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Ceraldi v. Linda Strumpf U.S. Equities Corp.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

October 29, 2019

PEGGY CERALDI
v.
LINDA STRUMPF U.S. EQUITIES CORP.

          RULING ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO COMPEL (DOC. NO. 69), PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO DETERMINE SUFFICIENCY OF RESPONSES TO REQUESTS FOR ADMISSIONS (DOC. NO. 70) AND DEFENDANTS' CROSS MOTION FOR PROTECTIVE ORDER (DOC. NO. 71)

          ROBERT M. SPECTOR UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Familiarity with the procedural history of this case, as detailed in this Court's Recommended Ruling on the Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment Upon Settlement, is presumed. (Doc. No. 63; see Doc. No. 64 (order approving and adopting recommended ruling)). On May 31, 2019, the Court (Eginton, J.) referred this case to the undersigned for discovery. (Doc. No. 68). On October 9, 2019, this case was transferred to the United States District Judge Janet C. Hall. (Doc. No. 72).

         On September 9, 2019, the plaintiff filed the pending Motion to Compel (Doc. No. 69), with brief (Doc. No. 69-4), affidavits (Doc. Nos. 69-3 & 69-5), and copies of the Defendants' Supplemental Responses to Plaintiff's Document Requests (Doc. Nos. 69-1) and the Defendants' Supplemental Responses to Plaintiff's First Set of Interrogatories (Doc. No. 69-2) attached. On the same day, the plaintiff filed the pending Motion to Determine the Sufficiency of Defendants' Responses to Request for Admissions (Doc. No. 70), with brief (Doc. No. 70-3), affidavits (Doc. Nos. 70-2 & 70-4), and exhibit in support. (Doc. No. 70-1). On September 30, 2019, the defendants filed a joint brief in opposition to both motions, and a Cross Motion for Protective Order (Doc. No. 71), and on October 10, 2019, the plaintiff filed reply briefs. (Doc. Nos. 73-74).

         For the reasons stated below, the plaintiff's Motion to Compel (Doc. No. 69) is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART AS MOOT, the plaintiff's Motion to Determine Sufficiency of Defendants' Responses to Requests for Admissions (Doc. No. 70) is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART, and the defendants' Cross Motion for Protective Order (Doc. No. 71) is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.

         I. MOTION TO COMPEL

         A. LEGAL STANDARD

         Parties may “obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense and is proportional to the needs of the case[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). The proportionality determination limits the scope of discovery by “considering the importance of the issues at stake[, ]” the “amount in controversy, the parties' relative access to relevant information, the parties' resources, the importance of discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense . . . outweighs the likely benefit” of the discovery sought. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1).

         B. DISCUSSION

         The underlying motion to compel addresses discovery that was served over a year ago. Specifically, in the Motion to Compel, the plaintiff seeks a court order regarding the defendants' supplemental responses that the defendants served on June 25, 2018 (Doc. Nos. 69-1 & 69-2; see also Doc. No. 69-3 (emails from counsel, most recent of which are dated June 13, 2018)). In the absence of a discovery deadline, discovery has languished.[1] Discovery shall close upon the completion of production in accordance with this ruling.

         1. DOCUMENT REQUESTS[2]

         a. DOCUMENT REQUEST NOS. 1-2

         In Document Request No. 1, the plaintiff seeks: “All documents and communications concerning the plaintiff during and after 2016[, ]” and, in Document Request No. 2, the plaintiff seeks: “A copy by category and location of all documents, of electronically stored information and tangible things that you have in your possession, custody or control that you may use to support your claims and defenses in this matter.” (Doc. No. 69-1 at 1-2). On September 27, 2019, the defendants provided the plaintiff with their Second Supplemental Responses in which they indicated that no documents were being withheld. (Doc. No. 71-1 at 10-11). Accordingly, the plaintiff's Motion as to these requests is moot.

         b. DOCUMENT REQUEST NO.

