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Nuckles v. Wal-Mart Stores

May 25, 2007

SHERRY NUCKLES PLAINTIFF
v.
WAL-MART STORES, INC. DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wm. R.Wilson,Jr. United States District Judge

ORDER

Pending is Plaintiff's Motion to Compel,*fn1 and for Sanctions*fn2 to which Defendant has responded.*fn3 Also pending is Defendant's Motion for a Protective Order*fn4 to which Plaintiff has responded.*fn5 A telephone conference was held on April 26, 2007, to settle a dispute over Plaintiff's entitlement to a 30(b)(6) deposition on Defendant's financial records.

I. Background

Plaintiff alleges that Defendant violated copyright laws by photocopying her professional photographs.

Plaintiff asks for an order compelling disclosure of previous copyright infringement actions filed against Defendant. Plaintiff also asks that Mr. Ed Sweeden ("Sweeden"), a former Wal-Mart employee, be compelled to reveal the content of conversations between himself and Defense counsel. Defendant responds that Plaintiff's interrogatory concerning other copyright actions is overly broad, unduly burdensome, and seeks irrelevant information. Despite these objections, Defendant offers to disclose information on copyright actions involving the Kodak Picture Maker. Defendant asserts that conversations between its attorney and Sweeden are protected by the attorney-client privilege.

Plaintiff also asks for sanctions arguing that Defendant engaged in "a transparent, willful and deliberate exercise to thwart Plaintiff's discovery efforts." Plaintiff maintains that Defendant : (1) deliberately failed to supplement its answers to interrogatories; (2) refused to make Sweeden available for depositions, forcing Plaintiff to spend money to subpoena him; (3) made unfounded objections during Sweeden's deposition; and (4) deliberately delayed the deposition of another company employee.

Defendant states that it was not obligated to supplement interrogatories with the phone number and address of a witness it did not intend to call at trial. Defendant further states that its actions were not deliberate, but were the result of circumstances beyond its control. Finally, Defendant maintains that it did not make unfounded objections.

II. Standard of Review

Discovery matters are within the inherent power and broad discretion of a trial court.*fn6

Discovery rulings are reviewed for gross abuse of discretion.*fn7 The same is true with respect to sanctions.*fn8

III. Authority

A. The Scope of Discovery

Rule 26 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure should not to be interpreted "to deprive a party of discovery that is reasonably necessary to afford a fair opportunity to develop and prepare the case."*fn9 The scope of discovery requires mutual disclosure of each party's evidence before trial.*fn10

Rule 26 authorizes discovery of "any matter, not privileged, that is relevant to the claim or defense of any party."*fn11 It also authorizes a trial court to expand its scope by ordering the discovery of any facts ...


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