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Coleman v. City of Tampa

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

November 13, 2019

AARON COLEMAN Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF TAMPA, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          AMANDA ARNOLD SANSONE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Aaron Coleman moves to compel better discovery by filing four separate motions against different defendants, the City of Tampa, Hillsborough County, Paris Dunkley, and Officer Stephen Gady. (Docs. 44, 45, 46, 47). Each defendant opposes their respective motion. (Docs. 48, 49, 50, 51).

         Attached to each motion to compel are two one-page letters purporting to be Mr. Coleman's unsuccessful attempts to meet and confer about the discovery disputes before filing his motions to compel. (Docs. 44-1, pp. 30-31; 45-1, pp. 24-25; 46-1, pp. 24-25; 47-1, pp. 23-24). These one-page ultimatums do not comply with the letter or spirit of Local Rule 3.01(g). Compliance requires plaintiff to have a substantive discussion with defense counsel. Any future failure to comply with Local Rule 3.01(g)'s meet and confer obligation will lead to the denial of the motion without further consideration.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Previously, the court detailed the events leading to Mr. Coleman filing his complaint against the defendants. (Doc. 38). Because of those events, Mr. Coleman sued Hillsborough County, the City of Tampa, Ms. Dunkley, Officers John Riccardo, James Valentino, William Fair, and Stephen Gady.[1] (Doc. 10). The defendants moved to dismiss Mr. Coleman's third amended complaint. (Docs. 16, 17, 25). The undersigned recommended the motions to dismiss be denied. (Doc. 38). The district court adopted the report and recommendation but also issued an order with modifications. (Doc. 41). The order specifically granted in part the City of Tampa's motion to dismiss as to the false imprisonment and false arrest claims against Mr. Fair, but the remaining claims survived dismissal. (Id. at p. 14).

         In July 2019, Mr. Coleman served the City of Tampa with interrogatories and request for production. (Docs. 44-1, Ex. A, C). In August 2019, the City of Tampa answered those interrogatories and request for production and provided some documents but also raised objections. (Docs. 44-1, Ex. B, D). Mr. Coleman seeks better responses from the City of Tampa. (Doc. 44).

         In July 2019, Mr. Coleman served Hillsborough County with interrogatories and request for production. (Docs. 45-1, Ex. A, C). In August 2019, Hillsborough County answered those interrogatories and request for production and provided some documents but also raised objections. (Docs. 45-1, Ex. B, D). Mr. Coleman seeks better responses from Hillsborough County. (Doc. 45).

         In July 2019, Mr. Coleman served Ms. Dunkley with interrogatories and request for production. (Docs. 46-1, Ex. A, C). In August 2019, Ms. Dunkley answered those interrogatories and request for production and provided some documents but also raised objections. (Docs. 46-1, Ex. B, D). Mr. Coleman seeks better responses from Ms. Dunkley. (Doc. 46).

         In July 2019, Mr. Coleman served Officer Gady with interrogatories and request for production. (Docs. 47-1, Ex. A, C). In August 2019, Officer Gady answered those interrogatories and request for production but also raised objections. (Docs. 47-1, Ex. B, D). Mr. Coleman seeks better responses from Officer Gady. (Doc. 47).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A party may obtain discovery about any nonprivileged matter relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). Discovery helps parties ascertain facts that bear on issues in the case. ACLU of Fla., Inc. v. City of Sarasota, 859 F.3d 1337, 1340 (11th Cir. 2017) (citations omitted). However, requests for production should be clear, concise, and reasonably particularized. Middle District Discovery (2015) at III(A)(1).

         A party may move for an order compelling discovery from the opposing party. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a). The party moving to compel discovery has the initial burden of proving the requested discovery is relevant. Douglas v. Kohl's Dep't. Stores, Inc., No. 6:15-cv-1185-Orl-22TBS, 2016 WL 1637277, at *2 (M.D. Fla. Apr. 25, 2016) (quotation and citation omitted). The responding party must then specifically show how the requested discovery is unreasonable or unduly burdensome. Panola Land Buyers Ass'n v. Shuman, 762 F.2d 1550, 1559-60 (11th Cir. 1985).

