United States District Court, D. Maryland
DEBORAH K. CHASANOW United States District Judge.
pending and ready for resolution in this discrimination case
are: (1) a renewed motion to compel discovery, filed by
Defendants McDonald's Corporation and Ram Foods, Inc.
(collectively, “Defendants”) (ECF Nos. 81; 102);
(2) a motion for reconsideration, filed by Plaintiff Ealise
Crumb (“Plaintiff”) (ECF No. 104); and (3)
Plaintiff's renewed motion to modify the scheduling order
to extend discovery (ECF Nos. 76; 103). The issues have been
briefed, and the court now rules, no hearing being deemed
necessary. Local Rule 105.6. For the following reasons,
Defendant's motion to compel will be granted in part and
denied in part, and Plaintiff's motions will be denied.
recitation of the factual and procedural background of this
case can be found in the court's prior memorandum opinion
resolving Defendants' motions to dismiss. (See
ECF No. 67, at 2-8). Discovery in this case closed September
6, 2016. (ECF No. 71). On November 18, 2016, the court denied
Plaintiff's motions to determine the sufficiency of
Defendants' discovery responses (ECF Nos. 74; 75), and
motion for leave to serve additional interrogatories (ECF No.
80); granted Defendants' motion to strike Plaintiff's
untimely discovery requests and stay further proceedings
pending mediation (ECF No. 89); and granted Defendants'
unopposed motion for an extension of the motions deadline
(ECF No. 91). (ECF No. 95, at 8-9). Two other motions were
denied without prejudice to renewal if mediation was not
successful: Plaintiff's motion to modify the scheduling
order to extend discovery (ECF No. 76), and Defendants'
motion to compel discovery (ECF No. 81). (ECF No. 95, at 7).
A settlement conference was held before Magistrate Judge
William Connelly on January 30, 2017. (ECF No. 93). On
January 31, the undersigned was advised that settlement
efforts were unsuccessful, and the parties were instructed to
renew their motions or advise the court if no renewed motion
would be filed. (ECF No. 99). Both parties renewed their
motions and filed additional responses.
Defendants' Motion to Compel
February 16, 2017, Defendants filed a supplemental memorandum
renewing their motion to compel discovery (ECF No. 81), and
their motion to extend the deadline for filing dispositive
motions (ECF No. 91). (ECF No. 102). The motion to compel was
filed on September 29, 2016 (ECF No. 81), and Plaintiff filed
a response in opposition on October 4 (ECF No. 92).
Defendants did not file a reply. Defendants moved to compel
Plaintiff to provide discovery concerning her prior lawsuits
for alleged racial discrimination and her mental health
records, and to appear for a deposition. (ECF No. 81).
Defendants' Written Discovery Requests
seek to compel discovery regarding other discrimination suits
filed by Plaintiff, arguing that evidence of Plaintiff's
previous claims may be admissible under Maryland and District
of Columbia law. They urge the court to “be mindful of
the likelihood of repeated, substantially identical claims,
” arguing that “the degree of similarity among
the claims is important, inasmuch as a series of disparate
but bona fide claims seems more likely than a string
of very similar ones.” (ECF No. 81-1, at 10). Plaintiff
argues that her previous discrimination claims are not
relevant, noting that it is not “unusual for African
Americans . . . to suffer repeated acts of race
discrimination within a short period and at the hands of
different persons, ” and that “race
discrimination is just the way of life for African
Americans.” (ECF No. 92, at 9).
information is admissible under the Federal Rules of Evidence
is not synonymous with whether it is discoverable under the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and the admissibility of
any lawsuits previously filed by Plaintiff is not presently
before the court. Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1):
Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged
matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense
and proportional to the needs of the case, considering the
importance 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. Information within this scope of discovery need not
be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.
scope of discovery is broad, but it is not limitless.
Defendants have asked for extensive discovery, not only of
any claims for racial discrimination Plaintiff has
“ever made, ” but also regarding “any other
instance of racial discrimination (before or after the
occurrence)” that Plaintiff has ever experienced. (ECF
No. 81-1, at 5-6). Defendants argue that this information is
relevant to their defense in the same way that evidence of a
plaintiff's prior claim for similar physical injuries may
be relevant to damages, to show “the amount of damages
reasonably attributed to this incident when compared with the
others.” (Id. at 11). Plaintiff's claim
concerns two discrete incidents of alleged discrimination
that she alleges “cause[d] her hurt, embarrassment,
humiliation . . . [and] a fear of going into another
Defendant McDonald's restaurant for the rest of her
life[.]” (ECF No. 92, at 15). She states that this harm
is separate from her severe emotional distress, which
“these Defendants didn't cause.”
(Id.). Defendants appear already to be aware of many
of the claims on which they are seeking discovery; they note
that Plaintiff's “long history of . . . litigation
of racial discrimination claims” may be discovered
through “[a] simple [G]oogle search.” (ECF No.
81-1, at 1 (collecting cases)). They may also be able to
obtain more tailored discovery at Plaintiff's deposition.
Most significantly, Plaintiff does not appear to be seeking
the kind of damages that would make Defendants' personal
injury cases an apt analogy. Defendants' discovery
requests are not proportional to the needs of this case.
also seek discovery regarding Plaintiff's
“claim-mindedness” or “litigiousness”
generally, arguing that it may be presented to the jury.
(Id. at 11-12). The court will not decide whether
any such evidence would be admissible at trial at this time,
but Defendants' discovery requests on this topic are
overbroad. Again, given the public availability of court
filings, the resources of the parties, and the limited
importance of such information in resolving the issues
presented in this case, the discovery Defendants seek is not
proportional to the needs of this case.
Defendants have moved to compel responses to their discovery
requests regarding Plaintiff's mental health history and
treatment, arguing that she opened the door to such discovery
by making a claim for non-economic damages. (Id. at
12-13). Defendants also contend that evidence of mental
health treatment “could be admissible on the issue of
liability because [the employee] denied she made the
offending comment.” (Id. at 13). They assert,
with no other basis than the accused employee's denial of
the incident and Plaintiff's supposed history of mental
health treatment, that “Plaintiff may suffer from
irrational feelings of persecution, or even hear voices
calling her bad names.” (Id. at 13). Plaintiff
has not alleged that she suffered a severe psychological
impact from the alleged discrimination, and she need not
disclose records pertaining to her mental health at this
stage of the case. Defendants' motion to compel responses
to their interrogatories and requests for production
therefore will be denied.
Deposition of Plaintiff
have also moved to compel Plaintiff's attendance at her
deposition. Plaintiff's deposition was originally noticed
for August 22, 2016. (See ECF No. 81-2, at 28). It
was rescheduled at her request to accommodate her schedule
and preferred location. (See Id. at 29-32). Three
days before her rescheduled deposition, Plaintiff informed
Defendants' counsel that, although she did not
“have a problem having [her] deposition taken, ”
she would not attend the deposition. (Id. at 33).
Plaintiff states that she cancelled her deposition because
she was dissatisfied with Defendants' responses to her
discovery requests. (Id.; ECF No. 92, at 16-18).
While she reiterates in her opposition to the motion to