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Mitchell v. Mims

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division

February 12, 2019

MARIE L. MITCHELL, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
GARY MIMS, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER ON DISCOVERY DISPUTE

          GREG KAYS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         This case arises out of a motor vehicle collision in Boone County, Missouri. Plaintiffs allege Defendant Gary Mims (“Mims”), an employee of Defendants Hogan Dedicated Services, LLC, and Hogan Transports, Inc., (“Hogan Defendants”) negligently drove his tractor-trailer combination into the rear of Plaintiffs' vehicle on I-70 highway. Plaintiffs claim the Hogan Defendants are vicariously liable for the acts of Mims, and that they negligently hired and retained Mims as a driver. Now before the Court is a discovery dispute regarding the disclosure of Mims' medical records, employment records, and driving records (Docs. 50, 55, 59, 61).

         Background

         Plaintiffs' complaint alleges that on October 27, 2017, Mims negligently drove a commercial vehicle into the back of their vehicle, causing injuries. Plaintiffs also allege the Hogan Defendants negligently hired, retained, and monitored Mims and negligently entrusted him with the commercial vehicle. Mims timely answered and raised affirmative defenses, including contributory negligence.

         As part of discovery, Plaintiffs served interrogatories and requests for production on Defendants. Defendants then served Objections and Responses on Plaintiffs. Defendants did not sign the Objections and Responses under oath, and their responses to Plaintiffs' interrogatories simply referred Plaintiffs to Mims' deposition testimony or Defendants' Rule 26(a)(1) initial disclosures. Recognizing the inadequacy of these responses, Defendants agreed to sign their responses under oath, withdraw their references to other documents, and supplement all but one response:[1] Mims did not agree to provide Plaintiffs with a list of all the medical professionals that saw or treated him the five years preceding the accident.

         Then, on January 15, 2019, Plaintiffs served fifteen subpoenas on Mims' former employers and medical providers, as well as one subpoena on the Missouri Driver's License Record Center. Defendants do not dispute that Mims' driving records are discoverable, but they contend Plaintiffs request is too broad. Defendants also claim the other fifteen subpoenas should be quashed because they contain privileged information.

         The parties met and conferred but could not reach an agreement related to the disclosure of the medical and employment records or the scope of the driver's license inquiry. The parties have now submitted their briefing, [2] and the issues are ripe for ruling.

         Standard

         A district court has wide discretion in handling pretrial discovery matters. Chavis Van & Storage of Myrtle Beach, Inc. v. United Van Lines, LLC, 784 F.3d 1183, 1198 (8th Cir. 2015). A party generally may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any claim or defense if it is proportional to the needs of the case. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). Proportionality is weighed by considering “the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties' relative access to relevant information, the parties' resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit.” Id. “Information within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.” Id. The rule requires a party objecting to discovery to show specifically how each discovery request is irrelevant or otherwise not subject to discovery. See id. at 33(b)(4), 34(b).

         In a diversity case such as this one, the Court applies state privilege law, not federal law. Baker v. Gen. Motors Corp., 209 F.3d 1051, 1053 (8th Cir. 2000)

         Discussion

         First, the Court must address whether Mims has standing to challenge subpoenas issued to third parties. Under Rule 45, a court “must quash or modify a subpoena that … requires disclosure of privileged or other protected matter, if no exception or waiver applies.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 45(d)(3)(A)(iii). Parties have standing to object to subpoenas under Rule 45 when they have “some personal right or privilege with regard to the documents sought.” 9A Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 2459 (3d ed.); e.g., Enviropak Corp. v. Zenfinity Capital, LLC, 2014 WL 4715384, at *4 (E.D. Mo. Sept. 22, 2014). Here, Mims has a personal right to his medical, employment, and driving records. Thus, he has the ability to object to the subpoenas seeking these records. The Court now turns to the substance of the parties' disputes.

         Although both Plaintiffs and Defendants have discovery issues, all disputes relate to three main issues: 1) Mims' medical records, 2) Mims' employment records, and 3) Mims' driving record. The Court addresses each issue in turn.

         I. Mims' medical ...


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