SLOANE v. GULF INTERSTATE FIELD SERVICES, INC
ORDER: IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that: Defendant's Motion for Protective Order Against Non-Party Subpoenas 198 is GRANTED. The contested subpoenas are deemed WITHDRAWN. No later than 5/15/2017, counsel for Plaintiff shall formally notify each subpoena recipient of this Order and of the subpoenas' withdrawal. The case management deadlines set forth by this Court's 3/24/2017 Order 193 , remain in FULL FORCE AND EFFECT. Signed by Honorable Matthew W. Brann on 5/12/2017. (jn)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
THOMAS SLOANE, individually
and on behalf of all persons
GULF INTERSTATE FIELD
May 12, 2017
The Court entered its Memorandum and Order denying class and
collective certification on March 24, 2017.
Since that time, this action has proceeded on an individualized basis.
On April 13, 2017, the Court denied a motion for reconsideration of
its certification decision filed by Plaintiff.
On April 26, 2017, Defendant filed the instant motion for a protective
order against non-party subpoenas.
The contested subpoenas, which were served subsequent to my denial
of class certification, seek documentary and testimonial information
regarding a number of contracts between the Defendant and Kinder
Morgan, as well as compensation processes pertinent to every one of
Defendant’s employees who worked at Kinder Morgan sites.
In addition to receiving written submissions from the parties, the
Court held a telephonic conference on the motion on May 1, 2017, at
which time it heard oral argument from counsel.
“It is well established that the scope and conduct of discovery are
within the sound discretion of the trial court . . . and that after final
judgment of the district court . . . our review is confined to
determining if that discretion has been abused.” MarroquinManriquez v. I.N.S., 699 F.2d 129, 134 (3d Cir. 1983) (Aldisert, J.).
“To find such abuse it is usually necessary to conclude that there has
been an interference with a substantial right . . . or that the discovery
ruling is seen to be a gross abuse of discretion resulting in
fundamental unfairness in the trial of the case.” Id. Thus, the United
States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has forewarned litigants
that it “will not interfere with a trial court’s control of its docket
except upon the clearest showing that the procedures have resulted in
actual and substantial prejudice to the complaining litigant.” In re
Fine Paper Antitrust Litig., 685 F.2d 810, 817–18 (3d Cir. 1982)
“Discovery need not be perfect, but discovery must be fair.”
Boeynaems v. LA Fitness Int’l, LLC, 285 F.R.D. 331, 333 (E.D. Pa.
2012) (Baylson, J.). “The responses sought must comport with the
traditional notions of relevancy and must not impose an undue burden
on the responding party.” Hicks v. Arthur, 159 F.R.D. 468, 470 (E.D.
Pa. 1995). “[T]he scope of [ ] discovery is not without limits.”
Kresefky v. Panasonic Commc’ns & Sys. Co., 169 F.R.D. 54, 64
(D.N.J. 1996). As such, “[d]iscovery should be tailored to the issues
involved in the particular case.” Id.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(c)(1) states that “[a] party or any
person from whom discovery is sought may move for a protective
order in the court where the action is pending—or as an alternative on
matters relating to a deposition, in the court for the district where the
deposition will be taken.” It further provides that “[t]he court may, for
good cause, issue an order to protect a party or person from
annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense.”
Moreover, it is axiomatic that “the party seeking discovery must first
demonstrate the relevance before the party seeking a protective order
must demonstrate good cause.” Bell v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 270
F.R.D. 186, 195 (D.N.J. 2010).
Chief Judge D. Brooks Smith, writing for the United States Court of
Appeals for the Third Circuit in Halle v. W. Penn Allegheny Health
Sys. Inc., 842 F.3d 215, 226 (3d Cir. 2016), stated that “[i]f a
collective action is decertified at the final stage . . . the court will
decertify the class, dismiss the opt-in plaintiffs without prejudice, and
permit the named plaintiffs to proceed to trial.” Judge Smith further
clarified that “[w]hile a dismissed opt-in plaintiff retains the ability to
pursue individual claims after a district court decertifies a collective
action, we have located no authority (nor have the parties cited any)
discussing the approach taken by Steven Halle in the underlying case
here—namely, his decision . . . to try to resurrect substantially similar
collective action allegations.” Id. at n.11.
I have reviewed the contested discovery requests and believe that they
are overbroad, unduly burdensome, and most importantly, irrelevant
in light of the individualized posture of this action following my
denial of certification. In other words, the requests are not sufficiently
tailored so as to obtain relevant information about the only remaining
Plaintiff, Mr. Sloane. See Flomo v. Bridgestone Americas Holding,
Inc., 2009 WL 1456736, at *3 (S.D. Ind. May 20, 2009) (“Plaintiffs
drafted their discovery requests while this case was still a putative
class action, to be litigated on behalf of all minors who allegedly work
on the Plantation. Because Roe II denied class certification, many of
the discovery requests must be narrowed to encompass documents and
information relating only to Plaintiffs’ claims, not to claims of other
minors on the Plantation.”); Am. Nurses’ Assoc. v. State of Illinois,
No. 84 C 4451, 1986 WL 10382, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 12, 1986) (“If
class certification is denied, the scope of permissible discovery may
be significantly narrowed.”); In re Rail Freight Fuel Surcharge
Antitrust Litig., 258 F.R.D. 167, 176 (D.D.C. 2009) (“Plaintiffs will
have to concede that what may be a king’s ransom will have been
spent on discovery that may never be used if [a district court] denies
class certification or narrows the nature of the class.”).
Moreover, I believe that production of the requested documents would
be duplicative, as the Defendant warrants that it “has already
produced all relevant documents including Plaintiff’s pay letters,
payroll records, and timesheets, and has been deposed repeatedly on
its pay practices over the last 16 months in two separate lawsuits.”
ECF No. 198 at 2.
Finally, I agree, as adroitly conceptualized by counsel for Defendant,
that the terms of the agreements between Defendant and its clients do
not bear the requisite attributes of legally relevant evidence, although
in some tangential fashion, they may economically serve as
considerations that factor into Defendant’s wage-setting
determinations. Counsel for Plaintiff has failed to put forth any
evidence that alters my opinion on that dynamic, as the relationship
between economically relevant and legally relevant concepts is an
attenuated one, even in an industry that utilizes mark-up pricing. To
be precise, the former category is undoubtedly a much larger one in
cases such as these.
AND NOW, THEREFORE, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that:
Defendant’s Motion for Protective Order against Non-Party
Subpoenas, ECF No. 198, is GRANTED.
The contested subpoenas are deemed WITHDRAWN.
No later than May 15, 2017, counsel for Plaintiff shall formally
notify each subpoena recipient of this Order and of the subpoenas’
The case management deadlines set forth by this Court’s March 24,
2017 Order, ECF No. 193, remain in FULL FORCE AND EFFECT.
The Clerk of Court is directed to docket this Order as a “written
opinion,” pursuant to the E-Government Act of 2002.
BY THE COURT:
s/ Matthew W. Brann
Matthew W. Brann
United States District Judge
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