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DeGraw v. Gualtieri

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

October 23, 2019

JULIE V. DEGRAW, as personal representative of the Estate of Donald C. DeGraw, deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
BOB GUALTIERI, in his individual capacity as Pinellas County Sheriff, and GREGORY GOEPFERT, in his individual capacity as Pinellas County Deputy Sheriff, Defendants.

          ORDER

          SEAN P. FLYNN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This cause is before the Court upon Plaintiff Julie V. DeGraw's Amended Motion to Compel Discovery from Defendant Gualtieri (“Motion to Compel”) (Doc. 58) and Motion for Leave to Take Depositions in Excess of Ten (“Motion for Leave”) (Doc. 60). Defendant Bob Gualtieri, the Sheriff of Pinellas County (“Sheriff”), filed a Response in Opposition to the Motion to Compel (Doc. 61) and the Sheriff and Defendant Gregory Goepfert filed a Response in Opposition to the Motion for Leave (Doc. 62). Plaintiff additionally filed a Reply in support of her Motion for Leave (Doc. 69). Upon consideration, Plaintiff's Motion to Compel (Doc. 58) is DENIED, and her Motion for Leave is DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.

         MOTION TO COMPEL

         This case alleges use of excessive force, specifically a Taser, by a deputy responding to a medical seizure suffered by Donald DeGraw, now deceased (Doc. 27). Here, Plaintiff seeks to compel the Sheriff to provide better responses to Plaintiff's First and Second Requests for Production; specifically, Requests 8, 9, and 10 of the First Request for Production and Request 1 of the Second Request for Production. The Sheriff argues that Plaintiff failed to confer with the Sheriff before filing the Motion to Compel, thereby warranting denial of the motion. In addition, the Sheriff asserts that its objections to the requests should otherwise be sustained.

         Motions to compel discovery under Rule 37(a), Federal Rules Civil Procedure, are committed to the sound discretion of the trial court. See Commercial Union Ins. Co. v. Westrope, 730 F.2d 729, 731 (11th Cir. 1984). Discovery under the Federal Rules is governed by the principle of proportionality. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) defines the scope of discoverability as follows:

Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged 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 in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties' relative access to relevant information, the parties' resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit.

         The proponent of a motion to compel discovery bears the initial burden of proving that the information sought is relevant. Moore v. Lender Processing Servs. Inc., No. 3:12-CV-205-J, 2013 WL 2447948, at *2 (M.D. Fla. June 5, 2013).

         As an initial matter, the Court agrees that Plaintiff's failure to meaningfully confer or attempt to confer in good faith on the substance of the dispute prior to filing it constitutes sufficient grounds to deny the Motion to Compel. See Esrick v. Mitchell, No. 5:08-cv-50-Oc- 10GRJ, 2008 WL 5111246, at *1 & n.6 (M.D. Fla. Dec. 3, 2008); Regions Bank v. Legal Outsource PA, No. 2:14-cv-476-FtM-29MRM, 2016 WL 7228738, at *2 (M.D. Fla. Mar. 10, 2016) (denying in part motion to compel and finding movants failed to satisfy their obligations under both Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(a)(1) and L.R. 3.01(g), M.D. Fla., because the parties never meaningfully conferred or attempted to confer in good faith on the substance of their dispute); Commerce First Fin., LLC v. Summerlin Bass, LLC, No. 2:10-cv-290-CEH-DNF, 2011 WL 13141496, at *2 (M.D. Fla. June 16, 2011); Sellers v. Rushmore Loan Mgmt. Servs., LLC, No. 3:15-cv-1006-J-32PDB, 2017 WL 6344315, at *7 (M.D. Fla. Dec. 12, 2017).

         In addition, however, the Sheriff's objections to the requests at issue are well-taken. Request 8 in the First Request for Production seeks:

Any and all policies, procedures, manuals, articles, memoranda, correspondence, communications, audiotapes, videotapes, programs, brochures, leaflets, orders and documents of any kind of nature or description, including computer generated documents, prepared by you or any of your agents, employees and/or representatives, or created by others and in your possession but not adopted by you, mandated by others and adopted by you, which set forth procedures, standards, policies, guidelines, comments, suggestions, or criteria related to the use of dart-firing stun guns (Taser) in effect during the five (5) year time period from September 7, 2011 through and including September 7, 2016.

Doc. 58-6 at ¶ 8.

         The Sheriff responded to the request as follows:

The Sheriff objects to Request No. 8 because it is vague and ambiguous. The request is also irrelevant and not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. The Sheriff will produce the policies and procedures in his possession, custody, or control regarding the use of tasers in effect during the five-year period from September 7, 2011 through September 7, 2016.

Doc. 58-7 at ¶ 8. The three requests in the First Request for Production at issue here contain essentially the same phrasing and seek any and all documents not only prepared by the Sheriff's Office personnel, but also “created by others and in your possession but not adopted by you, or mandated by others and adopted by you, which set forth procedures, standards, policies, guidelines, comments, suggestions, or criteria related to the use of” (1) Tasers (Request No. 8); (2) responding to medical emergencies or medical distress (Request No. 9); and (3) the “use of potentially lethal force” (Request No. 10). It is undisputed that the Sheriff subsequently produced policies and procedures in relation to these three areas of inquiry for the applicable timeframe as well as thousands of pages of Taser training materials. The Sheriff, however, argues that the remainder of these three requests is vague, ambiguous, irrelevant and potentially involves tens of thousands of pages of documents and things that would take hundreds of hours to identify, retrieve, and produce (Doc. 61 at 9). Plaintiff asserts that she is entitled to find out what ...


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