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Polycarpe v. Seterus, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division

May 23, 2017

SETERUS, INC., Defendant.


          THOMAS B. SMITH, United States Magistrate Judge

         This case comes before the Court without oral argument on Plaintiff's Motion to Compel and Request for Attorney's Fees and Costs (Doc. 37). Defendant has filed a response in opposition to the motion (Doc. 38).

         Plaintiff owns a home, encumbered by a mortgage, which is serviced by Defendant, on behalf of the Federal National Mortgage Association (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 30-34). Plaintiff complains that while servicing the mortgage, Defendant violated the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (“FCCPA”), Fla. Stat. § 559.55 et seq.; the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq.; and the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (“RESPA”), 12 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq. (Id.). Defendant denies liability (Doc. 8). Plaintiff brings this motion because she is dissatisfied with Defendant's responses to certain interrogatories and requests for production.

         As an initial matter, Local Rule 3.01(g) requires the moving party, before filing most motions, including a motion to compel, to confer with the opponent in a good faith attempt to resolve the issue. Movant's counsel must include a certification in the motion that he has complied with this requirement and shall also notify the Court whether the parties agree on the relief requested. Counsel for Plaintiff has certified that he complied with Rule 3.01(g) (Doc. 37 at 12), and counsel for Defendant points to an email as proof that, with respect to interrogatory number ten, this is not true (Doc. 38-1). The Court does not have enough information to resolve this dispute and is not inclined to investigate the matter further. It will be less time consuming and less costly to the parties if the Court proceeds to rule on the merits of Defendant's objections to interrogatory number ten.

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) allows parties to obtain discovery regarding any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense. “The discovery process is designed to fully inform the parties of the relevant facts involved in their case.” U.S. v. Pepper's Steel & Alloys, Inc., 132 F.R.D. 695, 698 (S.D. Fla. 1990) (citing Hickman v. Taylor, 329 U.S. 495, 501 (1947)). “The overall purpose of discovery under the Federal Rules is to require the disclosure of all relevant information so that the ultimate resolution of disputed issues in any civil action may be based on a full and accurate understanding of the true facts, and therefore embody a fair and just result.” Oliver v. City of Orlando, No. 6:06-cv-1671-Orl-31DAB, 2007 WL 3232227, at * 1 (M.D. Fla. Oct. 31, 2007) (citing United States v. Proctor & Gamble Co., 356 U.S. 677, 682 (1958)). Discovery is intended to operate with minimal judicial supervision unless a dispute arises and one of the parties files a motion requiring judicial intervention. S.L. Sakansky & Assoc., Inc. v. Allied Am. Adjusting Co. of Florida, LLC, No. 3:05-cv-708-J-32MCR, 2007 WL 2010860, at *1 (M.D. Fla. Jul. 6, 2007).

         “The grounds for objecting to an interrogatory must be stated with specificity.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(b)(4). Since the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure were amended effective December 1, 2015, Rule 34 has required a party objecting to requests for production to: (1) “state with specificity the grounds for objecting to the request, including the reasons;” (2) “state whether any responsive materials are being withheld on the basis of that objection;” and (3) “[a]n objection to part of a request must specify the part and permit inspection of the rest.” These rules leave no place for so-called “General Objections” to interrogatories and requests for production except in those rare cases where the same objection specifically applies to every interrogatory or request. As the court observed in Liguria Foods, Inc. v. Griffith Laboratories, Inc., No. C 14-3041-MWB, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 35370, at *32 (N.D. Iowa Mar. 13, 2017), “'[t]he key requirement in both Rules 33 and 34 is that objections require ‘specificity.'” So-called “'generalized objections are inadequate and tantamount to not making any objection at all.'” Id. at *36 (quoting Jarvey, Boilerplate Discovery Objections, 61 Drake L. Rev. 913, 916 (2013)). General objections fall into the category of one size fits all, boilerplate objections.

The problems with using boilerplate objections, however, run deeper than their form or phrasing. Their use obstructs the discovery process, violates numerous rules of civil procedure and ethics, and imposes costs on litigants that frustrate the timely and just resolution of cases.


         “Objections which state that a discovery request is ‘vague, overly broad, or unduly burdensome' are, by themselves, meaningless, and are deemed without merit ….” Siddiq v. Saudi Arabian Airlines Corp., No. 6:11-cv-69-Orl-19GJK, 2011 WL 6936485, at *3 (M.D. Fla. Dec. 7, 2011) (quoting Milinazzo v. State Farm Ins. Co., 247 F.R.D. 691, 695 (S.D. Fla. 2007)). Courts routinely reject boilerplate objections. See Gonzalez v. ETourand Travel, Inc., No. 6:13-cv-827-Orl-36TBS, 2014 WL 1250034, at *4 (M.D. Fla. Mar. 26, 2014); Chambers v. Sygma Network, Inc., No. 6:12-cv-1802-Orl-37TBS, 2013 WL 1775046, at *3 (M.D. Fla. Apr.25, 2013); Mendez v. Land Investors, Corp., No, 2:12-cv- 158-FtM-29S PC, 2012 WL 6012906, at *1 (M.D. Fla. Dec.3, 2012); Arthrex, Inc. v. Parcus Med., LLC, No. 2:11-cv-694-FtM-29SPC, 2012 WL 5382050, at *3 (M.D. Fla. Nov.1, 2012); Burlington N. & Santa Fe Ry. Co. v. U.S. Dist. Court, 408 F.3d 1142, 1149 (9th Cir. 2005); FDIC v. Brudnicki, No. 5:12-cv-00398-RS-GRJ, 291 F.R.D. 669, 674 n. 4 (N.D. Fla. June 14, 2013); Ochoa v. Empresas ICA, S.A.B., No. 11-23898-CIV, 2012 WL 3260324, at *2 (S.D. Fla. Aug.8, 2012); Robinson v. City of Arkansas City, Kan., No. 10- 1431-JAR-GLR, 2012 WL 603576, at *6 (D. Kan. Feb.24, 2012); Williams v. Taser Intern., Inc., No. 1:06-CV-0051-RWS, 2007 WL 1630875, at *3 n. 3 (N.D.Ga. June 4, 2007); Russell v. Daiichi-Sankyo, Inc., No. CV 11-34-BLG-CSO, 2012 WL 1161435, at *1-2 (D. Mont. April. 6, 2012).

         Disappointingly, attorneys who are supposed to know better continue to preface their discovery responses with boilerplate, general objections. Defendant's counsel falls into this category. Defendant's discovery responses begin with six nonspecific “General Objections” which serve no purpose other than to waste the reader's time. Now, all of Defendant's “General Objections” are overruled.

         The following interrogatories and requests for production are the subject of this motion:

         Interrogatory No. 1:

State the full name, present address, employer, title and occupation of all persons providing information and documents responsive to the Plaintiff's discovery requests herein.
OBJECTION: Vague and ambiguous as to “providing, ” and otherwise. Subject to and without waiving its objections, and attempting to respond, Seterus identifies multiple individuals at Seterus who may be contacted only through counsel, and Seterus's undersigned counsel.
Interrogatory No. 9:
For the five years prior to the date the Complaint was filed through the present, identify, by case name, court number and court, all civil, criminal or administrative matters in which you have been a party, that alleges Seterus violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the ...

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