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Kadiyala v. Pupke

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

August 8, 2019

RAVI KADIYALA, individually, and as the assignee of CREDIT UNION MORTGAGE UTILITY BANC, INC., an Illinois corp., Plaintiff,
MARK JOHN PUPKE, et al., Defendants.


          William Matthewman United States Magistrate Judge

         THIS CAUSE is before the Court upon Defendants, Mark John Pupke and Marie Molly Pupke's ("the Pupke Defendants") Motion to Compel and to Overrule Objections to Defendants' Second Request for Production ("Motion") [DE 125]. This matter was referred to the undersigned by United States District Judge Kenneth A. Marra. See DE 359. Plaintiff, Ravi Kadiyala ("Plaintiff) filed a response [DE 129][1], and no reply was filed. The Court held a hearing on the Motion on July 25, 2019.

         I. Issue Presented

         This discovery dispute involves whether two remaining defendants in a civil case can obtain a copy of a settlement agreement, and related payment documents and correspondence, entered into by two former co-defendants and the current Plaintiff. Specifically, the Pupke Defendants seek to obtain the settlement agreement, payment documents, and correspondence between Plaintiff and John P. Miller and John P. Miller CPA, P.A. ("the Miller Defendants")-a CPA and CPA firm who allegedly previously did accounting work for various entities which were used in the scheme to defraud. [DE 1, p. 3, para. 7-8]. The Pupke Defendants assert that the settlement documents are relevant and proportional under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) as they pertain to set-off, and also to bias and motive of the former defendant John P. Miller. Both Plaintiff and the Pupke Defendants agree that John P. Miller, CPA, will be a witness in this case. Plaintiff asserts in response that the documents are irrelevant and inadmissible.

         II. Background

         The Pupke Defendants' Motion [DE 125] pertaining to their Second Set of Requests for Production directed at Plaintiff initially sought to compel Plaintiffs responses to several requests. However, at the July 25, 2019 hearing, the parties' counsel represented that only requests for production #1-4 remained at issue as the parties had resolved all of the other disputes discussed in the Motion amongst themselves.

         The Pupke Defendants' requests for production #1-4 essentially seek the amount of the settlement between the Miller Defendants and Plaintiff, the settlement agreement itself, and copies of checks or correspondence. The Court heard from the parties at the July 25, 2019 hearing and orally directed Plaintiffs counsel to submit the disputed documents to the Court for in camera, ex parte review. The next day, on July 26, 2019, the Court entered its written Order [DE 141] requiring that Plaintiff submit for in camera, ex parte review the documents sought in requests #1-4 of Defendants' Second Set of Requests for Production. Plaintiff has submitted the documents as required. The Court has carefully reviewed the documents in camera. This matter is now ripe for review.

         III. The Current Status of the Miller Defendants

         John P. Miller and John P. Miller CPA, P.A., were formerly defendants in the instant case. Plaintiff originally sought damages of "not less than 1.3 million dollars" against the Miller Defendants and other co-defendants, jointly and severally. [DE 1, pp. 18-19]. However, a Notice of Settlement between Plaintiff and the Miller Defendants was filed on May 10, 2019. [DE 111]. Thereafter, on May 16, 2019, Plaintiff filed a Stipulation for Order of Dismissal with Prejudice as to the Miller Defendants [DE 114]. The Court then entered an Order of Dismissal as to the Miller Defendants on May 31, 2019 [DE 116].

         IV. Documents Requested by the Pupke Defendants from Plaintiff

         Requests for production #1-4 seek copies of the settlement agreement between the settling Miller Defendants and the current Plaintiff; documents indicating the total amount of the settlement to be paid; copies of all cancelled checks connected to the settlement; and documents referencing the date the settlement amount was paid or will be paid. [DE 125-1].

         V. Analysis and Discussion of Applicable Rules and Law

         Rule 26(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure defines the scope of discovery as "any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case," considering the importance of the issues at stake, the parties' relative access to relevant information, the parties' resources, the importance of the discovery, and whether the burden of the discovery outweighs the likely benefit. It is well established that the courts must employ a liberal standard in keeping with the purpose of the discovery rules. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). However, Rule 26(b) allows discovery "through increased reliance on the commonsense concept of proportionality." In re: Takata Airbag Prod. Liab. Litig., 15-2599-MD-Moreno, 2016 WL 1460143, at *2 (S.D. Fla. Mar. 1, 2016) (quoting Chief Justice John Roberts, 2075 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary 6 (2015)); Reuter v. Physicians Cas. Risk Retention Group, No. 16-80581-CV, 2017 WL 395242, (S.D. Fla. 2017). "Proportionality requires counsel and the court to consider whether relevant information is discoverable in view of the needs of the case." Tiger v. Dynamic Sports Nutrition, LLC, Case No. 6:15-cv-1701-ORL-41TBS, 2016 WL 1408098, at *2 (M.D. Fla. Apr. 11, 2016).

         "The respondent bears the burden of establishing a lack of relevancy or some other basis for resisting production." Glatter v. MSC Cruises S.A., No. 18-62219-CIV, 2019 WL 1300896, at *2 (S.D. Fla. Feb. 7, 2019); see also Broadbandone, Inc. v., Inc., No. 12-80604-CIV, 2013 WL 12096358, at *l (S.D. Fla. May 30, 2013); Dunkin' Donuts, Inc. v. Mary's Donuts, Inc., No. 01-0392-CIV-Gold, 2001 WL 34079319, *2 (S.D. Fla. Nov. 1, 2001). In other words, the respondent "must show either that the requested discovery (1) does not come within the broad scope of relevance as defined under Rule 26 or (2) is of such marginal relevance that the potential harm occasioned by discovery would far outweigh the ordinary presumption in favor of broad disclosure." Jeld-Wen, Inc. v. Nebula Glass Int'l, Inc., No. 05-60860-CIV, 2007 WL ...

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