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Miciotto v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lafayette Division

January 10, 2020

SUSAN MICIOTTO
v.
HOBBY LOBBY STORES, INC.

          DOUGHTY JUDGE

          MEMORANDUM RULING

          PATRICK J. HANNA UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Currently pending is the plaintiff's motion to compel discovery responses. (Rec. Doc. 20). The motion is opposed. (Rec. Doc. 23). For the following reasons, the motion is denied.

         Background

         The plaintiff, Susan Miciotto, claims that she was injured when she fell outside the Hobby Lobby store in Lafayette, Louisiana. She filed her suit in state court, and it was removed to federal court. Before the suit was removed, the plaintiff propounded two sets of written discovery requests on the defendant. The defendant responded to the first set, but did not answer the second set until after removal. A motion to compel was filed in state court, but it was not ruled on.

         After removal but without again propounding the discovery in federal court, the plaintiff filed the instant motion, adopting the arguments made in state court and seeking to compel responses to the discovery requests propounded in January 2019 and seeking to compel more complete responses to the discovery requests propounded in October 2018. The motion is opposed.

         Law and Analysis

         The discovery rules are accorded a broad and liberal treatment to achieve their purpose of adequately informing litigants in civil trials.[1] Nevertheless, discovery does have “ultimate and necessary boundaries.”[2] Further, it is well established that “control of discovery is committed to the sound discretion of the trial court”[3] and a “trial court enjoys wide discretion in determining the scope and effect of discovery.”[4]

         A. This Court Cannot Compel Responses

         In opposition to the plaintiff's motion, the defendant argued that this Court lacks authority to compel responses to discovery that was propounded in the state court proceeding before this action was removed to this forum. The defendant is correct.

         Rule 37 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits a party to file a motion to compel responses to interrogatories propounded under Rule 33[5] and requests for production propounded under Rule 34.[6] In this case, however, the plaintiff's discovery requests were not propounded under those rules; instead, they were propounded under state law before this case was removed. A federal district court's “ability to control or order discovery is limited by the applicable federal procedural rules” and those rules do not refer to discovery propounded under state procedural rules.[7] Therefore, in a case where a party sought to compel discovery propounded in state court without again propounding the discovery in federal court and where the parties did not agree that all discovery submitted in state court would be considered also submitted under the federal procedural rules for the purpose of enforcement or motions to compel, the court denied a requested motion to compel.[8]Relying on this jurisprudence, another court denied a requested motion to compel stating that “because Plaintiffs filed their discovery requests in state court, the requests at issue were not filed under Rule 34. This Court may not compel the production of documents which were requested under state law absent an agreement among the parties that state court discovery will be used in, and that requests already served may be compelled in, the federal proceeding.”[9]

         Additionally, Rule 26(d)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure states that a party may not seek discovery until after the Rule 26(f) conference has been held. Therefore, some district court cases have held that any discovery propounded in state court before a suit is removed is no longer answerable following removal.[10] One court has gone so far as to state that “[d]iscovery served in state court becomes null and ineffective upon removal.”[11]

         No evidence was presented showing that the discovery requests propounded by the plaintiff in this lawsuit were again propounded after the case was removed. Further, although the plaintiff submitted correspondence between counsel for the parties indicating that the discovery propounded by the plaintiff in state court would be answered by the defendant after removal without requiring the plaintiff to again propound the discovery, no agreement between the parties permitting a motion to compel the state-court discovery in this forum has been identified by the parties to this lawsuit. Therefore, this Court lacks authority to compel the defendant to respond to the discovery requests that were propounded in state court before this action was removed.

         B. Expenses and ...


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