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Rivera v. Robinson

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

November 18, 2019


         SECTION: “S” (4)



         Before the Court is Defendants' Joint Motion to Quash Plaintiffs' Subpoena for Second Inspection of Jennifer Robinson's Vehicle (R. Doc. 79) filed by the Defendants Jennifer Robinson, Church of the King, Inc., State Farm Mutual Insurance Company, and Church Mutual Insurance Company, seeking an order from this Court quashing Plaintiffs' subpoena demand for a second inspection of Jennifer Robinson's vehicle. The motion is opposed. R. Doc. 80. The Court held oral argument on this motion on September 11, 2019. R. Doc. 95.

         I. Background

         Plaintiffs Melissa Rivera and Ricardo Silva, Sr. filed this action in diversity in the District Court on December 20, 2018, as biological parents to deceased son, Ricardo Silva, Jr., for wrongful death and survival damages. R. Doc. 2, p. 1. At approximately 5:54 p.m. on the evening of August 25, 2018, Ricardo Silva, Jr., stopped at a traffic light while on his sports-bike motorcycle, was struck by Defendant Jennifer Robinson, an employee running an errand for the Church of the King, Inc. R. Doc. 2, p. 1-2. This collision resulted in the death of Ricardo Silva, Jr. R. Doc. 2, p. 2. Plaintiffs allege, inter alia, the accident occurred as Defendant Robinson was careless, reckless, distracted, had her vision obstructed, and failed to look for and yield to oncoming traffic. R. Doc. 2, p. 1-2 and p. 4.

         As to this instant motion, Plaintiffs aver that as of July 2019, a manufacturer of software and hardware developed a new software, known as Berla, to enable the download of data from vehicles to include Defendant Robinson's 2017 Honda Acura MDX in-car entertainment system. R. Doc. 80, p. 3. Defendants object pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 45(d)(3)(A)(i) and (iv) as: (1) all parties, including Plaintiffs' expert, have already performed a thorough inspection of Robinson's vehicle, (2) Plaintiffs have not demonstrated a valid need for a second inspection, (3) a second inspection would be unduly burdensome and costly on Defendants, and (4) Plaintiffs' subpoena does not allow sufficient time for Defendants to prepare for and have their own experts attend the inspection. See R. Doc. 79-1.

         In opposition, Plaintiffs contend that at the time of the first inspection, on January 30, 2019, the data download of Defendant's Robinson's 2017 Acura MDX in-car entertainment system was limited because the Berla software had yet been released. R. Doc. 80, p. 11. In July 2019, a company developed and manufactured the Berla software, which rendered download of certain additional data possible. Id. Specifically, Plaintiffs contend that a second inspection of Defendant Robinson's vehicle will enable them to download: (1) the speed of Jennifer Robinson's 2017 Honda Acura MDX recorded prior to and at the time of the 8/25/2018 vehicle-motorcycle collision; (2) the GPS data for the vehicle's location and movements prior to the crash; (3) the vehicle's events such as turn signal use or non-use and transmission selection, which is disputed by Defendant; and (4) the use of Bluetooth connected devices including text messages, cellular calls sent and received, text messages and Apple iMessages. R. Doc. 80, p. 3-4.

         The Court, prior to the hearing, issued an order requiring Plaintiffs to provide the following information in a supplemental memorandum: (1) the exact information retrieved from the first physical inspection of Defendant Jennifer Robinson's vehicle, (2) the exact information retrievable by use of the newly developed software and hardware “Berla”, and (3) a list providing the differences from the data extracted from the first physical inspection of Robinson's vehicle from that which Plaintiff is now able to retrieve in this proposed second vehicle inspection. R. Doc. 81. Plaintiffs complied with this order and filed a supplemental memorandum, which included the above-outlined information. R. Doc. 82.

         II. Standard of Review

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“Rule”) 45(d)(3) governs the quashing or modifying of subpoenas. The Court must quash or modify a subpoena that “(i) fails to allow a reasonable time to comply; (ii) requires a person to comply beyond the geographical limits specified in Rule 45(c); (iii) requires disclosure of privileged or other protected matter, if no exception or waiver applies; or (iv) subjects a person to undue burden.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 45(d)(3)(A)(i)-(iv).

         In addition, “[b]oth Rules 45 and 26 authorize the court to modify a subpoena duces tecum when its scope exceeds the boundaries of permissible discovery or otherwise violates the parameters of Rule 45.” Hahn v. Hunt, No. 15-2867, 2016 WL 1587405, at *2 (E.D. La. Apr. 20, 2016) (Wilkinson, C.M.J.). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) provides that “[p]arties may obtain discovery regarding any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense. . .” Rule 26(b)(1) specifies that “[i]nformation within the scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discovered.” Rule 26(b)(1) also specifies that discovery must be “proportional to the needs of the case, considering the important 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.” Id.

         Under Rule 26(b)(2)(C), discovery may be limited if: (1) the discovery sought is unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or is obtainable from another, more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive source; (2) the party seeking discovery has had ample opportunity to obtain the discovery sought; or (3) the proposed discovery is outside of the scope permitted under Rule 26(b)(1).

         III. Analysis

         Defendants raise four arguments in support of their motion to quash: (1) that a second vehicle inspection in unreasonably cumulative and duplicative, (2) that any additional information gleaned from a second vehicle inspection is not relevant, (3) that a second vehicle inspection is unduly burdensome, and (4) that Plaintiffs' deposition notice is not timely. R. Doc. 79. Because the Court finds merits in the first two arguments-namely, that a second vehicle inspection is unreasonably cumulative and duplicative, as ...

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