United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division
OPINION AND ORDER
E. MARTIN MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs' Motion to
Compel [DE 26], filed on July 12, 2016. Plaintiffs do not
plainly state whom they would like the Court to compel or
what they would like the Court to compel that person(s) to
do, but the only reasonable interpretation of the motion is
that Plaintiffs want the Court to compel two non-party
witnesses to answer certain questions during their deposition
testimony. Defendant has responded based on that
interpretation, and Plaintiffs have replied.
worked for Defendant, a railroad company, until they were
fired in 2014. They then sued, alleging that Defendant fired
them for engaging in activity protected by the Federal
Railroad Safety Act, or FRSA.
sought to learn during discovery: (1) whether their
supervisors had a financial motivation to retaliate against
employees who participated in FRSA-protected activity; and
(2) whether their supervisors have a history of acting on
such a motivation.
end, Plaintiffs deposed Defendant's general manager, Pat
Daly, and sought to ask Daly questions about how his
compensation is affected by employees' engaging in
FRSA-protected activity. Plaintiffs also deposed their former
supervisor David Flores and asked Flores whether he had ever
been disciplined-an effort, Plaintiffs say, to determine
whether Flores was ever disciplined for retaliating against
employees who engaged in FRSA-protected activity.
and Flores declined to answer those questions, and Plaintiffs
now seek an order compelling them to answer. Defendants
oppose the motion to compel, argue that Plaintiffs are
engaged in a “fishing expedition, ” and ask for a
may obtain discovery regarding “any nonprivileged
matter that is relevant to any party's claim or
defense.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). The scope of
permissible discovery is broad: relevant information
“need not be admissible in evidence to be
discoverable.” Id. And courts construe
relevancy “to encompass any matter that bears on, or
that reasonably could lead to other matter that could bear
on, any issue that is or may be in the case.”
Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 351
while the scope of permissible discovery is broad, it is not
unlimited. The discovery rules “were never intended to
be an excursion ticket to an unlimited exploration of every
conceivable matter that captures an attorney's
interest.” Miller UK Ltd. v. Caterpillar,
Inc., 17 F.Supp.3d 711, 721 (N.D. Ill. 2014).
“[I]rrelevant questions . . . may unnecessarily touch
sensitive areas or go beyond reasonable limits, ” in
which case “refusing to answer may be justified.”
Eggleston v. Journeymen Plumbers' Local Union No.
130, U.A., 657 F.2d 890, 903 (7th Cir. 1981).
witness does refuse to answer a question during a deposition,
the asking party may seek an order compelling an answer.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(3)(B)(i). The objecting party bears the
burden of showing why the request is improper. McGrath v.
Everest Nat'l Ins. Co., 625 F.Supp.2d 660, 670 (N.D.
ruling on a motion to compel discovery, the Court has broad
discretion. Patterson v. Avery Dennison Corp., 281
F.3d 676, 681 (7th Cir. 2002). Before restricting discovery,
the Court “should consider the totality of the
circumstances, weighing the value of the material sought
against the burden of providing it, and taking into account
society's interest in furthering the truthseeking
function in the particular case before the court.”
Id. (quotation omitted). Particularly in the context
of nonparty discovery, the Court should protect witnesses
from harassment and from disclosure of confidential
information. See Dart Indus. Co. v. Westwood Chem.
Co., 649 F.2d 646, 649 (9th Cir. 1980); Barr v.
Illinois Co., No. 84-2076, 1986 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 30896,
*3 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 2, 1986).
general manager, Pat Daly, declined to answer questions from
Plaintiffs' lawyer about his compensation structure as it
relates to the amount of FRSA-protected activity occurring on
his watch. Plaintiffs ask the Court to compel these answers
so Plaintiffs can learn whether Defendant's compensation
structure motivates supervisors to suppress FRSA-protected
activity. If Daly's compensation is affected by the
amount of FRSA-protected activity that takes place on ...