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Leanne Digan v. Euro-American Brands

February 29, 2012

LEANNE DIGAN, PLAINTIFF AND COUNTER-DEFENDANT,
v.
EURO-AMERICAN BRANDS, LLC, DEFENDANT AND COUNTER-PLAINTIFF.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Nan R. Nolan

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Leanne Digan (Digan) has sued her former employer, Euro-American Brands, LLC (EAB), claiming disability discrimination and retaliation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and retaliatory discharge for exercising her rights under the Illinois W orkers' Compensation Act. On January 31, 2012, the discovery deadline, Digan filed a motion to compel. The motion to compel is fully briefed, and dispositive motions are due by March 2, 2012. For the reasons and to the extent stated below, Digan's motion to compel [50] is granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

EAB is an importer and distributor of confections and specialty foods from Europe. Digan was hired as EAB's Midwest Regional Sales Manager on April 25, 2005. Digan alleges that she suffered an on-the job-injury to her back in March 2008. Digan explains that she suffered two ruptured and herniated discs in her neck. EAB says Digan's last day of work was April 8, 2008. Around May 12, 2008, Digan underwent cervical spine surgery. Digan alleges that she was incapacitated and unable to return to work for four weeks after the surgery. Digan states that she eventually underwent three additional surgeries in December 2008, June 2009, and December 2012 for the ruptured and herniated discs. At some point, Digan filed a worker's compensation claim against EAB.

The parties dispute many of the events that followed Digan's May 2008 surgery. Digan alleges that in the weeks and months after a June 10, 2008 telephone conversation with her direct supervisor John Coles (Coles), she repeatedly requested to return to work with a reasonable accommodation of no lifting and no traveling. Digan says she was told not to return to work by Coles and her attempts to contact EAB owners Dite Vanclief (Vanclief) and Peter Leiendecker (Leiendecker) by telephone and email were unsuccessful. According to EAB, on July 15, 2008, Digan advised EAB that she was unable to return to work and that her doctor had prescribed four additional weeks of physical therapy. EAB says it agreed to extend Digan's leave-of-absence and Digan agreed to provide an update on her status by August 11, 2008. EAB states that Digan failed to provide an update on her medical status in August 2008, but EAB continued her in leave status and did not fill her sales position at that time. EAB further states that by November 2008, Digan had still not provided any information regarding the expected duration of her leave, including a return to work date. By email dated November 4, 2008, Digan's employment was terminated. EAB maintains that at no time during her leave did Digan communicate to EAB that she wished to return to work nor did she request a reasonable accommodation.

DISCUSSION

A. Local Rule 37.2

EAB first argues that Digan's motion to compel should be summarily denied for failing to comply with the meet and confer requirements of Local Rule 37.2. Local Rule 37.2 provides that a court will refuse to hear a discovery motion unless the moving party states that it consulted in person or by phone with the opposing party and made good faith attempts to resolve differences, providing the date, time, and place of such conference as well as the names of the participating attorneys. Even if counsel in this case did not hold a telephonic conference or meet in person, the correspondence attached to Digan's motion to compel reflects a sufficient effort to resolve the discovery disputes without court intervention. Given that discovery has closed and the imminent dispositive motion deadline, the Court exercises it discretion to excuse strict compliance with Local Rule 37.2 and proceeds to consider the merits of Digan's motion. Little v. Cox's Supermarkets, 71 F.3d 637, 641 (7th Cir.1995) (stating "decision whether to apply [a local] rule strictly or to overlook any transgression is one left to the district court's discretion.").

B. Waiver

EAB next contends that Digan has waived her arguments by failing to sufficiently explain the legal relevance of the discovery she seeks and failing to cite a single case in support of her arguments. EAB is correct in noting that the Seventh Circuit has repeatedly recognized that "perfunctory and undeveloped arguments, and arguments that are unsupported by pertinent authority, are waived." W einstein v. Schwartz, 422 F.3d 476, 577 n.1 (7th Cir. 2005). It is also true that a court "has no duty to research and construct legal arguments available to a party, especially when he is represented by counsel." Tyler v. Runyon, 70 F.3d 458, 466 (7th Cir. 1995). However, "[e]ven a 'woefully underdeveloped' argument is not necessarily forfeited when the district court knew and understood the argument the party intended to make." U.S. v. Fields, 2010 W L 1725060, at *2 (7th Cir. 2010). Because this Court prefers to decide issues on the merits to the extent it is possible, it declines to exercise its discretion to deem the entirety of Digan's arguments waived. The Court will consider her arguments to the extent the Court is able to discern them.

C. Discovery Disputes

In her motion, Digan seeks to compel answers to her Interrogatory Nos. 4, 5, 11, and 12 and documents responsive to Request to Inspect Document No. 20. "Parties may obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, that is relevant to the claim or defense of any party . . . Relevant information need not be admissible at trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). Upon a showing of good cause, a court may order "discovery of any matter relevant to the subject matter involved in the action." A court shall limit discovery if it determines the discovery sought to be unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, the party seeking discovery has had ample opportunity to obtain the information by discovery in the action, or that the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit. Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2)(C)(i)--(iii). Magistrate judges are granted broad discretion in addressing and resolving discovery disputes. W eeks v. Samsung Heavey Indus., Co., Ltd., 126 F.3d 926, 943 (7th Cir. 1997). W ith these familiar standards in mind, the Court turns to the specific contested discovery requests.

1. Interrogatory No. 4

Interrogatory No. 4 asks ...


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