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Murray v. Marchbanks

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

April 14, 2017

STEVEN MARCHBANKS, et al., Defendants.



         This case comes before the Court on defendants Steven Marchbanks and Premier Legal Center's motion for a protective order regarding discovery and to reconsider case management order and scope of discovery (#41). The plaintiff responded to which defendants replied. The issues are ripe for disposition.

         I. Factual Background

         Plaintiff contends that the defendants violated the Driver's Privacy Protection Act (“DPPA”) by using her personal information obtained from the Missouri Department of Motor Vehicles (“DMV”), without her consent, to solicit her as a client to sue her automobile's manufacturer. Plaintiff filed this putative nationwide class action lawsuit on behalf of herself and others similarly situated who were solicited as potential clients by the defendants. Defendants acknowledged that they did send the plaintiff solicitation letters but deny that the information was obtained from the Missouri DMV or from the DMV of any other state.

         Defendants, via Sunshine Law requests, obtained information from the Missouri DMV regarding requests by certain entities for plaintiff's specific personal information. Further, defendants obtained a list of all entities that received bulk record data from the Missouri DMV. As shown in this information, there were no individual requests for plaintiff's personal information by any entity, but there were 39 entities that may have received plaintiff's driver and motor vehicle records via bulk record distribution. Defendants are correct that none of the defendants' names or businesses are on the list of those entities that requested or received plaintiff's information directly the Missouri DMV. Additionally, Robbie DeShazo, DeShazo Direct Marketing, and DMM, previously defendants in this action, do not appear on this list.

         The instant motion relates to discovery and scheduling issues between the parties. Specifically, defendants seek (1) a protective order limiting the scope of the plaintiff's discovery, (2) an amendment to the scheduling order so that this Court may limit discovery to plaintiff's individual claim and discovery relevant to class certification issue only, and (3) an order that this Court will consider the defendants' motion for summary judgment prior to considering plaintiff's motion for class certification.

         II. Legal Standard

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 26(b)(1), parties may obtain discovery “regarding any matter, not privileged, that is relevant to the claim or defense of any party.” Relevancy is broadly construed, and “a request for discovery should be considered relevant if there is any possibility that the information sought may be relevant to the claim or defense of any party.” Trickey v. Kaman Indus. Techs. Corp., 1:09CV26 SNLJ, 2010 WL 5067421, at *2 (E.D. Mo. Dec. 6, 2010) (quoting Breon v. Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of New England, 232 F.R.D. 49, 52 (D. Conn. 2005)). This Court is mindful that discovery is nonetheless not permitted where there is no need shown, where compliance would be unduly burdensome, or where “harm to the person from whom the discovery is sought outweighs the need of the person seeking the information.” Id. (quoting Miscellaneous Docket Matter No. 1 v. Miscellaneous Docket Matter No. 2, 197 F.3d 922, 925 (8th Cir. 1999)).

         III. The DPPA

         The DPPA, 18 U.S.C. §§ 2721-2725, regulates “the disclosure of personal information contained in the records of state motor vehicle departments.” Maracich v. Spears, 133 S.Ct. 2191, 2195 (2013). Personal information is defined under the DPPA as “information that identifies an individual, ” and includes, inter alia, a person's “name, address (but not the 5-digit zip code), [or] telephone number.” 18 U.S.C. § 2725(3). It is unlawful for “any person knowingly to obtain or disclose personal information, from a motor vehicle record, for any use not permitted under section 2721(b) of this title.” 18 U.S.C. § 2722(a). Further, “A person who knowingly obtains, discloses or uses personal information, from a motor vehicle record, for a purpose not permitted under this chapter shall be liable to the individual to whom the information pertains, who may bring a civil action in a United States district court.” 18 U.S.C. § 2724(a). Regarding the exceptions, the Supreme Court has expressly held that “sending communications for the predominant purpose of solicitation is not a use of personal information exempt from DPPA liability” unless the individual consents to the use of her personal information. Maracich, 133 S.Ct. at 2210.

         IV. Defendants' Motion

         Defendants request this Court to prohibit the plaintiff from this “broad-based fishing expedition” and limit the discovery to “reasonable parameters.” Defendants contend that the plaintiff's interrogatories and requests for production of documents are “overly broad, unduly burdensome, [and] are not proportional to the needs of the case.” Because of these discovery requests, defendants claim, they “must pursue a protective order or in the alternative request that the Court reconsider the issue of discovery and limit the discovery to that discovery reasonably tailored and necessary for consideration of class certification.” The defendants identify two interrogatories and six requests for production of documents that they claim establish their point.

         Additionally, it appears that several of the requests pertain to two individuals - Ruben Leon and Troy Merry - who are not agents of the defendants, as well as two companies that Leon and Merry presumably work for - Spectrum Mailing Lists and Natimark, Inc. Defendants disclosed these individuals in their Rule 26(a) initial disclosures as those who would have discoverable information regarding the source of information from which plaintiff's name ...

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