented by the parties, the difficulty of wading through the
voluminous attachments to the parties’ briefs, and the obvious lack of cooperation between
counsel, rather than addressing individual discovery requests, for the most part the court
will proceed to dispose of this motion by way of addressing categories of objections and
providing specific instructions as to what is required by Defendants to meet their obligations
to respond to discovery.
The court has not addressed the timeliness of the responses. This order is based entirely on the
content of Defendants’ objections.
Defendants “General Objections” to Discovery Requests
Defendants’ responses to discovery requests begin with a set of “general objections”
that set out the scope of the defendants’ responses. [Dkt. 25-8, pp. 2-10; Dkt. 25-9, pp. 24; Dkt 25-10, pp. 2-4]. Additional objections of overbreadth and burdensomeness are
asserted to nearly every individual discovery request. The court views such overarching
and non-specific objections with disfavor. When an interrogatory is answered “subject to”
a list of such objections, the court and opposing party cannot tell whether information has
Since every interrogatory was answered subject to such objections, the interrogatory
responses are practically meaningless. Defendants are therefore required to submit
amended interrogatory responses and to answer each interrogatory in narrative form,
omitting pro forma objections and referring specifically to particular documents as
necessary to make the answer clear and complete. The amended interrogatory responses
are to include any additional information obtained from review of the James, Potts &
Wulfers records. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(e)(1) imposes the obligation to supplement discovery
responses with additional or corrective information obtained through the discovery process,
therefore it is not necessary for Defendants to reserve the right to supplement.
Defendants objected to some interrogatories on the basis that the interrogatories are
Although contention interrogatories4 are sometimes
A difficulty can arise with so-called “contention” interrogatories when a party is asked to identify all
persons with knowledge or all facts or all documents in a complicated case. Such interrogatories have the
potential of creating an atmosphere where a lawsuit related to discovery can develop when one party believes
the duty to supplement has not been met. Although Plaintiff used the word “all” in some of the discovery
objectionable, Defendants have not demonstrated that the subject interrogatories are
problematic. In addition, the court notes that contention interrogatories are addressed in
Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(a)(2), which provides in relevant part:
An interrogatory is not objectionable merely because it asks for
an opinion or contention that relates to fact or the application
of law to fact, but the court may order that the interrogatory
need not be answered until designated discovery is complete,
or until a pretrial conference or some other time.
The court has not been requested to order that answers to any interrogatories be delayed.
Defendants’ response brief is not persuasive that such delay is appropriate. Defendants
are therefore required to answer the interrogatories they claim are contention
interrogatories. Further, Defendants are required to answer all interrogatories even though
answering the interrogatories as to each affirmative defense may be viewed as exceeding
twenty-five interrogatories as Defendant Nita Kay Bridger-Riley argued in her response to
Interrogatory No. 19 and the other defendants argued in response to Interrogatory No. 12.
[Dkt. 25-8, pp. 28-30; 25-9, pp. 18-20; Dkt. 25-10, pp. 17-19].
Production of Business Records
Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(d) permits the production of business records in answer to
interrogatory questions. However, the answering party is required to specify which records
are responsive to the interrogatory. Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(d)(1). To the extent Defendants
produced documents in response to interrogatories without specifying particular records,
the court finds that Defendants failed to answer the interrogatories.
requests, Defendants have not demonstrated that this case is so complicated or so document intensive that
responding to those requests is overly burdensome.
interrogatory responses that refer to documents must specifically identify documents that
contain answers to each interrogatory.
Interrogatory No. 2 Seeking Banking Records
Interrogatory No. 2 directed to Defendants Erin Bordelon and Shannon Bridger-Riley
seeks information regarding their bank accounts. Both of these defendants have stated
that they have not made any payment of money toward the purchase, operation,
renovation, or maintenance of the house they own in joint tenancy with Defendant Nita Kay
Bridger-Riley. Based on the representation that they have paid no money toward the
purchase or upkeep of the house and Plaintiff’s argument that the requested information
is “necessary to determine the extent to which they have contributed to the ownership and
maintenance of the property at issue,” [Dkt. 25, p. 20], the court finds that information
concerning the financial records of these two defendants is outside of the scope of
discovery. Accordingly, the Motion to Compel is DENIED as to Interrogatory No. 2 to
Defendants Erin Bordelon and Shannon Bridger-Riley.
The motion as to Request for Production of Documents No. 5 directed to these same
two defendants is denied for the same reason.
Supplemental Interrogatory Responses
Since Defendants are required to submit amended interrogatory responses to
include information contained in the documents obtained from James, Potts & Wulfers, the
need to supplement interrogatory responses is eliminated, except as further required going
forward under Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(e)(1).
Defendants are required to produce all documents promised in connection with initial
Requests for Production Nos. 14-20
These Requests for Production of Documents are directed to Defendant Nita Kay
Bridger-Riley and seek information beyond the temporal scope of the allegations in the
Complaint, which address tax obligations for the years from 2003 to 2007. [Dkt. 25-8, pp.
37-44]. Defendant objects to the production as being outside the scope of the allegations
and thus irrelevant. Defendant also asserts that production would be unduly burdensome.
Plaintiff argues that the documents are relevant to Defendant’s intent and willfulness in
regard to the allegations in the Complaint.
Defendant has not demonstrated that production of this information would be unduly
burdensome. Further, the information is relevant for discovery purposes. Defendant is
therefore required to produce responsive documents.
Supplemental Responses to Requests for Production of Documents
Many of the written responses to Requests for Production contain the statement that
Defendant will permit inspection of “all non-privileged documents that are materially
responsive to this Request for Production to the extent that such documents exist, are
known by Defendant to exist, and are in Defendant’s possession, custody, or control.” [Dkt.
25-8, pp. 31-35]. The quoted statement is nonsensical when read in conjunction with the
actual requests for production which include requests for: all documents identified in your
initial disclosures; documents reviewed or relied upon to respond to interrogatories or
requests for admission; and federal tax returns. Id. Defendants certainly know whether
such documents exist. The inclusion of such disclaimers fosters distrust that all responsive
documents have been produced.
Defendants are required to submit amended written responses to Requests for
Production of Documents, omitting such disclaimers. If no responsive documents exist,
Defendants are required to so state. Further, to the extent any items are withheld under
a claim of privilege, Defendants are required to provide a privilege log in compliance with
Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(5) and LCvR 26.4.
Plaintiff’s Motion to Compel, [Dkt. 25], is GRANTED in PART and DENIED in PART
as outlined herein. Defendants are required to serve their amended responses and
produce documents as outlined herein on or before the 6th day of August, 2015.
Defendants are advised that failure to comply with this order risks the imposition of
serious sanctions under Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(b)(2)(A).
SO ORDERED this 23rd day of July, 2015.
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