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Leonard v. Katsinas

April 20, 2006

ROBERT LEONARD, WILLIAM COOK, DIANA WATERS, DAVID WEGENG AND ROGER FONTANA, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
PHIL KATSINAS, ROGER HUDDLESTON, ROUND BARN RESTUARANT, INC., AND THE HONOR THE CHIEF SOCIETY, INC., DEFENDANTS.
PHIL KATSINAS AND ROUND BARN RESTUARANT, INC., COUNTER-CLAIMANTS,
v.
ROBERT LEONARD, WILLIAM COOK, DIANA WATERS, DAVID WEGENG AND ROGER FONTANA, COUNTER-DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Byron G. Cudmore, U.S. Magistrate Judge

ORDER

This matter comes before the Court on a Second Motion to Compel (d/e 54) filed by Defendants Phil Katsinas and Round Barn Restaurant, Inc. (collectively, the Restaurant Defendants), pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37. The Restaurant Defendants seek an order compelling Plaintiffs to comply with discovery that has been previously forwarded to them in this case. The Restaurant Defendants also seek an award of fees incurred in pursing this motion and an extension of the discovery deadline that has been established in this case. For the reasons set forth below, the Second Motion to Compel is allowed, in part, and denied, in part. Plaintiffs are directed to comply as directed on or before May 2, 2006.

The Amended Complaint (d/e 3) alleges that Plaintiffs, who are individuals of Native American heritage, were wrongfully denied entry into a rally and reception held by Defendant Honor the Chief Society, Inc. The rally was held at the Round Barn Restaurant, in Champaign, Illinois. Katsinas is the owner of the Round Barn Restaurant. Plaintiffs allege that Katsinas denied them entry onto the restaurant premises, and that he did so based on their race, color or national origin. The Restaurant Defendants have filed a counterclaim for defamation and conspiracy to commit defamation against Plaintiffs. First Amended Counterclaim (d/e 38).

The Restaurant Defendants filed their first Motion to Compel (d/e 44) in January 2006. The Restaurant Defendants asserted that Plaintiffs had failed to answer interrogatories and respond to requests to produce. When Plaintiffs advised the Court that they had complied with the Restaurant Defendants' discovery requests, the Court denied the first Motion to Compel as moot without prejudice to refiling. Text Order, January 25, 2006. On March 3, 2006, the Restaurant Defendants filed the Second Motion to Compel, asserting that Plaintiffs' discovery responses were incomplete. Plaintiffs filed a Response to Second Motion to Compel (d/e 59), together with some additional discovery. The Court directed the Restaurant Defendants to reply, which they have done. The Second Motion to Compel is now ripe for decision.

Standard for Motion to Compel Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) allows parties to obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, which is relevant to the claim or defense of any party. Relevant information need not be admissible at trial if the discovery appears to be reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. The rule gives the district courts broad discretion in matters relating to discovery. See Brown-Bey v. United States, 720 F.2d 467, 470-471 (7th Cir.1983); Eggleston v. Chicago Journeymen Plumbers' Local Union 130, 657 F.2d 890, 902 (7th Cir.1981); see also, Indianapolis Colts v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, 775 F.2d 177, 183 (7th Cir.1985) (on review, courts of appeal will only reverse a decision of a district court relating to discovery upon a clear showing of an abuse of discretion). ". . . if there is an objection the discovery goes beyond material relevant to the parties' claims or defenses, the Court would become involved to determine whether the discovery is relevant to the claims or defenses and, if not, whether good cause exists for authorizing it so long as it is relevant to the subject matter of the action. The good-cause standard warranting broader discovery is meant to be flexible." Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) Advisory Committee Notes, 2000 Amendment.