         3 In this document request, the plaintiff seeks:

Any insurance agreement under which an insurance business may be liable to satisfy all or part of a possible judgment in this action or to indemnify or reimburse for payments made to satisfy the judgment, irrespective of your belief as to the coverage of the agreement.

         Although the defendants have withdrawn their “overly broad and unduly burdensome” objections, the defendants argue that this information is irrelevant. (Doc. No. 71 at 6-7).

         Rule 26 (a)(1)(A)(iv) requires the disclosure of an insurance agreement under which “an insurance business may be liable to satisfy part or all of a possible judgment in the action or to indemnify or reimburse for payments made to satisfy the judgment.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(a)(1)(A)(iv). The defendants assert that they have not made a claim for insurance coverage, nor is there a “possibility that an insurance policy is relevant to a claim or defense of any party.” (Doc. No. 71 at 7).

         The case law is clear that, “in light of the mandatory language of Rule 26(a)(1)(A)(iv), when a defense attorney asserts that the claims at issue fall within an exclusion in a defendant's insurance policy, a ‘plaintiff is not limited to counsel's say-so in making this determination.'” Pape v. Law Offices of Frank N. Peluso, P.C., No. 3:13 CV 63 (JGM), 2015 WL 5842474, at *2 (D. Conn. Oct. 7, 2015) (quoting Calabro v. Stone, 224 F.R.D. 532, 533 (E.D.N.Y. 2004)). The defendants' unilateral assertion that the insurance coverage is irrelevant does not suffice. In the absence of identifying “a specific prejudice which would arise from the disclosure of their existing policies[, ]” the defendants must produce the insurance documents responsive to this request. Tzanetis v. Weinstein & Riley, P.S., Civ. No. 3:09 CV 413 (WWE)(HBF), 2009 WL 5128892, at *1 (D. Conn. Dec. 18, 2009), aff'd, No. 3:09 CV 413 (DJS), 2010 WL 11431864 (D. Conn. Jan. 8, 2010). The defendants shall produce responsive documents within fourteen (14) days of the filing of this order. D. Conn. L. Civ. R. 37(d).

         c. DOCUMENT REQUEST NO. 4

         In Document Request No. 4, the plaintiff seeks the “retainer agreement referred to in paragraph 8 of your fee application in the state court case against Ms. Ceraldi.” In their Second Supplemental Response, the defendants responded that “no responsive documents exist.” (Doc. No. 71 at 7). Accordingly, the plaintiff's Motion as to this request is moot.

         d. DOCUMENT REQUEST NOS. 6 AND 7

         In these requests, the plaintiff seeks “accounting records for plaintiff's judgment account” and an “electronic spreadsheet for plaintiff's account in its native format.” On September 27, 2019, the defendants provided an updated spreadsheet to the plaintiff (Doc. No. 71 at 8); accordingly, the plaintiff's motion as to these two requests is moot.

         e. DOCUMENT REQUEST NO. 8

         In Document Request No. 8, the plaintiff seeks: “A copy of all plaintiff's checks and deposit slips therefor.” The defendants stand by their objection that this request is unduly burdensome and irrelevant as there are approximately 438 payments made by the plaintiff in this matter, and it would be costly for the defendants to secure copies when the plaintiff may retrieve these documents from her own financial institution. (Doc. No. 71 at 8-9). In response to Document Request No. 7, the defendants produced a spreadsheet reflecting the payments made by the plaintiff. The plaintiff argues that a comparison of the dates on the checks and deposit slips with the spreadsheet already produced is expected to confirm the defendants' miscalculation of the payments. (Doc. No. 73 at 3-4).

         The defendants' relevancy objection cannot stand. Although there are hundreds of payments made by the plaintiff, the relevance of the defendants' receipt of these payments, and the calculation thereof, outweighs the burden on the defendants of producing their copies of the checks and deposit slips. Accordingly, the plaintiff's motion to compel as to this request is granted. The defendants shall respond to the Request as written within fourteen (14) days of ...


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