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Leaks v. Target Corporation

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

July 6, 2015

LATISHA LEAKS and BENJAMIN LEAKS, Plaintiffs,
v.
TARGET CORPORATION, Defendant.

ORDER

G.R. SMITH, Magistrate Judge.

For the third time, this rather standard slip-and-fall case has spawned a discovery dispute. The current bickering involves a motion to quash and motion in limine from plaintiffs Latisha and Benjamin Leaks (respectively Ms. and Mr. Leaks), docs. 35 & 41, and motions to compel and to exclude from defendant Target. Docs. 36 & 38.

I. BACKGROUND

Not quite two years ago, Ms. Leaks allegedly slipped at a Savannah, Georgia Target store and suffered back and knee injuries. Doc. 1-2 at 3. She sued Target in state court, and her husband joined her with a loss of consortium claim. Doc. 1-2 at 6. Target removed their case to this Court on May 22, 2014. Doc. 1. Since then, the parties have requested, and the Court has granted, three[1] discovery deadline extensions. See does. 13, 31, 34.[2] The most recent - filed January 30, 2015 - instructed the parties to "complete all outstanding discovery" by March 11, 2015 and called for motions by April 10, 2015. Doc. 34 at 4.

On March 10, 2015, Target issued five new subpoenas seeking production of documents to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama (BCBS), Internal Medicine of Savannah, St. Joseph's/Candler Hospital, Walgreens Pharmacy, and Disability Adjudication Services (DAS). See doe. 35 at 8-47. Target sent the DAS subpoena because it "became aware that plaintiff had filed for disability on March 5, 2015, " and the other four subpoenas to request "updated records related to plaintiffs ongoing treatment." Id. at 2. On March 16, 2015 - five days after discovery closed - Target issued a sixth non-party subpoena to Proove Medical Laboratories, Inc. (Proove). Id. at 43.

Target also sent plaintiffs a request for production of documents seeking a records release authorization related to the DAS subpoena. Doc. 36-1. In response to plaintiffs' motion to quash all six subpoenas, doe. 35, and because plaintiffs have not yet produced the records release authorization, Target moved to compel that release. Doc. 36. It also moved to exclude plaintiffs' rebuttal expert. Doc. 38. Plaintiffs responded by filing their own motion to exclude one of Target's experts. Doc. 41.

II. ANALYSIS

A. Motion to Quash and Motion to Compel

Plaintiffs argue that all six subpoenas should be quashed because they violate the Court's latest scheduling order. Doc. 35 at 3. Target contends that they are timely because it served them the day before discovery closed and, in any case, that plaintiffs lack standing to challenge them. Doc. 36 at 4. Furthermore, Target says, the DAS and Proove subpoenas should be allowed regardless of timeliness because Ms. Leaks failed to disclose her disability benefits application and her treatment by Proove, and Target did not discover either until March 5 (the disability application) and March 13, 2015 (the Proove treatment). Id. at 6-7.

Although true that (1) the Court ordered the parties to complete discovery by March 11, 2015, doc. 34 at 4, and (2) Target's subpoenas called for production of documents after that deadline, see, e.g., doc. 35 at 36, the Court has broad discretion to allow or curtail the timing and reach of discovery. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(d); Adkins v. Christie, 488 F.3d 1324, 1331 (11th Cir. 2007) ("[D]istrict courts have broad discretion in fashioning discovery rulings... [but] are bound to adhere to the liberal spirit of the [Federal] Rules.'"); DeRubeis v. Witten Techs., Inc., 244 F.R.D. 676, 678 (N.D.Ga. 2007) (Rule 26 gives district courts "broad discretion to modify the timing and sequence of discovery" and exercises of that discretion "will be sustained unless [the court] abuses [its] discretion to the prejudice of a party").

The subpoenas to BCBS, Internal Medicine, St. Joseph's Hospital, and Walgreens were second requests to those providers and sought updated records, not records for the first time. By sending them late in the discovery period, Target may simply have wished to extend its discovery net to cover the greatest length of time possible. Or, it may simply have dropped the ball and forgotten to seek updated productions until the last minute, thinking that the providers had an obligation to supplement (they did not).[3] Regardless, the medical records sought unquestionably are relevant to Ms. Leaks' personal injury claim and the timing of the subpoenas does not prejudice plaintiffs. The Court therefore refuses to quash the subpoenas to BCBS, Internal Medicine, St. Joseph's Hospital, and Walgreens.

The subpoenas to Proove and DAS are somewhat different. Target only learned that Proove conducted genetic testing on Ms. Leaks after discovery ended, and only because BCBS records showed payment to Proove. See doe. 36 at 7. Target thereafter promptly subpoenaed the Proove records. Id. Plaintiffs say they had no idea Ms. Leaks' physician sent samples to Proove for testing, and thus they could not disclose what they did not know. Doe. 40 at 8-9. Regardless, plaintiffs want the Proove subpoena quashed because they believe it seeks irrelevant information. Id.

The Court cannot discern whether Proove's testing is relevant to Ms. Leaks' alleged back injury without examining the records. One can speculate, as plaintiffs have, that genetic testing may have little to do with a herniated disk. But since (1) plaintiffs failed to disclose Proove's testing within the discovery period (albeit inadvertently), and (2) disclosure of the records will not prejudice plaintiffs (except insofar as they disprove plaintiffs' claims, which doesn't qualify as prejudice in any case), the Court will not quash the subpoena in light of the broad scope of discovery. See Fed. R. Civ, P. 26(b)(1) ("Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim."); United States v. Capers, 708 F.3d 1286, ...


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