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Stebbins v. S&P Oyster Co.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

April 3, 2017

JAMES STEBBINS, et al.
v.
S&P OYSTER CO., et al.

          RULING ON PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO COMPEL [#72]

          HON. SARAH A. L. MERRIAM UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         On February 15, 2017, plaintiffs James Stebbins, Daniel Clark, and Brian Pothier (“plaintiffs”) filed a Motion to Compel Discovery. [Doc. #72]. Plaintiffs' motion seeks an Order compelling defendants S&P Oyster Co., Peter Nikolaisen, and Cathleen Holland (“defendants”) to provide further responses to plaintiffs' November 3, 2016, discovery requests. See Id. at 1. Defendants have filed a Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel. [Doc. #79]. Plaintiffs have filed a Reply. [Doc. #81]. For the reasons set forth below, plaintiffs' Motion to Compel is GRANTED, in part, and DENIED, in part, with leave to renew.

         I. Background

         Plaintiffs filed this action on June 20, 2016, pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. §201, et seq., and the Connecticut Minimum Wage Act (“CMWA”), Conn. Gen. Stat. §§31-59, et seq., on behalf of plaintiffs and all similarly situated individuals. Plaintiffs, all servers at the defendant restaurant, allege, inter alia, that they were deprived of their statutory minimum wage and overtime wages, and that defendants failed to provide them with mandated notice regarding a tip credit allowance. See generally, Doc. #1. Plaintiffs have filed a Motion for Conditional Certification of a Collective Action pursuant to the FLSA (Doc. #54), and have indicated that they also plan to pursue certification of a class action pursuant to Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Doc. #1 at 6-9; Doc. #72 at 2. Defendants deny the allegations in the Complaint, and have filed an opposition to plaintiffs' motion for conditional certification. [Doc. #62]. That motion, which is fully briefed, is pending before Judge Alvin W. Thompson. A settlement conference is scheduled for May 5, 2017, before the undersigned. [Doc. #68].

         II. Legal Standard

         Rule 26(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure sets forth the scope and limitations of permissible discovery:

Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case, considering the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties' relative access to relevant information, the parties' resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit. Information within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). “The party resisting discovery bears the burden of showing why discovery should be denied.” Cole v. Towers Perrin Forster & Crosby, 256 F.R.D. 79, 80 (D. Conn. 2009).

         III. Discussion

         Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel seeks to compel further responses to plaintiffs' First Sets of Interrogatories and Requests for Production, served on November 3, 2016. Defendants' responses to the requests at issue were served on December 5, 2016. After several efforts to meet and confer, defendants agreed to provide additional responses and documents responsive to plaintiffs' requests. This motion to compel was filed while those discussions were ongoing.

         Plaintiffs contend that defendants have failed to comply with Rule 34(b)(2)(C) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, because defendants' objections do not state whether responsive materials were withheld. See Doc. #72 at 4. Plaintiffs also argue that they are entitled to a more complete response to Interrogatory 6, which requests the identities of the putative class members. The remainder of plaintiffs' motion relates to 21 requests for documents that generally concern pay records, tip records, and time records for the named plaintiffs and for putative class members. Plaintiffs argue, inter alia, that they “are clearly entitled to class-wide discovery in aid of their anticipated motions for class/collective certification.” Doc. #72 at 11. They further aver that this discovery is expressly permitted by the Court's Scheduling Order, Doc. #48, which provided for “preliminary discovery related to class certification, ” specifically, “[i]nitial discovery requests related to the certification of a class and the suitability of the class representatives.” Doc. #48 at 2. Plaintiffs claim that providing responses to their requests would not be burdensome, and that the discovery sought is not disproportional “to the amounts in controversy here.” Doc. #72 at 12.

         Defendants oppose plaintiffs' motion, arguing, inter alia, that plaintiffs' requests exceed the limited discovery that was authorized by the Court's Scheduling Order, and that plaintiffs are not entitled to the disclosure of the identifying information of putative class members at this point in the litigation. See Doc. #79 at 1-3. Specifically, defendants argue that the disclosure of identifying information of potential opt-in class members is appropriate only after a collective action is conditionally certified. See Id. at 3. Defendants contend that the redacted documents that they have now provided, including daily tip sheets, contain the unique employee number for each server who might be a class member, so that plaintiffs may “properly craft a damages model” in preparation for the settlement conference scheduled in this matter. Id. at 4. Finally, defendants have offered to provide all documents in response to the discovery requests at issue for a sampling of ten servers of plaintiffs' choosing. See id.

         The requests at issue can be grouped into two categories: requests that seek identifying information of putative class members, and requests that seek discovery that goes to the merits of the case. The Court will address each category in turn.

         A. ...


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