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Hammond v. Biolife Plasma Services, L.P.

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

October 15, 2018

JONICA HAMMOND, Plaintiff,
v.
BIOLIFE PLASMA SERVICES, L.P., SHELIA STACHURA, Defendants.

          ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO EXPAND THE NUMBER OF INTERROGATORIES

          MARK J. DINSMORE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to Expand the Number of Interrogatories. [Dkt. 27.] For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's motion.

         I. Background

         In this action, Plaintiff, a former full time “Plasma Center Technician” employed by BioLife Plasma Services, L.P., brings her claims of “Defendants' interference with and retaliation for [her] exercise of rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, as amended (“FMLA”), 29 U.S.C. § 2601, et seq.” [See Dkt. 1.] Plaintiff alleges she began her employment with Defendant on approximately May 14, 2007 and later applied for intermittent FMLA leave on two occasions, in which she sustained occupational injuries, occurring on February 12, 2016 and August 4, 2016. [Dkt. 1 at 2-3.] Plaintiff asserts her first application for FMLA leave relating to the first occupational injury was denied by Defendant BioLife and her scheduled hours were subsequently reduced in adverse employment action by Defendant BioLife for the exercise of her FMLA rights. [Dkt. 1 at 3.] Plaintiff asserts in response to her second application for FMLA leave relating to the second occupational injury she was “instructed by B[ioLife]'s corporate human resources department representative . . . to remain off from work until released from her treating physician in connection with her workers compensation claims.” [Dkt. 1 at 4.]

         During Plaintiff's time away from work relating to her second injury, Plaintiff states she “was being directed by both the defendant employer's workers compensation case administrator . . . [and] was also being directed by defendant-employer's Corporate Leave Department, sometimes receiving contradictory information, and being told to ignore computer-generated letters from human resources.” [Dkt. 27 at 1.] Plaintiff was advised to return to her position on approximately November 14, 2016 via written notification from Defendant's corporate human resources department, instructing Plaintiff to report to work on November 15, 2016. [Dkt. 1 at 4.] Plaintiff states before she was to report to work on November 15, 2016, she received a phone call from Defendant Shelia Stachura informing Plaintiff she was terminated for “job abandonment.” [Dkt. 1 at 4.] Plaintiff alleges during this telephone call Defendant Stachura informed Plaintiff “she should not have followed the directions given by the corporate human resources department . . . .” [Dkt. 1 at 4.] Plaintiff raises the claim that her termination was an adverse employment action by Defendants for the exercise of her FMLA rights. [Dkt. 1 at 4.]

         On September 14, 2018 the Plaintiff filed a Motion to Expand the Number of Interrogatories. [SeeDkt. 27.] In relevant part, the Plaintiff's motion moves the Court to grant the Plaintiff leave to propound 25 additional interrogatories, to serve a total of 50 interrogatories upon the Defendants. [Dkt. 27 at 2-3.] Plaintiff seeks the additional 25 interrogatories to “cover all facets of the conversations” specific to Plaintiff's communication with Defendant's Corporate Leave Department [Dkt. 27 at 2.] Defendants filed their Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion to Expand the Number of Interrogatories on September 21, 2018 stating the information sought from the additional interrogatories “is unreasonably duplicative of [Plaintiff's] prior discovery requests, can be obtained by less burdensome means, and is disproportionate to the needs of this straightforward employment discrimination case.” [Dkt. 30 at 1.]

         II. Legal Standard

         “Unless otherwise stipulated or ordered by the court, a party may serve on any other party no more than 25 written interrogatories, including all discrete subparts.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(a). Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(2)(A), “the court may alter the limits in these rules on the number of . . . interrogatories . . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(2)(A). The Court may expand the number of allotted interrogatories unless it finds “(i) the discovery sought is unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or can be obtained from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive; (ii) the party seeking discovery has had ample opportunity to obtain the information by discovery in the action; or (iii) the proposed discovery is outside the scope permitted by Rule 26(b)(1).” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(2)(C). The decision of a a court to increase the number of interrogatories allowed is a “case by case analysis” in which “the party seeking leave must forth a ‘particularized showing' to exceed the limit of twenty-five interrogatories.” Duncan v. Paragon Publ'g, Inc., 204 F.R.D. 127, 128-29 (S.D. Ind. 2001). “Often the issue turns on whether the moving party has shown that the benefits of the additional interrogatories outweigh the burden on the imposing party.” Powell v. The Home Depot USA, Inc., & Industriaplex, Inc., No. 07-80435-Civ., 2008 WL 2473748, at *5 (S.D. Fl. June 16, 2008). The Court addresses the discovery request of expanding the number of interrogatories in turn.

         III. Discussion

         In this case, the Plaintiff asserts her FMLA leave of absence pursuant to her second occupational injury caused her to be “directed by” what can be construed as three arms operating under the Defendant-employer consisting of: 1) the Defendant-employer's workers compensation case administrator; 2) Defendant-employer's Corporate Leave Department; and 3) the Defendant-employer's Human Resources Department. [Dkt. 27 at 1.] Plaintiff's reply to her motion refers to this process as “maneuvering through the maze called FMLA.” [Dkt. 39 at 1.] In Plaintiff's Motion to Expand the Number of Interrogatories, Plaintiff specifically requests to propound an additional 25 interrogatories to “cover all facets” of conversations between the Plaintiff and the second arm of the Defendant-employer, the Defendant's Corporate Leave Department. [Dkt. 27 at 1.] Plaintiff alleges during the coordination of her leave, she was “in constant contact with the defendant-employer's ‘corporate leave department' speaking with a ‘Rick, '” who Plaintiff claims advised her to disregard letters from BioLife's human resources department that stated her FMLA was not being approved. [Dkt. 39 at 1.]

         The Plaintiff argues the “majority of the evidence for the Court to consider is held by the Defendant . . . . Only the Defendant[s] and their officers can testify to the practices, procedures and compliance with applicable codes and regulations.” [Dkt. 27 at 2.] During Plaintiff's own deposition, in which she testified regarding her contact with “Rick” from Defendant's Corporate Leave Department, Plaintiff requested “the name and location” of this employee. [Dkt. 39 at 2.] Plaintiff further made a supplemental discovery request to inquire about other employees within the human resources department who were responsible for the letters transmitted to her regarding her FMLA as follows:

Please provide the author's name, title, work location, and last known address for those letters transmitted to Jonica Hammond from corporate human resources on August 22, 2016, October 12, 2016, and November 15, 2016.

[Dkt. 39 at 2.] Plaintiff states Defendants have not disclosed any name or location information regarding “Rick.” [Dkt. 39 at 2.] Plaintiff states Defendants objected to Plaintiff's supplemental request regarding authors of the human resources letters stating the requests “call for information rather than documents and Plaintiff has already propounded the maximum number of interrogatories under [the federal rules and] [a]ccordingly, this information has not been provided to Plaintiff.” [Dkt. 39 at 2.]

         1. Cumulative or ...


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