United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Jacksonville Division
Jared A. Watts, Plaintiff,
iHeartMedia Entertainment, Inc., Defendant.
PATRICIA D. BARKSDALE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
the Court are the plaintiff's motion to quash subpoenas
to non-parties Cox Television Jacksonville, LLC, and Cox
Media Group, LLC (collectively, “Cox”), Doc. 23;
the defendant's response, Doc. 25; and the
plaintiff's reply, Doc. 29.
the subpoenas, the defendant seeks a copy of an agreement
between the plaintiff and Cox settling a defamation claim
based on a television broadcast underlying some of the
allegations in this action, as well as related documents and
communications between Cox and the plaintiff or his counsel.
Doc. 23-1. The Court heard arguments on the motion, response,
and reply on October 25, 2019.
motion, the plaintiff argues quashing the subpoenas is
warranted because compliance with them would require him to
breach a confidentiality provision in the settlement
agreement and enable the defendant to share the confidential
documents with others. Doc. 23 at 3. He alternatively
requests an order restricting the defendant's use of
confidential documents. Doc. 23 at 3.
response, the defendant observes the law generally permits
discovery of documents despite confidentiality agreements and
the standard is relevancy, not admissibility. Doc. 25 at 4-5.
The defendant argues the documents relate to the
plaintiff's claims, the plaintiff's credibility, and
its defenses of re-publication, causation, fault, mitigation,
and setoff. Doc. 25 at 2 n.2. The defendant provides a copy
of a confidentiality agreement between the plaintiff and the
defendant, Doc. 25-2, and suggests it may be used for
discovery from Cox and other non-parties, Doc. 25 at 4 n.5.
reply, the plaintiff primarily argues about whether the
defense of setoff is available to the defendant. See
generally Doc. 29. He adds that an in camera
review of the documents would show the defendant's
arguments about relevancy are wrong. Doc. 29 at 2.
argument, the plaintiff's counsel explained his chief
motivation for moving to quash the subpoenas is honoring the
plaintiff's agreement to keep the settlement
confidential. Counsel for Cox appeared and stated Cox has no
objection to producing the documents if subject to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1), “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[.]” “[D]iscovery of
confidential settlement agreements is generally available
under an appropriate protective order.” St. Bernard
Parish v. Lafarge North America, Inc., 914 F.3d 969, 975
(5th Cir. 2019).
Court denies the motion in part and
grants the motion in part, Doc. 23. At a
minimum, the documents relate to the plaintiff's possible
motivation for suing the defendant and the defendant's
defense that the plaintiff failed to mitigate any damages by
working with Cox at the outset but not the defendant until
months later. The defendant-being sued for assertedly
substantial damages-reasonably wants to probe those and other
areas. Because this ruling is based on the general nature and
standard contents of settlement agreements and related
communications, an in camera review is unnecessary.
must produce the documents responsive to the subpoenas by
November 15, 2019. To protect valid
confidentiality interests, the settlement agreement and
documents containing settlement discussions are deemed
“confidential” and must be treated by the parties
as “confidential” under the existing
confidentiality agreement between the parties, Doc. 25-2. The
other documents-any civil action notices and retraction
demands to Cox from the plaintiff or his counsel-are not
confidential and need not be treated as such.
order contains no decision on whether any of the
to-be-produced documents are admissible under the Federal
Rules of Evidence or whether the defense of setoff is
available to the defendant.
this order may portend a ruling on some issues raised in the
pending motion to compel, Doc. 32, the Court will defer
ruling on that motion to provide the plaintiff an opportunity
to respond to it.