United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville
THEODUS DAVIS, on behalf of himself and those similarly situated, Plaintiff,
COLONIAL FREIGHT SYSTEMS, INC., et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
case is before the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
636, the Rules of this Court, and Standing Order 13-02.
before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Compel the
Production of Plaintiff's Tax Returns [Doc. 90]. The
parties appeared telephonically before the Court on April 11,
2018, for a motion hearing. Attorneys Justin Swidler and
Travis Martinndale-Jarvis appeared on behalf of Plaintiff.
Attorneys E. Ashley Paynter, Christopher Eckhart, and Richard
Hollow appeared on behalf of Defendants. Accordingly, for the
reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS
Defendants' Motion [Doc. 90].
POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES
request [Doc. 90] that the Court compel the production of
Plaintiff's tax returns. For grounds, Defendants state
that they served Plaintiff with Requests for Production of
Documents and Things (“Requests for Production”)
on July 14, 2017. The Requests for Production sought
Plaintiff's state and federal income business and
personal income tax returns for the years 2010 through 2016.
Plaintiff objected to this Request for Production and also
asserted that he was not in possession of his state and
federal tax returns. Plaintiff has since produced a copy of
his 2012 federal income tax return. Later, Plaintiff stated
that due to an error on the part of counsel's staff,
Plaintiff received “certain summaries” from the
Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) but could not
confirm their accuracy. In addition, Plaintiff interposed a
new objection on the basis of the Fifth Amendment.
Subsequently, Plaintiff stated that he did not have custody
or control over the tax returns and that upon receipt, he
would review them and decide whether to object. Defendants
assert that Plaintiff's tax returns are relevant because
he claims that he was misclassified as an independent
contractor and that Defendant Colonial Freight Systems, Inc.,
(“Colonial”) failed to pay him minimum wage.
Defendants explain that his 2014 through 2016 state and
federal tax returns will shed light on how Plaintiff
classified himself, how he claimed his expenses (i.e., truck
lease payments, fuel and operating costs), and the net income
amount Plaintiff claimed.
responded in opposition [Doc. 97], arguing that the Court
should refrain from deciding Defendants' Motion to Compel
until after Plaintiff has received his tax returns from the
IRS and after Plaintiff has decided whether to stand on his
prior objection to producing the same. Plaintiff states that
Defendants sought Plaintiff's tax returns from 2010 to
2016 but that Plaintiff only worked for 2014 through 2016.
Plaintiff continues that his tax returns are not in his
control. Plaintiff explains that his counsel requested the
tax information in December 2017, but Plaintiff received a
tax transcript, which is an IRS-created summary containing
information purportedly from the tax return. Plaintiff
properly requested the tax returns on March 15, and his
request is currently pending. Plaintiff states that once he
receives and reviews the tax returns, he will be in a better
position to assess his objections. Plaintiff requests the
Court to hold the Motion to Compel in abeyance until
Plaintiff has received the tax returns. Plaintiff states that
once he receives his tax returns, he will produce the records
or renew/continue his objections and submit a supplement to
the Court explaining the basis of such objections. Plaintiff
also asserts that the tax returns are not relevant and that
he should not have to submit his tax returns in order to
prosecute this case. Plaintiff explains that there is no
dispute that Defendant Colonial classified him as an
independent contractor, Plaintiff believes his tax preparer
followed Defendant Colonial's designation, and he does
not intend to argue that he told the IRS that he was an
employee. Plaintiff submits that how he classified his
expenses on his tax return is irrelevant because Defendant
Colonial never paid him his expenses.
mentioned above, the Court held a hearing on April 11, 2018.
During the hearing, Defendants argued that the tax returns
are relevant, not just with respect to how Plaintiff
classified his expenses, but whether Plaintiff received
income from other sources. Plaintiff argued that
Defendants' request was premature because Plaintiff does
not have his tax returns. Plaintiff responded that with
respect to other income sources, Defendants asked this
question during his deposition. Plaintiff continued that his
tax returns are only relevant if he worked elsewhere at the
time he worked for Colonial, and there is no evidence that he
worked elsewhere. Plaintiff argued that as a truck driver, he
was required to track his hours by law.
Court has carefully considered the parties' arguments. As
an initial matter, Plaintiff requests that the Court hold the
Motion to Compel in abeyance. The Court finds this request
not well taken, given that the discovery requests were served
in July 2017. Accordingly, Plaintiff's request is denied.
next question before the Court is whether Plaintiff's tax
returns are discoverable. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
26(b)(1) governs the scope of discovery and provides that
“[p]arties may obtain discovery regarding any
nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's
claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case .
. .” The Court finds that Plaintiffs tax returns are
relevant with respect to the time period that he worked for
Defendant Colonial. See also Queen v. City of Bowling
Green, No. 1:16-CV-00131-JHM, 2017 WL 4355689, at *7
(W.D. Ky. Sept. 29, 2017) (explaining that “[i]t is
well settled in the Sixth Circuit that tax returns are not
privileged from disclosure”) (citing DeMarco v. C
& L Masonry, Inc., 891 F.2d 1236, 1240 (6th Cir.
1989) (other citations omitted). Specifically, the Court
finds Plaintiff's tax returns to be relevant in light of
the nature of the dispute (i.e., whether Plaintiff was
misclassified as an independent contractor). See Keller
v. Miri Microsystems LLC, 781 F.3d 799, 807 (6th Cir.
2015) (“If a worker has multiple jobs for different
companies, then that weighs in favor of finding that the
worker is an independent contractor.”). The Court,
however, is mindful that Plaintiff is not currently in
possession of his tax returns but that he has initiated the
process to receive the tax returns. Accordingly, the Court
expects Plaintiff to produce the tax returns without delay
once he receives them.
for the reasons explained above, Defendants' Motion to
Compel the Production of Plaintiff's Tax Returns
[Doc. 90] is GRANTED. Once
Plaintiff receives a copy of his federal and state tax
returns from 2014 through 2016, he SHALL
provide Defendants a copy without delay.
IS SO ORDERED.