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Higgins v. Transtar Industries, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

December 20, 2019

KIM HIGGINS, Plaintiff,



          Joe B. Brown, United States Magistrate Judge

         A two-hour twenty-minute discovery conference was held in this matter on December 17, 2019. The morning of the conference, the parties submitted a Joint Statement of Issues Concerning Discovery Disputes along with the discovery requests and responses. A copy of the Joint Statement will be attached as an Exhibit to this Order. Unfortunately, the requests and responses are both made without regard to the requirement for proportionality in Rule 26 and the requirement the Parties cooperate in discovery. The Interrogatories and Requests for Production were submitted late in the discovery process and were for the most part not properly limited in time and were incredibly broad. Both Interrogatories and Requests for Production should be narrowly tailored to the needs of the case. Unfortunately, the responses totally ignored the requirement of Rule 33(b)(4) that objections must be stated with specificity. Unfortunately improper questions and improper objections presented to the Magistrate Judge shortly before discovery is scheduled to close present a very difficult task and undoubtedly a result that will leave both parties unsatisfied.

         To the extent any of the responses have not been properly verified, the Defendant will correct that within fourteen (14) days of the entry of this Order.

         To the extent the Defendant has objected on the grounds of attorney/client privilege or work product without producing a privilege log to support the withholding of such documents, those objections are stricken. From a discussion with the Parties it does not appear any material was in fact withheld because of such a privilege claim. Addressing the Interrogatories:

Interrogatory 4 - The Defendants state they have provided the email that listed the instructions for terminating the Plaintiff. They should beef up their response as to the details of the Plaintiff's termination and whether she was escorted from the office when she was terminated.
Interrogatory 5 - This interrogatory is unnecessarily broad and the response is lacking in any useful information. The Defendants should provide the name of the individuals who made the decision to terminate the Plaintiff, briefly describe their job duties, and list their immediate supervisor.
Interrogatory 7 - The Defendant should provide any known discussions concerning the actual decision to terminate the Plaintiff and who participated in the conversations. Unfortunately this is an interrogatory served late in the discovery process that requests information about conversations taking place over two (2) years in the past. Nevertheless the Defendant provided no information whatever other than a boilerplate objection. The Defendant should provide an answer which identifies any known conversations concerning the termination of the Plaintiff along with any written record memorializing such discussions or termination decisions. To the extent the company is not aware of any such conversations the should so state. The company has noted at least two of the individuals involved with the termination of the Plaintiff are no longer with the company. Apparently Plaintiff's Counsel has been in contact with them and may in fact now have better access to any conversations they may have had with the Plaintiff then the Defendants.
Interrogatory 8 - Will be limited to the time period May 2, 2017 through August 25, 2017.
Interrogatory 10 - After discussion, this interrogatory is construed as asking if the Defendant contends had the Plaintiff properly applied for FMLA on August 25, 2017 would she have been qualified for it.
Interrogatory 11 - Requests detailed information for the alleged reasons the Plaintiff was terminated.
The Defendant advises there were no formal studies and due to the passage of time there is no formal documentation. Nevertheless the Defendants made a decision to eliminate the position because of costs. To the extent the Defendants do not have documents they should so state. The current answer that “see the documents being produced herewith” does not answer the question of whether there are other documents. If there are no such documents, the Defendants should clearly state that.
Interrogatory 13 - This interrogatory requests information about each and every position that was eliminated or changed in the Cookeville, Tennessee facility from January 2016 to date and requests that production of all job descriptions and job announcements posted for the same time frame. Unfortunately the time spam is excessive and the request is not limited to the Cookeville factory or to any particular type of jobs. The Plaintiff contends there were job postings at or about the time the Plaintiff was terminated which were removed. The Defendant will produce job descriptions, whether by the Union or the company, whether by physical posting or an on-line posting for the period January 1, 2017 through December 31, 2017 which were in anyway similar to the job actually performed by the Plaintiff.
Interrogatory 22 - This interrogatory requests the name and job title for individuals who performed duties at the Cookeville, Tennessee plant that were one of the Plaintiff's duties from January 1, 2016 to present. This response will be limited to ...

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