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Thomas v. Seminole Electric Cooperative Inc.

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

June 6, 2017

JOZETTE THOMAS, Plaintiff,
v.
SEMINOLE ELECTRIC COOPERATIVE INC., Defendant.

          ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO QUASH SUBPOENA DUCES TECUM AND MOTION FOR PROTECTIVE ORDER

          JULIE S. SNEED, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to Quash Subpoena Duces Tecum and Motion for Protective Order (Dkt. 16), and Defendant's response in opposition (Dkt. 17). For the reasons that follow, the Motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff sues Defendant, her employer, alleging that she was discriminated against on the basis of her sex and her age. (Dkt. 1 ¶¶ 1, 4.) Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that after working for Defendant for seventeen years and being promoted twice, she was not chosen for the position of department manager. (Id. ¶¶ 13-14.) The person who was chosen to be department manager, Plaintiff alleges, subjected Plaintiff to verbal abuse because of her age and sex beginning in 2011. (Id. ¶¶ 17-20.) These discriminatory acts, Plaintiff contends, caused her to suffer depression and to take short-term disability leave. (Id. ¶ 25.)

         Plaintiff brings claims for violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, alleging that Defendant discriminated against Plaintiff on the basis of her sex and age “by stripping her of her duties” and hiring a younger, male employee to assume them; harassed Plaintiff on the basis of her sex and age; created a hostile work environment for Plaintiff, “causing her to suffer major depression”; and paid her less than a male employee with the same experience under similar work conditions. (Id. ¶¶ 80, 84-87, 95, 100-105, 111, 117, 121.) She seeks damages for, in relevant part, her emotional distress and pain and suffering. (Id. at 15.) In its answer, Defendant asserts that all actions taken against Plaintiff were for legitimate, non-discriminatory business reasons. (Dkt. 8 at 10.)

         In the Motion, Plaintiff moves the Court to quash subpoenas duces tecum served on non-parties Debra Lubronovich of the Crisis Center of Tampa and Dr. Jessica G. Rausch-Medina, or alternatively, for a protective order. (Dkt. 16.) According to Defendant, Plaintiff disclosed Ms. Lubronovich and Dr. Rausch-Medina in her initial disclosures as individuals with information relevant to Plaintiff's diagnosis and treatment, as well as in response to interrogatories, naming them as individuals who treated Plaintiff for her alleged work-related depression. (Dkt. 17 at 2.) The subpoenas to Ms. Lubronovich and Dr. Rausch-Medina are identical and request the following:

Each and every document within your possession or control, including, but not limited to, all medical records, notes, charts, diagrams, prescriptions, depositions, opinions rendered, reports, prescriptions, diagnoses, or X-rays, which reflect or refer to service, counseling, treatment, diagnosis, benefit or care provided to the above-named individual during the past six years.

(Dkt. 16 at 2.)

         Plaintiff contends that Defendant has already requested these medical records from her in a request for production, to which Plaintiff responded at the same time she filed the Motion. (Id. at 3.) She therefore argues that Defendant's seeking these records from other sources is unreasonably duplicative. (Dkt. 16 at 3.) Further, Plaintiff argues that the subpoenas are overly broad in timeframe and that “Plaintiff need only provide relevant medical records at issue in the lawsuit and not a broad and sweeping authorization for all medical records dating back to an arbitrary date.” (Id. at 3.) Plaintiff states that she will provide the medical records for the relevant timeframe. (Id. at 4.)

         Further, Plaintiff argues that the requests seek irrelevant information because although Plaintiff “placed her mental health at issue in the lawsuit, [she] has not alleged aggravation of a pre-existing mental health condition.” (Id. at 2.) Also, these medical records are confidential and protected by the physician-patient privilege. (Id.) Thus, Plaintiff requests that the subpoenas be quashed, that a protective order be issued, and the Court “conduct an in-camera review of medical records reflecting treatment which occurred during Plaintiff's discrimination and harassment for the redaction of specific irrelevant information, ” including confidential information reflecting “Plaintiff's past medical history.” (Id. at 4.)

         In response, Defendant argues that Plaintiff waived any psychotherapist-patient privilege in the medical records by placing her mental condition at issue. (Dkt. 17 at 3.) The subpoenas are not overly broad, Defendant argues, because Defendant subpoenaed Dr. Rausch-Medina and Ms. Lubronovich after Plaintiff disclosed them as individuals with information relevant to Plaintiff's diagnosis and treatment of work-related depression. (Id. at 2, 3.) Further, Defendant argues that the requested timeframe of the subpoenas align with Plaintiff's allegations of Defendant's discriminatory acts beginning in 2011. (Id. at 4.)

         APPLICABLE STANDARDS

         Courts maintain great discretion to regulate discovery. Patterson v. U.S. Postal Serv., 901 F.2d 927, 929 (11th Cir. 1990). The court has broad discretion to compel or deny discovery. Josendis v. Wall to Wall Residence Repairs, Inc., 662 F.3d 1292, 1306 (11th Cir. 2011). Through discovery, parties may obtain materials that are within the scope of discovery, meaning they are nonprivileged, relevant to any party's claim or defense, and proportional to the needs of the case. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). Courts consider the following factors: (1) “the importance of the issues at stake in the action, ” (2) “the amount in controversy, ” (3) “the parties' relative access to relevant information, ” (4) “the parties' resources, ” (5) “the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, ” and (6) “whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit.” Id.

         A court must quash or modify a subpoena that “requires disclosure of privileged or other protected matter, if no exception or waiver applies.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 45(d)(3)(A)(iii). A party has standing to move to quash a subpoena served on a non-party if the party alleges a “personal right or privilege” with respect to the subpoenas. Auto-Owners Ins. Co. v. Se. Floating ...


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