United States District Court, D. Maryland
WILLIAM PARKER Plaintiff.
CIENA CORPORATION, et al. Defendants.
David Copperthite, United States Magistrate Judge
case was referred to me for Discovery on March 22. 2017 (ECF
44). Plaintiff has now filed a motion to compel responses to
written discovery (ECF 58). The parties have exchanged
correspondence on many occasions and have not been able to
resolve their discovery disputes as outlined in the motion to
compel. To describe the parties* relationship as contentious
is generous. In an effort to resolve all outstanding
discovery matters, including a show cause why Plaintiff
should not be held in contempt for violating the Court's
previous discovery order (ECF 54), a hearing was conducted on
May 5, 2017 (ECF 66). I have reviewed the motion, response,
reply, surreply and considered as well, the proffered
information and arguments of counsel received at the hearing
on May 5, 2017. No further hearing is necessary in this case.
Local Rule 105.6.
general. Defendants object to the broad and unlimited nature
of Plaintiffs discovery requests both in interrogatories as
well as requests for production of documents. Plaintiff s
counsel at the hearing asserted that Plaintiff has a right to
ask for all of the information, in fact, remarking to the
Court, "that is discovery 101. your honor".
Plaintiff appears to ignore the 2015 changes in Fed.R.Civ.P.
26(b) as well as the Local Rules. Appendix A.
Plaintiff, who is African American, was hired by Defendant
Gorman as the Director of Regional Property Management and
Facilities for the Americas, a small division of Ciena with
about 40 employees. Ciena is an international network
strategy and technology company with over 5.000 employees.
Defendant Gorman was at all times, the supervisor of
Plaintiff. Gorman hired Plaintiff because Plaintiff had
worked with him previously at Nortel Industries and had lost
his job. Plaintiff was employed at Ciena from June 2011 until
July 12, 2013. Plaintiff refused a severance package when he
left Ciena and soon thereafter became employed with another
company, thus mitigating his damages.
filed a five count complaint alleging that Defendant Gorman
had fired Plaintiff because of his race. The Court dismissed
four of the counts (including the retaliation claim) and
allowed Plaintiff to file an Amended Complaint alleging more
facts to support a disparate treatment claim that Plaintiff
was treated differently than similarly situated white
Directors within his branch. Plaintiff named a single
comparator. David Baines, who was also a Director supervised
by Gorman. Baines was not employed in Plaintiffs unit but
worked in an overseas unit. As stated previously. Plaintiff
has limited damages since he became employed promptly after
hearing, the Court attempted to mediate the dispute and have
each party compromise in order to move discovery forward. It
was apparent that Plaintiff was not willing to compromise but
insisted that the discovery rules allowed him to obtain broad
and unfettered information in order to build his claim.
Plaintiffs counsel argued that her client should not have to
compromise any right to discovery. The Defendants agreed to
compromise by providing additional discovery that was
requested by the Court in order to satisfy Plaintiffs
interrogatories and requests for production. Defendants filed
a Surreply (ECF 67), which the Court permitted in advance at
the hearing, encouraging both sides to file any additional
documents directly with the Court. In the Surreply.
Defendants set forth the additional discovery they provided
in response to the May 5. 2017 hearing.
cases have often recognized a plaintiffs burden to prove
a prima facie cause of action and damages. See,
e.g.. Wood v. Ahell. 268 Md. 214, 233, 300 A.2d 665
(1973) (holding that plaintiffs have the burden to prove
negligence and damages): Jones v. Federal Paper Bd. Co..
Inc.. 252 Md. 475, 485, 250 A.2d 653 (1969) (holding in
a negligence action that "plaintiffs had the burden of
proving their damages beyond mere conjecture and
speculation...."): Brock Bridge Ltd. Partnership.
Inc. v. Development Facilitators. Inc.. 114 Md.App. 144,
157, 689 A.2d 622 (1997) (holding in an action for breach of
contract that "the plaintiff bears the burden of
adducing sufficient evidence from which the amount of damages
can be determined...."). Clearly, it is Plaintiffs
burden to prove a prima facie case.
discovery dispute, the Court is guided by Fed.R.Civ.P.
26(b)(1) and Appendix A. Guideline 1 of the Local Rules,
"to facilitate the just, speedy and inexpensive conduct
of discovery, in light of what is relevant to any party's
claim or defense: proportional to what is at issue in a case
and not excessively burdensome or expensive compared to the
likely benefit of obtaining the discovery being sought."
Local Rules, Appendix A. Guideline 1.
to resolving any discovery dispute is determining whether the
information sought is within the permissible scope of
discovery, as stated in Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). Lynn v.
Monarch Recovery Management. Inc., 285 F.R.D.
350, 355 (D.Md. 2012). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
26(b)(2)(C) '"cautions that all permissible
discovery must be measured against the yardstick of
proportionality." Victor Stanley, Inc. v. Creative
Pipe. Inc., 269 F.R.D. 497. 523 (D.Md.2010). Under that
rule, the court, acting sua sponte or at a
party's request, "must limit the frequency or extent
of discovery" if: (i) "the discovery sought is
unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or can be obtained
from some other source that is more convenient, less
burdensome, or less expensive"; (ii) "the party
seeking discovery has had ample opportunity to obtain the
information by discovery in the action"; or (iii)
"the burden or expense of the proposed discovery
outweighs its likely benefit, considering the needs of the
case, the amount in controversy, the parties' resources,
the importance of the issues at stake in the action, and the
importance of the discovery in resolving the issues."
case. Plaintiff is seeking discovery that is well beyond the
scope of his now limited Amended Complaint. Plaintiff has
requested information and responses related to Directors
and above that were not supervised by Defendant
Gorman. This broad and non-specific request violates
Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b) and the Local Rules. Plaintiff appears to
be searching for more persons, through discovery, to identify
as comparators, what Plaintiffs counsel referred to as
"discovery 101". Plaintiff is reminded that the
Court dismissed his complaint because of his lack of factual
support of comparators and allowed him to amend his complaint
which he did and identified Mr. Baines with facts alleged to
be sufficient for pleading purposes. Though a comparator need
not be an exact match, there must be enough common features
between the established individuals to allow for a meaningful
comparison. Haywood v. Locke. 387 F.Appx. 355, 359
(4th Cir. 2010). Plaintiff has identified the only
person he alleges is a comparator who shares the same
supervisor. Any information reaching to Directors outside of
Plaintiffs unit would not be relevant, would impose an undue
burden and expense on Defendants, considering the needs of
the case and the importance of discovery in resolving those
issues. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b). Measuring Plaintiffs requested
compelled discovery "against the yardstick of
proportionality" in this narrow and limited complaint,
clearly demonstrates that Plaintiffs motion to compel demands
discovery that is not proportional to his claim. Victor
Stanley, Inc., supra.
reviewing the pleadings in this matter and the arguments and
proffered evidence of the May 5, 2017 hearing, it is hereby
ORDERED, that Plaintiffs Motion to Compel is DENIED.
Defendants have complied with the Court's request at the
hearing on May 5, 2017, to provide additional information to
Plaintiff. Both parties are reminded of their continued
requirement to provide discovery consistent ...