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Alston v. Prairie Farms Dairy, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Greenville Division

September 26, 2017

JASON ALSTON PLAINTIFF
v.
PRARIE FARMS DAIRY, INC. d/b/a LUVEL DEFENDANT

          ORDER

          JANE M. VIRDEN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs Motion to Quash Defendant's Subpoenas or for Protective Order [29]. Upon due consideration of the motion, the court finds the Motion to Quash is well taken, in part, and denied in part. Having so ruled, the court finds the Motion, to the extent it seeks a protective order, is moot and is denied as such.

         Background

         The Defendant, in its response [33] to Plaintiffs Motion to Quash, has agreed to an order to quash the following subpoenas: McDonald's of Ridgeland, Mississippi; Wendy's; Onin Staffing; WenDelta, Inc.; Golden Triangle Waste Management; Tyson Farms, Inc.; Popeye's Famous Fried Chicken; and Pizza Hut of Vicksburg, Mississippi. As such, the Court will only discuss the remaining subpoenas regarding: The Mississippi Department of Transportation (“MDOT”), Yates Services, Inc., McDonalds of Carthage, Koch Foods of MS LLC, and A Cut Above.[1]

         Discussion

         The Court follows the Fifth Circuit precedent in concluding that, "Finding a just and appropriate balance in the discovery process is one of the key responsibilities of the Court, and '[i]t is well established that the scope of discovery is within the sound discretion of the trial court.'" Willis v. City of Hattiesburg, No. 2:14-cv-89-KS-MTP, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 30985, 2016 WL 918038, *2 (S.D.Miss. Mar. 10, 2016) (quoting Freeman v. United States, 556 F.3d 326, 341 (5th Cir. 2009).

         Further when reviewing discovery motions, the Court does adhere to Rule 26(b)(1) which provides in part:

Unless otherwise limited by court order, the scope of discovery is as follows: Parties may obtain discovery regarding any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case, considering the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties' relative access to relevant information, the parties' resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1) (emphasis added).

         Relevance, proportionality, and relative access are the key issues here. In many instances the Defendant's subpoenas are overly broad and are not sufficiently tailored to the Plaintiff's claims nor the Defendant's defenses. Accordingly, when the Court is reviewing subpoenas wherein the relevance of the object of the subpoena is not clear on its face nor is adequately justified by a party in briefing, the Court takes the position of most jurisdictions that: "The mere possibility that something [a][Defendant] could fish out of the personnel records of every employer who employed Plaintiff … does not justify [a][Defendant's] present broad sweeping attempt to discover such private information. ” Reed v. Madison Cty., No. 3:16-cv-51-WHB-JCG, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 189314, at *5-6 (S.D.Miss. Nov. 1, 2016) (citation omitted).

         Further the Reed Court establishes, "[A]n employment discrimination plaintiff does not open [his] entire work history up for discovery by the defendant as a matter of course; rather, the defendant must demonstrate a specific reason why the information is relevant to the particular claims and defense in the case at hand.” Reed v. Madison Cty., No. 3:16-cv-51-WHB-JCG, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 189314, at *5-6 (citation omitted).

         Additionally, the Defendant has anticipated its use of after-acquired evidence as an affirmative defense, which, it argues, makes Plaintiff's personnel records held by Yates Services, Inc., McDonald's of Carthage, Mississippi, Koch Foods, LLC and A Cut Above relevant due to the Plaintiff's inconsistent statements and omissions. “The after-acquired evidence doctrine precludes or limits an employee from receiving remedies for wrongful discharge if the employer later discovers evidence of wrongdoing that would have led to the employee's termination had the employer known of the misconduct. McKennon v. Nashville Banner Publishing Co., 513 U.S. 352, 360-63, 115 S.Ct. 879, 130 L.Ed.2d 852 (1995).” Reed v. Madison Cty., No. 3:16-cv-51-WHB-JCG, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 189314, at *6.

         However, as the Reed Court opined, "[D]efendant cannot use the after-acquired evidence defense to conduct extensive discovery into the plaintiff's prior employment records on the basis of pure speculation." Reed v. Madison Cty., No. 3:16-cv-51-WHB-JCG, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 189314, at *7 (citation omitted). Likewise, this Court does not choose to allow parties to rely on the after-acquired evidence doctrine as an independent basis for discovery without some basis for believing that evidence of wrongdoing will be revealed.

         The discrepancy concerning Plaintiff's dates of employment does not, without more, indicate that discovery might lead to wrongdoing. Defendant has failed to first establish some basis ...


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