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Pate v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Brunswick Division

October 20, 2014

LINDA PATE, Plaintiff,
v.
WINN-DIXIE STORES, INC., Defendant.

ORDER

JAMES E. GRAHAM, Magistrate Judge.

Before the Court is Plaintiffs Motion Seeking to Have the Court Overrule Defendant's Objections to Items on Notice of Deposition of Winn Dixie's Rule 30(b)(6) Representative. (Doc. 107). Defendant filed no response to the Motion indicating no opposition thereto. See Local Rule 7.5. Plaintiff first requests that the Court issue an "immediate order as to whether she must schedule the designated representative[']s deposition now or can wait until the Court rules on the objections." (Id. at p. 12). Because the Court finds no reason to issue an immediate order, this portion of Plaintiff's Motion is DENIED. Plaintiff also moves the Court to "overrule each of [Defendant's] objections and allow Plaintiff to fully cross examine [Defendant's] agent as to each of the objected to matters at deposition." (Id.). For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Plaintiff's latter request.

When a notice or subpoena names an organization as the deponent, the organization must designate one or more agents or other persons to testify on its behalf about "information known or reasonably available to the organization." FED. R. Civ. P. 30(b)(6). As with all discovery tools, the information sought through such a deposition must fall within the scope of discovery, which broadly includes

any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense- including the existence, description, nature, custody, condition, and location of any documents or other tangible things and the identity and location of persons who know of any discoverable matter. For good cause, the court may order discovery of any matter relevant to the subject matter involved in the action. Relevant information need not be admissible at the trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.

FED. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). The broad scope of discoverable information reflects the "purpose of discovery... to allow a broad search for facts, the names of witnesses, or any other matters which may aid a party in the preparation or presentation of his case." FED. R. Civ. P. 26 advisory committee's note.

Discovery, however, "like all matters of procedure, has ultimate and necessary boundaries." Hickman v. Taylor , 329 U.S. 495, 507 (1947). A court must limit the extent of discovery if

(i) the discovery sought is unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or can be obtained from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive; (ii) the party seeking discovery has had ample opportunity to obtain the information by discovery in the action; or (iii) the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit.

FED. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2)(C). A court thus has "broad powers... to regulate or prevent discovery." FED. R. Civ. P. 26 advisory committee's note.

In this case, information within the scope of discovery must be nonprivileged and relevant to an element of Plaintiffs slip-and-fall claim:

(1) that the defendant had actual or constructive knowledge of the hazard; and (2) that the plaintiff lacked knowledge of the hazard despite the exercise of ordinary care due to actions or conditions within the control of the owner/occupier. "[C]onstructive knowledge may be inferred when there is evidence that... the owner lacked a reasonable inspection procedure."

Hall v. Bruno's, Inc. , 560 S.E.2d 326, 328 (2002) (alteration in original) (citations omitted). Defendant objects to certain items in Plaintiffs Notice of Deposition as outside the scope of discovery or subject to court limitation. The Court will address those objections in turn.

1) Objections to Item A: In Item A of its Notice of Deposition, Plaintiff seeks designated agent testimony as to the following:

For each employee and/or former employee of [Defendant] who to the knowledge of [Defendant] was in the vicinity [of] the area where Plaintiff[] fell in the three hours immediately before her fall, the identity of each such employee and/or former employee, the time that employee and/or former employee was in the vicinity of the area of the fall, everything ...

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