         III. MOTIONS TO COMPEL

         As an initial matter, the court must address two issues: the scope of discovery Mr. Coleman seeks and the defendants' general, boilerplate objections.

         First, Mr. Coleman's requests fail to meet the requirements of Rule 26(b). Rather, Mr. Coleman's requests are generally overbroad and seek information not relevant or proportional to the needs of the case. The discovery rules allow for a broad search of information, but “the scope of permissible discovery is not unbounded. Requested discovery must be relevant, and it must not impose undue burden, under the tests described in Rule 26(b)(2)(C).” Bank of Magnolia v. M&P Global Fin. Serv., 258 F.R.D. 514, 518 (S.D. Fla. 2009).

         Second, the defendants use boilerplate objections when the rules require specificity. The 2015 amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure clarify boilerplate objections are improper. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 34. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 34(b)(2)(B) now requires the responding party “state with specificity the grounds for objection to the request, including the reasons.” Boilerplate or general objections constitute a waiver of the discovery sought. See Spencer v. City of Orlando, Florida, No. 6:15-cv-345-Orl-37TBS, 2016 WL 397935, at *2 (M.D. Fla. Feb. 2, 2016) (concluding that objections that are “are too vague and nonspecific” fail to “preserve any objection to the requested discovery”).

         With that, the court will address each motion to compel in turn.

         A. City of Tampa (Mot. at Doc. 44; Resp. at Doc. 51)

         Mr. Coleman requests the court overrule the City of Tampa's objections and require more complete responses to Request for Production Numbers 4, 25, 27, 28, 29, 31, and 35 and Interrogatories 4, 5, and 7. (Doc. 44).

         For Request for Production Numbers 4, 25, 27, 28, 29, 31, and 35, the City of Tampa states it will amend its responses to clarify that it does not have additional non-objectionable documents. (Doc. 51, pp. 3-10). For the categories of documents the City of Tampa has not produced, it maintains its claims of attorney-client privilege and work-product doctrine protection plus further explains why the additional documents sought by Mr. Coleman are not even relevant. (Id.). The request for production and corresponding original written objections are:

Request for Production No. 4: Copies of any all correspondence, memoranda, report, written notes, diagrams, charts or other similar documents, which relate to the incident described in Plaintiff's Complaint or any of Plaintiff's claims or your defenses in this action.
Response: Objection, overbroad and the City further objects because the request implicates documents that are attorney-client and work-product privileged.
Request for Production No. 25: Copies of any and all correspondence, memoranda, reports, written notes, transcripts, recordings, or other similar documents which relate to Aaron Coleman from January 2014- to the present.
Response: Objection, the request is overbroad and the City objects that the request implicates the attorney work product privilege to the extent responsive documents are associated with this lawsuit. The City also objects that police reports associated with Plaintiff, Aaron Coleman related to other crimes allegedly committed by Plaintiff are not relevant to any claim or defense in this case.
Request for Production No. 27: Copies of any and all correspondence, memoranda, reports, written notes, transcripts, recordings, or other similar documents which relate to Life Coleman or Lyfe Coleman from January 2014-to the present.
Response: Objection, the request is not relevant to any claim or defense and is not likely to lead to evidence that is relevant to any claim or defense. The City also objects that the request is overbroad because it implicates records that belong to someone other than Plaintiff, and therefore records of someone other than Plaintiff would not be relevant to any claim or defense in this case.
Request for Production No. 28: Copies of any and all correspondence, memoranda, reports, written notes, transcripts, recordings, or other similar documents which relate to Life Coleman or Lyfe Coleman from January 2014-to the present.
Response: Objection, the request is not relevant to any claim or defense and is not likely to lead to evidence that is relevant to any claim or defense. The City also objects that the request is overbroad because it implicates records that belong to someone other than Plaintiff, and therefore records of someone other than ...

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