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Kozlov v. Associated Wholesale Grocers, Inc.

United States District Court, Eighth Circuit

May 2, 2013

IGOR KOZLOV, Plaintiff,
v.
ASSOCIATED WHOLESALE GROCERS, INC., et al., Defendants. ANDREI TCHIKOBAVA, Plaintiff,
v.
ASSOCIATED WHOLESALE GROCERS, INC., et al., Defendants. PAMELA SCOTT, Personal Representative of the Estate of Michael E. Scott, Deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
GOR KOZLOV, ALBATROSS EXPRESS, LLC and UNICK, LLC, Defendants.

ORDER

F.A. GOSSETT, Magistrate Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Associated Wholesale Grocers, Inc.'s ("AWG") Motion to Quash and Motion for Protective Order. (Case No. 4:10-cv-03211, filing 154); Case No. 4:10-cv-03212, filing 159; Case No. 8:10-cv-03191, filing 170.) For the reasons explained below, AWG's Motion will be granted, in part.

BACKGROUND

These consolidated civil cases arise out of a motor-vehicle accident between a tractor trailer driven by Michael Scott ("Scott"), deceased, and a tractor trailer driven by Igor Kozlov ("Kozlov"). Kozlov's tractor trailer was owned by Albatross Express, LLC ("Albatross"), and UNICK, LLC ("UNICK"). In his Complaint, Kozlov alleges that Scott acted negligently, thereby causing the accident which injured Kozlov. The Complaint further alleges that AWG, Scott's employer at the time of the accident and the owner of the tractor trailer driven by Scott in the accident, is liable for Scott's alleged negligence.

On February 22, 2013, Kozlov filed an Amended Notice of Deposition (the "Notice"), seeking a videotaped deposition of AWG. The Notice commands AWG to designate one or more individuals to testify on fourteen subject matters and produce documents related to ten subjects. (Case No. 4:10-cv-03211, filing 150); Case No. 4:10-cv-03212, filing 155; Case No. 8:10-cv-03191, filing 166.) AWG argues that the Notice seeks irrelevant information or information that has already been produced. AWG also claims that the discovery sought presents an undue burden and expense.

In opposition to AWG's Motion, Kozlov, Albatross and UNICK assert that the subject matters identified on the Notice only seek to obtain information regarding two general topics: (1) AGW's training and practices related to fatigued drivers, as well as accidents that may have been caused by its practices; and (2) the removal of parts from AWG's tractor and trailer and possible destruction of evidence. Kozlov and the others claim that discovery regarding these matters is relevant to AWG's possible negligence in causing the accident, as well as the question of whether AWG destroyed evidence in this case, thereby depriving Kozlov and the others of its use in this litigation.

DISCUSSION

Generally, parties may discover relevant, non-privileged information that is reasonably calculated to lead to admissible evidence. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26. However, a court may issue a protective order to prevent or limit discovery in order to "protect a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense." Id. "Rule 26(c) confers broad discretion on the trial court to decide when a protective order is appropriate and what degree of protection is required." Seattle Times Co. v. Rhinehart , 467 U.S. 20, 36 (1984).

I. Deposition Designations

The Notice sets forth fourteen subject matters for deposition. These subjects are each outlined below. The Court's findings with respect to AWG's objections to the deposition designations are as follows:

1. Work habits of Scott, including information concerning his personal activities, sports and physical and mental health.

AWG contends that a protective order for this designation is necessary because AWG has already produced Scott's qualification file, training file, and medical file, all of which address the subject matters identified. While this may be true, Kozlov is still entitled to question a AWG representative regarding these matters and, in particular, the information contained in the previously produced files. AWG's request for a protective order on this topic is denied.

2. Information concerning an accident which Scott was involved in on January 24, 2007.

AWG contends that discovery regarding this subject matter is improper because information related to previous accidents involving Scott is irrelevant to the issues involved in this litigation. The Court disagrees. Kozlov alleges in his Complaint that Scott acted negligently, thereby causing the accident. Therefore, information related to Scott's driving history, including the 2007 accident, is relevant. Questions regarding this topic will be allowed.

3. Information concerning the training of drivers for night driving, driver fatigue, and safety precautions.

Given the allegations involved in this litigation, information concerning AWG's practices, procedures, and training with respect to safety matters is relevant to the claims and defenses in this litigation. However, the scope of this deposition designation is problematic as it is overly broad. Therefore, the Court will limit inquiry into this subject matter to a period of time no earlier than three years before the accident in question and no later than one year following the accident.

4. Information concerning a lawsuit that occurred in Oklahoma involving an AWG driver who fell asleep at the wheel, including pleadings, depositions, and settlement information.

Kozlov and the others argue that information related to an Oklahoma lawsuit, which resulted from a 2009 motor-vehicle accident, is relevant because evidence has arisen regarding a pattern and practice by AWG of allowing its drivers - potentially including Scott - to operate AWG vehicles while fatigued. Liberally and broadly construed, the Court finds that general information regarding the Oklahoma accident could lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Still, the deposition designation, as outlined by Kozlov, is overly broad. Accordingly, the Court will permit Kozlov to elicit testimony regarding the general circumstances ...


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