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Blair v. Professional Transportation, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Evansville Division

March 9, 2015

DANESSA V. BLAIR, individually and on behalf of similarly situated individuals, et al., Plaintiffs, [1]
v.
PROFESSIONAL TRANSPORTATION, INC., and RONALD D. ROMAIN, individually and as chief executive officer of Professional Transportation, Inc., Defendants.

ENTRY ON PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO COMPEL PRODUCTION OF DOCUMENTS

WILLIAM G. HUSSMANN, Jr., District Judge.

This matter is before me, William G. Hussmann, Jr., United States Magistrate Judge, on Plaintiff Danessa Blair's Motion to Compel Production of Documents (Filing No. 170) and Chief Judge Young's order of reference. On January 29, 2015, I denied Blair's motion in part by finding certain requested documents irrelevant. (Filing No. 187.) I also granted the motion in part by ordering the Defendants to submit the remaining documents for in camera review. ( Id. ) Having reviewed the documents, and being duly advised, I GRANT the Motion in part and DENY it in part.

I. Background

The Plaintiffs here are current and former employees of Defendant Professional Transportation, Inc. (PTI). As the basis for their suit, the Plaintiffs claim that PTI has paid them less than the minimum wage and denied them overtime pay to which they are entitled under the Fair Labor Standards Act. See 29 U.S.C. §§ 206, 207. The FLSA permits aggrieved employees to recover double damages: They may pursue their unpaid overtime wages and the difference between their actual receipts and the minimum wage to which they were entitled, and they also may recover an equal sum in the form of liquidated damages. See 29 U.S.C. § 216.

In their Answer, the Defendants claim that PTI has dealt with the Plaintiffs in good faith and on a reasonable belief that it has complied with the FLSA. (Filing No. 36 at ¶¶ 21-23.) This is important because the FLSA grants courts discretion to decrease or eliminate statutory liquidated damages awards where they are satisfied that the defendant acted "in good faith and that he had reasonable grounds for believing" he complied with the FLSA. See 29 U.S.C. § 260.

By their Motion, the Plaintiffs ask the Court to compel the Defendants to produce communications involving the Crew Hauler's Trade Association (CHTA). Specifically, they seek 97 e-mails the Defendants have withheld as privileged and unedited copies of documents the Defendants have produced in redacted form. These documents have been identified at Entries 60-157 of the Defendants' privilege log. ( See Filing No. 170 at ECF p. 2 n.2; Filing No. 175-1.)

The parties describe the CHTA as an association of companies (including PTI) engaged in the business of transporting rail crews to and from train stations throughout the country. According to the Defendants, the CHTA formed in May of 2008-a period when the FLSA was in flux-for the purpose of "advanc[ing] the common public policy and legislative positions of the Members." ( See Filing No. 170-6 at ECF p. 1; Filing No. 175 at ECF pp. 2, 5.) The documents the Plaintiffs seek were exchanged among the CHTA, its members, and attorney David Coburn. Presumably, the Plaintiffs seek these documents to undermine the Defendants' good faith defense-that is, to demonstrate that the Defendants monitored developments in the FLSA and therefore knowingly violated the law.

II. Legal Standard

A party to litigation is entitled to discover from his adversary "any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense...." Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). Where federal law decides the case, federal common law also determines the existence and applicability of any evidentiary privilege. Fed.R.Evid. 501; see also United States v. BDO Seidman, LLP, 492 F.3d 806, 814 (7th Cir. 2007). The party asserting privilege bears the burden of persuading the Court that privilege applies. United States v. Evans, 113 F.3d 1457, 1461 (7th Cir. 1997).

III. Discussion

The Defendants have asserted both relevance and the attorney-client privilege as bases for indiscoverability. I find that some of the Defendants' submissions are irrelevant and that some are privileged. I find that others are relevant but are not privileged and therefore must be produced. And I find that others contain both discoverable and indiscoverable content that must be produced but may be produced in redacted form.

A. Relevance

To be discoverable, evidence must be "relevant to any party's claim or defense...." Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). At trial, evidence is relevant if it has "any tendency" to make a material fact more or less probable. Fed.R.Evid. 401. But even inadmissible evidence is discoverable so long as it "appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1).

The Defendants need not produce Documents 91-93, 96, 111-13, 128-30, 136-43, and 148-49 because they are irrelevant. These documents deal exclusively with administrative matters like billing or scheduling and therefore are not likely to lead the plaintiffs to any evidence that bears on their claims or PTI's defenses.

The remaining documents include content relevant to ...


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