United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division
ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO QUASH
PLAINTIFF'S TRIAL SUBPOENA
D. SMITH, SENIOR JUDGE
is Defendant's motion to quash Plaintiff's trial
subpoena of witness Christopher Miller. Doc. #126. Plaintiff
opposes the motion. Doc. #127. The Court originally announced
its intention to take up this matter on the first day of
trial. However, the parties have briefed the issue, and it
seems appropriate to decide it now to enable the parties to
marshal their witnesses.
seeks to quash Plaintiff's trial subpoena of Miller, an
employee of Defendant, because Miller “should not be
forced to testify given his medical conditions, ” and
testifying at trial could create stress that could exacerbate
Miller's condition. Doc. #126, at 1. Miller's medical
conditions include a reduced cognitive ability,
“stress-induced seizures, ” and Bell's palsy.
Although Miller did not witness Plaintiff's fall in
Defendant's parking lot, he completed a witness statement
chronicling the events that occurred after Plaintiff told him
she fell in the parking lot. Miller has not been deposed in
this matter, but Plaintiff subpoenaed him to testify at trial
because “Miller has information that goes to the heart
of Plaintiff's claims.” Doc. #127, at 6.
Court is required to quash or modify a subpoena that
“subjects a person to an undue burden.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 45(d)(3)(A)(iv). To determine whether a subpoena
imposes an undue burden, the Court balances the relevance of
the testimony sought and the requesting party's need for
that testimony against the potential hardship to the party
subject to the subpoena. Tyler v. Rahe, No.
08-00129-CV-W-DW, 2014 WL 1875257, at *1 (W.D. Mo. May 9,
2014) (citations omitted). The burden of proving the subpoena
poses an undue burden rests with the party moving to quash,
and is a “heavy one.” Id. (citation
Court has thoroughly reviewed the parties' briefs and
exhibits. Regarding the potential hardship of testifying at
trial on Miller, the Court does not take lightly Miller's
medical conditions. Miller's former physician, Dr.
Tiffany Blythe, testified that Miller could suffer a seizure
if called to testify at a deposition or trial, and stated her
belief that testifying could be a danger to Miller given his
past diagnosis of Bell's palsy. Defendant and Dr. Blythe
repeatedly emphasize the stress Miller would face if called
as a witness as the primary reason to quash Plaintiff's
the relevance and Plaintiff's need for Miller's
testimony, Plaintiff argues Miller has “information
that goes to the heart of Plaintiff's claims.” Doc.
#127, at 6. It appears Miller was the first person to
interact with Plaintiff after her fall and the first employee
of Defendant to whom Plaintiff reported her fall. Deposition
testimony indicates it was Miller who alerted co-workers to
the incident in the parking lot. Miller's witness
statement, dated one day after Plaintiff's fall,
indicates Miller was part of a group of Defendant's
employees who responded to the scene and Plaintiff's
needs. Additionally, Miller's statement indicates he has
first-hand knowledge of the scene, and may speak to
Plaintiff's physical condition immediately after the fall
as he notes, “[Plaintiff] looked hurt.” Doc.
#126-3. While Defendant asserts Miller's witness
statement is sufficient and it does not oppose admission of
the statement at trial, the statement is brief and without
the Court is sensitive to Miller's medical condition, the
Court finds the relevance and Plaintiff's need for
Miller's testimony at trial outweighs the potential
hardship placed on Miller by requiring him to testify at
trial. Dr. Blythe did not diagnose him as having a seizure
disorder, but instead based her opinion on the existence of
medical records from Miller's childhood, nor did Dr.
Blythe prescribe medication for a seizure disorder while
treating Miller. Dr. Blythe's testimony reveals Miller
has not had a seizure in approximately two decades, and Dr.
Blythe does not know the last time Miller had a seizure.
Although Miller had Bell's palsy in October 2016, there
is no indication he currently suffers from Bell's palsy.
Furthermore, Dr. Blythe testified that stress does not induce
Bell's palsy, only that symptoms, should they exist, may
be worsened by stress.
has not carried its heavy burden to show Plaintiff's
trial subpoena poses an undue burden on its employee who has
personal knowledge of the incident in question. Miller has
relevant testimony, and Plaintiff has demonstrated a need to
have his testimony presented to the jury. The Court does not
expect Miller's testimony to be lengthy, and will work
with counsel to minimize the burden and stress faced as a
result of him being called to testify. The Court notes Miller
is listed as a witness Plaintiff expects to call in her case
in chief. The Court expects the parties to confer and agree
on a general time and date at which Miller should be present
and ready to testify. Defendant's motion to quash
Plaintiff's trial subpoena is denied.
 Miller's former treating
physician, Dr. Tiffany Blythe, characterizes Plaintiff as
having “mental retardation.” See
generally, Doc. #126-3 ...