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United States v. 131

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

July 20, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
131, 675 RENTABLE SQUARE FEET OF SPACE (114, 500 ANSI BOMA OFFICES AREA (ABOA) USABLE SQUARE FEET OF SPACE, MORE OR LESS, TOGETHER WITH SUCH APPURTENANT PARKING AS IDENTIFIED IN THE EXISTING LEASE (TO-WIT: THIRTY-FIVE (35) COVERED PARKING SPACES AND ELEVEN (11 SURFACE PARKING SPACES), ALL LOCATED GENERALLY AT 400 SOUTH 18TH STREET, ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI, and GSA-VA ST. LOUIS PROPERTY, LLC, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

CAROL E. JACKSON, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on defendant's motion to compel plaintiff to respond to certain interrogatories and requests for production. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(3)(B). Plaintiff has responded in opposition, and the issues are fully briefed.

I. Background

On June 10, 2014, after the expiration of a long-term lease, plaintiff the United States filed a declaration of taking for the Veterans Benefits Administration to occupy the subject building in downtown St. Louis consisting of 131, 675 rentable square feet of office space together with parking spaces. Defendant GSA-VA St. Louis Property, LLC is the lessor of the property. Plaintiff condemned a possessory interest in the property for a fixed term of 33 months, commencing on June 11, 2014 and ending on March 10, 2017, with no option for further occupation. As an estimate of just compensation for the estate taken, plaintiff deposited $4, 701, 185.27 into the Court's registry on June 11, 2014. Prior to the expiration of the condemned leasehold in March 2017, the federal occupants of the subject building plan to move to the federally-owned Charles F. Prevedel Building in Overland, Missouri when renovations on that building are complete.

In response to the complaint in condemnation, defendant did not challenge the taking, but demanded a jury trial on the issue of just compensation. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 71.1(e). On February 6, 2015, defendant served plaintiff with its first set of interrogatories and first requests for production of documents, seeking information related to the status of the renovations on the Prevedel Building. Plaintiff served its responses on March 25, 2015, objecting to certain requests on grounds of relevance. In the instant motion to compel, defendant argues that discovery related to the Prevedel Building is relevant to the issue of a rental premium for the uncertainty regarding the end of the condemnation period.

II. Legal Standard

Rule 26(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that "[p]arties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense." "Relevant information need not be admissible at trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). "A district court is afforded wide discretion in its handling of discovery matters." Cook v. Kartridg Pak Co., 840 F.2d 602, 604 (8th Cir. 1988).

Because the rules of discovery are broad, the burden is typically on the party resisting discovery to explain why discovery should be limited. Jo Ann Howard & Assocs., P.C. v. Cassity, 303 F.R.D. 539, 542 (E.D. Mo. 2014). That is, after the proponent of discovery makes a threshold showing of relevance, the party opposing a motion to compel has the burden of showing its objections are valid by providing specific explanations or factual support as to how each discovery request is improper. Hofer v. Mack Trucks, Inc., 981 F.2d 377, 380 (8th Cir. 1993); St. Paul Reinsurance Co., Ltd. v. Commercial Fin. Corp., 198 F.R.D. 508, 511-12 (N.D. Iowa 2000). The party resisting discovery "must demonstrate to the court that the requested documents either do not come within the broad scope of relevance defined pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1) or else are of such marginal relevance that the potential harm occasioned by discovery would outweigh the ordinary presumption in favor of broad disclosure.'" St. Paul Reinsurance Co., Ltd., 198 F.R.D. at 511-12 (quoting Burke v. New York City Police Dep't, 115 F.R.D. 220, 224 (S.D.N.Y. 1987)).

III. Discussion

A. Discovery Requests and Responses

The contested requests and responses are set forth below. Each of defendant's requests pertains to information or documents related to the Prevedel Building.

1. Interrogatories
4. State with specificity the date you expect to be able to vacate the Subject Property and identify all documents: (i) related to the selection of 33 months as the duration of the taking; (ii) the anticipated scope of work involved in the design and/or construction of the renovations of the Prevedel Federal Building for occupancy by the VA; and (iii) the schedule for the work involved in the design and/or construction of the renovations of the Prevedel Federal Building.
5. Identify any individual who has knowledge regarding: (i) the selection of 33 months as the duration of the taking; (ii) the anticipated scope of work involved in the design and/or construction of the renovations of the Prevedel Federal Building for occupancy by the VA; and (iii) the schedule for the work involved in ...

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