United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
ANDREA R. WOOD, District Judge.
Defendant Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. ("RCL") asks this Court to modify or set aside portions of two orders issued by Magistrate Judge Rowland disposing of motions to compel additional responses to interrogatories and document production requests. (Dkt. Nos. 237, 238) For the reasons detailed below, the Court overrules RCL's objections to the magistrate judge's orders and affirms her rulings.
Plaintiff Philip Charvat claims that he received four unsolicited recorded marketing phone calls on his residential phone line and that these calls violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act ("TCPA"), 47 U.S.C. § 227(b)(1)(B). (Second Am. Compl. ¶¶ 28-47, 63, Dkt. No. 58.) Charvat further alleges that the calls marketed the services of multiple travel service vendors named as defendants in his complaint, including those of RCL, and that the entities whose services were promoted in the calls are liable under the TCPA. ( Id. ¶¶ 19, 20, 29, 32, 69-71.) In his complaint, Charvat seeks relief on behalf of himself and a class of similarly situated persons. ( Id. ¶ 73.) This Court referred this matter to the magistrate judge for supervision of both settlement and discovery proceedings, including resolution of all discovery motions. (Dkt. No. 181.) RCL presented the magistrate judge with motions to compel Charvat to provide additional responses to its interrogatories and requests for production. (Dkt. Nos. 213, 214.) The magistrate judge granted the motions in part and denied them in part. (Dkt. Nos. 228, 229.) Now before the Court are RCL's objections to the magistrate judge's orders. (Dkt. Nos. 237, 238).
Like district court judges, magistrate judges "enjoy extremely broad discretion in controlling discovery." Jones v. City of Elkhart, Ind., 737 F.3d 1107, 1115 (7th Cir. 2013). Their nondispositive discovery orders are properly disturbed only if they are clearly erroneous or contrary to law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a); Jones, 737 F.3d at 1115-16. An order is "clearly erroneous" only when "the district court is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made." Weeks v. Samsung Heavy Indus. Co., Ltd., 126 F.3d 926, 943 (7th Cir. 1997).
I. Motion to Compel Further Response to Interrogatory No. 12
RCL's objection to the magistrate judge's ruling regarding its motion to compel additional interrogatory responses relates to a single subject: Interrogatory No. 12. That interrogatory asked Charvat to:
List each and every TCPA case, including class actions, handled by any of the Plaintiff's lawyers for which any of them were lead counsel and for each such case note the case style, case number, the court, the claims involved, and with respect to each such case: (A) Whether it was certified by the court; (B) Whether class certification was denied; (C) Whether the case resulted in a class settlement or recovered any additional monies from the court or any of the lawyers or law firms who were counsel of record and if so state the amount, including any award of attorney's fees or awards to the class representative; and (E) whether the Plaintiff in this case was a party or otherwise involved in the litigation.
(Ex. A to Mot. to Compel Interrog. Resp. at 13, Dkt. No. 213-1.) Charvat did not object to the interrogatory. Instead, his response listed five TCPA cases in which his current counsel represented him as plaintiff and also referenced a sixth case that had been identified in earlier interrogatory responses. ( Id. ) His response also provided that his attorneys "intend to file affidavits attesting to their experience in handling TCPA class actions when they file the Motion for Class Certification." ( Id. )
After receiving Charvat's response, RCL's counsel wrote to Charvat's counsel to resolve outstanding discovery issues. RCL's correspondence described Charvat's answer to Interrogatory No. 12 as "not responsive" and asserted that "RCL is entitled to the information prior to receiving the Plaintiff's [class certification] motion." (Ex. C to Mot. to Compel Interrog. Resp. at 5, Dkt. No. 213-3.) RCL then moved to compel further response to the interrogatory. Its motion specified that RCL sought information about all of the TCPA cases, both class action and non-class action, handled by Plaintiff's counsel. (Ex. A to Mot. to Compel Interrog. Resp. at 13, Dkt. No. 213-1.) Judge Rowland denied RCL's motion to compel. Her order stated:
Plaintiff has provided a list of all TCPA class actions that he is involved in, including the caption of the case, the court where the action was filed, and the case number. To the extent RCL seeks detailed information regarding whether the cases were certified, or whether the cases settled, these cases are public record and available to RCL. To the extent RCL seeks a list of non-class actions, handled by present counsel, that Plaintiff has been involved in, RCL has failed to explain the relevance of such a request and the Court does not believe this information is relevant. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). Defendant's motion to compel is denied.
Although RCL emphasizes that its commentary on the issue is not offered as a basis for objecting to her order, it asserts that the magistrate judge "inexplicably" interposed a relevance objection sua sponte and that it is "uncomfortable" with her invocation of a basis for denying discovery that Charvat himself had not raised. (Def.'s Mot. for Recons. at 4 n.1, Dkt. No. 238.) The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure plainly provide for a court's sua sponte limitation of discovery on relevance grounds, however. Rule 26(b)(2)(C) mandates that on motion "or on its own, " a court "must" limit the frequency or extent of discovery if it determines that the discovery sought is unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or if "the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit, considering the needs of the case, the amount in controversy, the parties' resources, the importance of the issues at stake in the action, and the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues. " Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(2)(C) (emphasis added). It is thus apparent that a court is not merely permitted to limit discovery of information it finds to be irrelevant, it is required to do so. Even in the absence of a relevance objection, the magistrate judge's analysis of the relevance of the information sought by Interrogatory No. 12 was appropriate here.
RCL contends that the magistrate judge misunderstood the nature of its request in ruling that the relevance of the requested information had not been demonstrated. As noted above, Interrogatory No. 12 asked Charvat to identify all of the TCPA actions in which his attorneys had served as lead counsel. In Interrogatory No. 11, which is not at issue here, RCL requested identification of "every class action handled by any of the Plaintiff's lawyers for which any of them were lead counsel." (Ex. A to Mot. to Compel Interrog. Resp. at 12, Dkt. No. 213-1.) RCL's argument here is directed toward identification of non-class-action TCPA cases in which Charvat's attorneys were lead counsel. It contends that the magistrate judge's ...