The federal discovery rules are to be construed broadly and liberally. Herbert v. Lando, 441 U.S. 153, 177 (1979); Jeffries v. LRP Publications, Inc., 184 F.R.D. 262, 263 (E.D .Pa. 1999). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) provides that the "[p]arties may obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, that is relevant to the claim or defense of any party . . .," but "[f]or good cause, the court may order discovery of any matter relevant to the subject matter involved in the action." Id. The party opposing discovery has the burden of proving that the requested discovery should be disallowed. Etienne v. Wolverine Tube, Inc., 185 F.R.D. 653, 656 (D. Kan. 1999); Golden Valley Microwave Foods, Inc. v. Weaver Popcorn Co., 132 F.R.D. 204, 207 (N.D. Ind. 1990); Flag Fables, Inc. v. Jean Ann's Country Flags and Crafts, Inc., 730 F. Supp. 1165, 1186 (D. Mass. 1989).

District Courts have broad discretion in discovery matters. Packman v. Chicago Tribune Co., 267 F.3d 628, 646 (7th Cir., 2001). A party must be diligent in pursuing the perceived inadequacies in discovery and the trial court does not abuse its discretion if a party untimely seeks to compel inadequate discovery responses. Packman at 647. However, even an untimely filed motion to compel may still be allowed if the party demonstrates actual and substantial prejudice resulting from the denial of discovery. Id. Remember, we are talking discovery, not admissibility at trial. With this in mind, the Court turns to an independent analysis of each challenge raised.

Analysis

A. Rule 26 Disclosures

As an initial matter, the Restaurant Defendants assert that Plaintiffs' Rule 26 Disclosures are deficient. The Restaurant Defendants argue that Plaintiffs' attorney erroneously failed to supplement the Rule 26 Disclosures as new information was revealed. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(e). The Restaurant Defendants point to several individuals who are identified in the Answers to Interrogatories who are not included in the Rule 26 Disclosures. Plaintiffs assert that they are in compliance with discovery.

The Court notes that neither party has supplied the Court with copies of Plaintiffs' Rule 26 Disclosures. The Court, thus, cannot address the arguments relating to the substance of the Disclosures, which the record reflects were served on Defendants in June 2005. See Certificate of Compliance (d/e 32). Under Rule 26, a party is, among other things, required to provide the opposing party with the name and, if known, the address and telephone number of each individual likely to have discoverable information that the disclosing party may use to support its claims or defenses, unless solely for impeachment, identifying the subjects of the information.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(a)(1)(A). Therefore, if Plaintiffs might use the individuals identified in the Answers to Interrogatories to support their claims, Plaintiffs must supplement their Rule 26 Disclosures to include these individuals. It is not clear to the Court, at this point, whether the Plaintiffs might use the identified individuals to support their claims thereby implicating Rule 26. Therefore, the Restaurant Defendants' request to compel as it relates to the Rule 26 Disclosures is denied. However, Plaintiffs are cautioned to remember their ongoing duty to supplement their Rule 26 Disclosures.

B. Plaintiff Fontana's Answers to Interrogatories

The Restaurant Defendants raise several challenges to Fontana's Answers to Interrogatories.*fn1 As an initial matter, the Restaurant Defendants assert that Fontana failed to identify certain statements in response to Interrogatories 2, 22, or 23 and to produce and incorporate by reference certain documents in response to Interrogatories 2, 20, 21, 22, and 23. Specifically, the Restaurant Defendants point to an e-mail that Fontana sent to "The Paper" and other undisclosed media outlets regarding his experience at the banquet.*fn2 See Second Motion to Compel, Ex. G, E-mail from Roger Fontana dated Feb. 28, 2004. This e-mail appears to fall within the scope of Interrogatories 2, 20, 21, 22, and 23. Therefore, the Restaurant Defendants' request to compel on this basis is allowed. Fontana is directed to supplement his Answers to Interrogatories to either confirm or deny sending this e-mail, to identify any recipients of the e-mail, and to identify any other material within the scope of these interrogatories.

The Restaurant Defendants assert that Fontana failed to completely answer Interrogatory 3. The Restaurant Defendants base their argument on the fact that Fontana's answer to Interrogatory 3 fails to identify witnesses identified in the Answers to Interrogatories provided by other Plaintiffs. Fontana must base his answer to Interrogatory 3 on his own recollection, and the mere fact that it does not mirror the answers of other Plaintiffs does not mean that Fontana's answer is incomplete. ...


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