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Parshall v. Menard, Inc.

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

March 14, 2017

RICHARD PARSHALL, Plaintiff,
v.
MENARD, INC. d/b/a MENARDS, Defendant/Third-Party Plaintiff,
v.
DANIEL STREIBERG, Third-Party Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          CAROL E. JACKSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the motions of defendant Menard, Inc. for a protective order pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c).

         This action arises from an incident that occurred on December 23, 2014 in which merchandise fell from a display and struck plaintiff at a Menards store in Ballwin, Missouri. Plaintiff Richard Parshall alleges that defendant failed to properly secure the merchandise in the display. Defendant alleges that the third-party defendant Daniel Streibig[1] was negligent in handling the merchandise and is thus liable for plaintiff's injury.

         Plaintiff and third-party defendant separately served notices to take the deposition of defendant's corporate designee, pursuant to Fed. R Civ. P. 30(b)(6). Defendant seeks a protective order prohibiting plaintiff and third-party defendant from from soliciting deposition testimony regarding certain enumerated topics. The defendant also moves for a protective order with respect to the plaintiff's Rule 34((a)(2) request to inspect and photograph merchandise displays in the store where the accident occurred.

         I. Legal Standard

         Generally, a party may obtain discovery regarding any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any claim or defense. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). The scope of permissible discovery is broader than the scope of admissibility at trial. Id. However, “[s]ome threshold showing of relevance must be made before parties are required to open wide the doors of discovery and to produce a variety of information which does not reasonably bear upon the issues in the case.” Hofer v. Mack Trucks, Inc., 981 F.2d 377, 380 (8th Cir. 1992). Furthermore, “even if relevant, discovery is not permitted where no need is shown, or compliance would be unduly burdensome, or where harm to the person from whom discovery is sought outweighs the need of the person seeking discovery of the information.” Misc. Docket Matter No. 1 v. Misc. Docket Matter No. 2, 197 F.3d 922, 925 (8th Cir. 1999) (quoting Micro Motion, Inc. v. Kane Steel Co., 894 F.2d 1318, 1323 (Fed. Cir. 1990)).

         Rule 26(c) authorizes a court, for good cause, to issue an order limiting discovery “to protect a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense.” In order to show good cause, “the parties seeking protection must show that specific prejudice or harm will result if no protective order is granted.” Buehrle v. City of O'Fallon, MO, No. 4:10CV00509 AGF, 2011 WL 529922, at *2 (E.D.Mo. Feb. 8, 2011) (citation omitted). The movant bears the burden of demonstrating the necessity of a protective order, “which contemplates ‘a particular and specific demonstration of fact, as distinguished from stereotyped and conclusory statements.'” Gen. Dynamics Corp. v. Selb Mfg. Co., 481 F.2d 1204, 1212 (8th Cir. 1973) (quoting Wright & Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure: Civil § 2035 at 264-65). A district court has broad discretion to decide when a protective order is appropriate and what degree of protection is required. Seattle Times Co. v. Rhinehart, 467 U.S. 20, 36 (1984); Roberts v. Shawnee Mission Ford, Inc., 352 F.3d 358, 362 (8th Cir. 2003).

         II. Discussion

         A. Deposition Notices

         Topics 1-15 in the plaintiff's and third-party defendant's deposition notices are identical and are the subject of the same objections made by defendant. Therefore, they will be discussed together.

         Topics 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, and 12

         Defendant argues that Topic Nos. 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, and 12 are overbroad because they seek information related to different Menards' locations, different displays, or different merchandise involved in the alleged incident. Defendant cites Laubach v. Otis Elevator Co., 37 F.3d 427, 428 (8th Cir. 1994), for the proposition that information involving different displays or stores is not relevant, nor would be reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. However, Laubach focuses on the admissibility of evidence at trial, not whether the evidence itself is discoverable. In each of the cases defendant cites, the parties had to be able to discover the information in order to argue its admissibility. See also Lovett ex rel. Lovett v. Union Pac. R. Co., 201 F.3d 1074, 1081-82 (8th Cir. 2000) (finding that a district court properly excluded evidence at trial because the evidence was irrelevant). Defendant argues that incidents involving different merchandise, different displays or a different store would not be “substantially similar” to the incident involved here. But, the materiality of any differences cannot be known without disclosing the requested information. At this point, it cannot be said that the discovery being sought is not relevant to any issue in this case.

         Defendant also claims that Topics 4, 5, and 7 are overbroad because they request information that is not admissible at trial. Federal Rule 26(b)(1) clearly states that “[r]elevant information need not be admissible at trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.” Each of these requests appears both relevant and reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.

         The request for information in Topic 7 is limited to the time period December 23, 2011 to December 23, 2015. Defendant fails to show how the request is overbroad as to time, given this limitation. However, the Court believes it reasonable to ...


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