United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Savannah Division
DIANNA SALTER, as Surviving Spouse of Ricky P. Salter, Sr., Deceased, and in Her Capacity as the Temporary Administrator of the Estate of Ricky P. Salter, Sr., Plaintiff,
OTIS ELEVATOR CO., JOHN DOES 1-2, Defendants.
August 31, 2014, decedent Ricky Salter was tragically killed
when the elevator he was working on (Lowerator No. 4) began
ascending and trapped him between the platform and shaft
housing. His legs and right arm were amputated, and he died
prior to the arrival of paramedics. Plaintiff Dianna Salter
contends defendant Otis Elevator Company either negligently
maintained Lowerator No. 4 or failed to warn others of a
dangerous condition in Lowerator No. 4, thus causing her late
husband's death. Otis Elevator argues that Salter was
negligent himself, as he walked out onto the platform of
Lowerator No. 4 without locking out or de-energizing the
equipment. Docs. 40 & 44.
seeks to compel the production of the Otis Employee Safety
Handbook, which “prescribes the responsibility or
responsibilities of the Mechanic or Journeyman to identify
and eliminate any unsafe conditions that are under the
control of the Company, and notify others to correct such
unsafe conditions.” Doc. 40-1, Exh. 7 No. 13
(Plaintiff's First Requests for Production of Documents).
Defendant opposes, contending the request is overly broad,
vague, and ambiguous, seeks propriety/confidential
information, and is irrelevant to the case because it
doesn't involve either “Otis employee safety”
or “an unsafe condition under the control of
Otis.” Id. (Defendant's Amended Response).
the request for a single, specific document is not
“overly broad, vague, or ambiguous.” Defendant
does not meaningfully dispute that it knows precisely the
document plaintiff seeks. See doc. 44. Nor does it
dispute that there is already a comprehensive Protective
Order in place to shield any proprietary information
contained in the Handbook. See id.; see
also doc. 18 (Protective Order).
Otis hangs its hat on the irrelevance of the Handbook to
Ricky's death, since he was not an Otis employee and no
Otis employee was present during the accident. Doc. 44 at 7.
But plaintiff's theory is that Otis was negligent in its
repairs to the elevator and that that negligence led to her
husband's death. She contends that, even if Otis did not
regularly maintain the elevator, at some point six months
prior to the accident it did service Lowerator No.
4, failed to catch a flaw within the I-3 pressure relief
valve on Lowerator No. 4, or did catch it and failed to
inform the normal maintenance crew that the condition
existed, and that one of these failures led to Ricky's
death. Doc. 40; see also doc. 13 (Amended
Complaint). She has been advised that the Handbook has a
provision requiring employees out on a service call to report
any dangerous condition they come across to the responsible
party (here, International Paper, the owner and regular
maintainer of Lowerator No. 4). See doc. 26
(plaintiff's expert witness report, opining that Otis
negligently and recklessly failed to adjust the I-3 pressure
relief valve, which would have prevented the accident, and
failed to warn International Paper of the dangers associated
with it); doc. 40, Exh. 6 at 11 (excerpts from an allegedly
similar manual, which directs elevator mechanics to
“notify” a responsible party, such as the
building owner, that “unsafe conditions exist”
“verbally and/or in writing.”).
because defendant disagrees with her theory -- that Otis was
either negligent in its maintenance or noticed the problem
but failed to warn Lowerator No. 4's owner per its own
policy -- doesn't make a copy of the Handbook (allegedly)
setting forth that policy irrelevant. Nor does the fact the
Handbook is specifically geared to Otis employees' safety
practices make it irrelevant to plaintiff's theory that
the accident was caused by Otis employees'
negligent safety practices. See doc. 44 at 9
(arguing that plaintiff's relevance argument is
“simply based on speculation and suspicion in an
attempt to show that the Handbook creates a duty to Mr.
Salter with regard to the incident, even in the face of
undisputed testimony that the Handbook pertains only to Otis
employee workplace safety”). Indeed, defendant has
adduced a good deal of evidence that it was not contracted to
repair or monitor the I-3 pressure relief valve or perform
work on the Lowerator gate, and thus could not be held liable
for Ricky's death. See doc. 44, Exh. C. That
will be valuable when Otis presents its defense to the jury;
it does not render the Handbook itself irrelevant.
evidence is discoverable, and defendant has not demonstrated
the Handbook is irrelevant to plaintiff's negligence
theory or that production would be unduly burdensome.
See Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). Defendant's
objections to plaintiffs motion are without merit, and
Plaintiffs motion to compel the production of the Otis
Employee Safety Handbook (doc. 40) is
 “Evidence is relevant if it has
any tendency to make the existence of any fact or consequence
more or less probable than it would be without the
evidence.” Daniel Def. v. Remington Arms Co.,
LLC, 2015 WL 6142883 at * 2 (S.D. Ga. Oct. 19, 2015)
(quotes and cites omitted). Further, “[t]he standard
for what constitute relevant evidence is a low one.”
United States v. Tinoco,304 F.3d 1088, 1120 (11th
Cir. 2002); McCleod v. Nat'l R.R. Passenger
Corp., 2014 WL 1616414 at * 3 (S.D. Ga. Apr. 22, 2014)
(“Rule 26, quite simply sets forth a ve ...