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Morissette v. Cote Corp.

United States District Court, D. Maine

November 22, 2016



          John H. Rich III United States Magistrate Judge

         Following summary judgment practice and in advance of trial, the plaintiff in this employment action seeks, over objection, the defendant employer's financial information for purposes of his punitive damages claim. Treating the plaintiff's request as a motion to compel responses to previously-served discovery requests, I grant the plaintiff's request, with the modifications discussed below.

         The parties' dispute concerns the following six discovery requests propounded by the plaintiff:

         1. Interrogatory No. 28, seeking identification of the defendant's gross and net revenues for 2010 to 2015.

         2. Request for Production of Documents (“RFP”) No. 41, seeking all financial statements of the defendant from 2012 to the present.

         3. RFP No. 42, seeking documents, records, and information in any form or format showing or tending to show the revenues and liabilities of the defendant and the change in such revenues and liabilities between January 1, 2012, and the present.

         4. RFP No. 43, seeking any record, evidence, appraisals, or documents in any form or format assessing, appraising, or purporting to assess, appraise, or estimate the fair market value of the defendant's assets.

         5. RFP No. 44, seeking all documents, records, and evidence in any form or format tending to indicate the amount of liquid assets the defendant has on hand, or can reasonably access either through borrowing or financing.

         6. RFP No. 45, seeking all records or documents continuing projections or estimate of the defendant's projected revenues for fiscal years 2015-2017.

         During a discovery teleconference that I held with the parties more than a year ago, on July 7, 2015, they noted that they had agreed to defer discovery on punitive damages until the adjudication of any summary judgment motion. See ECF No. 15 at 3. The defendant subsequently filed a motion for partial summary judgment, see ECF No. 34, which Judge Levy granted in part and denied in part by memorandum decision and order dated May 31, 2016, see ECF No. 53. The parties then engaged in good-faith, but ultimately futile, negotiations to resolve a dispute over the relevance of the punitive damage-related discovery requests.

         As Judge Levy noted, see ECF No. 53 at 1-2, the plaintiff, a heavy-equipment mechanic with 35 years' experience and a history of artery disease, contends that the defendant company, which provides crane and rigging services and other trucking services, violated his rights pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), the Maine Human Rights Act (“MHRA”), and the Maine Whistleblowers' Protection Act (“WPA”) when it terminated his employment within two weeks after hiring him as its shop mechanic in May 2013.[1]

         In seeking the financial discovery here at issue, the plaintiff contends that the requested information is discoverable pursuant to rulings of this court and a majority of federal courts, a proposition for which he cited St. Joseph Hosp. v. INA Underwriters Ins. Co., 117 F.R.D. 24, 25-26 (D. Me. 1987), and EEOC v. Braun Elec. Co., No. 1:12-cv-01592-LJO-JLT, 2014 WL 356998, at *4 (E.D. Cal. Jan. 24, 2014), as well as an unpublished order of this court, Report of Hearing and Order re: Discovery Dispute (ECF No. 59), Centore v. Bentley's Saloon, LLC, No. 2:13-cv-324-DBH (“Centore Order”), at 3-4 (D. Me. Mar. 24, 2015).

         The defendant argues that the discovery requests are irrelevant and harassing or, alternatively, overbroad given that punitive damages are capped in this case as a matter of law at $50, 000 because of the defendant's size. However, the defendant acknowledges that it has not stipulated to punitive damages in any particular amount should the jury find an award of such damages appropriate. The plaintiff does not dispute that the cap would apply; however, he notes that the jury would not be made aware of it. He denies that any of the discovery requests at issue was propounded to harass the defendant or was irrelevant, although he expresses willingness to modify the dates for which information was requested given the passage of time since the requests were made.

         I grant the plaintiff's motion to compel responses to all six discovery requests with the modifications that, as to Interrogatory No. 28 and RFP Nos. 41-44, the discovery requests shall pertain to the time period of January 1, 2014, to the present, and, as to RFP No. 45, the request shall pertain to 2017. The defendant shall serve its responses to the relevant discovery requests pursuant to the Confidentiality Order entered in this case (ECF No. 17) by no later than December 6, 2016, with the proviso that it need only produce the minimum number of documents that contain the requested information: for example, if its financial ...

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