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Gaylor v. Georgia Department of Natural Resources

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Gainesville Division

August 25, 2014

GARY GAYLOR, Plaintiff,
v.
GEORGIA DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES, et al., Defendants.

ORDER

RICHARD W. STORY, District Judge.

This action is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to Compel Responses to Interrogatories and Requests for Production of Documents [68] and Non-Party Carol Gaylor's Motion to Quash Subpoena and for Protective Order [70]. The Court's rulings are set out below.[1]

Background

Plaintiff Gary Gaylor filed this action against the Georgia Department of Natural Resources ("GDNR") and Becky Kelley, in her official capacity as the Director of GDNR's Parks, Recreation, and Historic Sites Division ("PRHSD"), [2] asserting claims for alleged disability discrimination in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12131 et seq., and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act ("RA"), 29 U.S.C. § 794.

Plaintiff alleges that Defendants own, operate, and/or administer Unicoi State Park and Lodge near Helen, Georgia, and Vogel State Park near Blairsville, Georgia (the "Parks"). First Am. Compl. [24] ¶¶ 5-16. Plaintiff further alleges that he suffers from multiple sclerosis, which impairs his ability to walk and requires him to use a cane or a wheelchair; that he has visited the Parks and plans on visiting them in the future, but that during his visits he has faced difficulties accessing the goods, services, programs, and activities within the Parks due to architectural barriers; and that he fears he will continue to face these barriers in the future. Id. ¶¶ 4, 17-21.

Plaintiff seeks (1) a declaration that the goods, services, programs and activities owned, operated and/or administered by Defendants are in violation of the ADA and RA; (2) an injunction prohibiting Defendants from continuing their discriminatory practices and directing them to alter and modify the subject premises, goods, services, activities, programs and accommodations as appropriate to comply with the ADA and RA; (3) an award of reasonable attorneys' fees, costs and litigation expenses; and (4) an award of compensatory damages. Id., Prayer for Relief.

Discussion

I. Motion to Compel

Plaintiff filed a motion seeking to compel Defendants to provide full responses to Interrogatory Nos. 4-8 of Plaintiff's First Set of Interrogatories to Defendant GDNR and Request Nos. 13-16, 18-23, and 26 of Plaintiff's First Set of Requests for the Production of Documents to Defendant GDNR and Defendant Kelley.[3] Defendants contend that the motion should be denied in its entirety because Plaintiff violated Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(1) and Local Rule 37.1(A) by failing to (1) engage in a good faith effort to resolve the discovery disputes before filing the motion, (2) properly certify that such an effort was made, and (3) state in the motion all of the objections made by Defendants and their grounds. After reviewing the record, the Court finds that Plaintiff made a good faith effort to resolve the discovery disputes, that certification of such effort by local counsel was sufficient, and that Plaintiff's summaries of Defendants' lengthy and repetitive objections were reasonable and appropriate. Accordingly, the Court will address the merits of the motion, first considering the interrogatories at issue and then the requests for production of documents.

A. Interrogatories

1. Interrogatory Nos. 4 and 5

In Interrogatory Nos. 4 and 5, Plaintiff asked GDNR (1) to identify the total amount of funding per year that it received from the federal government for the years 1992-present; and (2) for each year, to provide a description of each award of federal government funds, including the classification and identifying number of the funding, the source of the funding, and a description of how the funds were expended or are to be expended. GDNR objected that both interrogatories were overly broad because they were not limited to the two Parks at issue and to the areas of the Parks that Plaintiff actually visited or attempted to visit. Without waiving these objections, GDNR provided the requested information with regard to five funding grants received from the federal government for projects at Unicoi and Vogel.

In his motion to compel, Plaintiff argues that information regarding federal funding at non-Unicoi and non-Vogel parks bears directly upon whether GDNR is subject to the RA as a recipient of federal financial assistance.[4] In response, GDNR argues that the RA requires a showing that the specific program or activity with which plaintiff was involved received or directly benefitted from federal financial assistance at the time of the alleged discrimination. Since plaintiff's allegations relate solely to difficulty accessing the programs and activities at Unicoi and Vogel, GDNR argues that information regarding federal financial assistance benefitting other parks and other divisions of GDNR is irrelevant.

The Court concludes that information regarding federal financial assistance benefitting all of GDNR's operations, not just Unicoi and Vogel, is relevant to Plaintiff's claims under the RA. In support of its argument that only federal funding of Unicoi and Vogel is relevant, GDNR relies on the Eleventh Circuit's decision in Doyle v. Univ. of Ala. in Birmingham, 680 F.2d 1323 (11th Cir. 1982), and the former Fifth Circuit's decision in Brown v. Sibley, 650 F.2d 760 (5th Cir. Unit A July 1981). In Brown, the court held that "it is not sufficient, for purposes of bringing a discrimination claim under Section 504, simply to show that some aspect of the relevant overall entity or enterprise receives or has received some form of input from the federal fisc." 650 F.2d at 769. Instead, "[a] private plaintiff in a Section 504 case must show that the program or activity with which he or she was involved, or ...


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