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Gioioso v. Thoroughgood's Transport LLC

United States District Court, D. Maryland

August 28, 2017

JUDY GIOIOSO Plaintiff.
v.
THOROUGHGOOD'S TRANSPORT LLC and MICHAEL D. BAILEY. Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          David Copperthite, United States Magistrate Judge.

         This Memorandum Opinion addresses the Motion for Protective Order (ECF No. 30) filed by Defendants Thoroughgood's Transport LLC and Michael Bailey (collectively, •"Defendants") against Plaintiff Judy Gioioso. On November 30. 2016, Plaintiff filed suit in this Court against Defendants alleging counts of negligence, respondeat superior, and negligent entrustment arising out of an automobile accident between Plaintiff and Defendant Bailey, who was employed by Defendant Thoroughgood's and driving one of Defendant Thoroughgood's vehicles. ECF No. 1 (hereinafter "the Complaint"). On December 7, 2016, Defendants filed separate answers to the Complaint. ECF Nos. 5-6.

         After discovery commenced, the discovery deadline was extended to September 1, 2017. ECF Nos. 18, 23. In mid-June 2017, PlaintiIT served deposition notices for two of Defendants' insurer's adjusters and requested that the insurer produce its documents regarding the parties, including the claim file. ECF No. 30-3. On July 17, 2017, Defendants filed a Motion for Protective Order (hereinafter "the Motion"). ECF No. 30. On July 27. 2017, Plaintiff filed an opposition to Defendants' Motion, ECF No. 32, and subsequently filed a supplement, ECF No. 33. Defendants responded to Plaintiffs opposition on August 2, 2017. ECF No. 34.

         This matter is now fully briefed.[1] Upon review of Defendants' Motion. Plaintiffs opposition and supplement, and Defendants' response, the Court finds no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons stated herein, the Court DENIES Defendants' Motion for Protective Order.

         I. Factual Background

         This lawsuit arises out of a motor vehicle accident that occurred on July 21, 2014 near the intersection of Route 50 and Golf Course Road in Berlin, Maryland. In her Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Baily, as an employee of Defendant Thoroughgood's, negligently drove his motor vehicle into the rear of her car which was lawfully stopped at an intersection, injuring Plaintiff as a result. ECF No. 30 at 4. Defendants deny liability. Id

         On June 8, 2017, Plaintiff deposed John Thoroughgood. President of Defendant Thoroughgood's, and Defendant Bailey. ECF No. 30 at 4. On or around June 12, 2017. Plaintiff noted the depositions of two insurance adjusters, Robin Raymond and Gail Mandell, employees of the Harford Mutual Insurance Company, the Defendants' insurer, requesting that they produce the claim file and any other documents regarding the parties. ECF No. 30-3. Defendants now move for a protective order for their insurance adjusters, arguing that the requested information is privileged and protected by the attorney work-product doctrine. ECF No. 30.

         II. Burden of Proof

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(c), the authority to grant or deny a protective order is within the purview of the Court. Discovery rules are to be accorded broad and liberal construction. See Herbert v. Lando, 441 U.S. 153, 177 (1979); Hickman v. Taylor, 329 U.S. 495, 507 (1947). Nevertheless, a court may "issue an order to protect a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense." Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c)(1). Protective orders pursuant to Rule 26(c) "should be sparingly used and cautiously granted." Medlin v. Andrew, 113 F.R.D. 650. 652 (M.D. N.C. 1987). "'Normally, in determining good cause, a court will balance the interest of a party in obtaining the information versus the interest of his opponent in keeping the information confidential or in not requiring its production.*" UAI Tech., Inc. v. Valutech. Inc., 122 F.R.D. 188, 191 (M.D. N.C. 1988) (citation omitted). The party moving for a protective order bears the burden of establishing good cause. Webb v. Green Tree Servicing LLC, 283 F.R.D. 276, 278 (D.Md. 2012).

         As stated previously. Defendants have asserted that the requested information constitutes privileged work product because it was prepared in anticipation for litigation. "In diversity cases, work-product protection is governed by the uniform federal standard outlined in Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(3)." Black & Veatch Corp. v. Aspen Ins. (UK) Ltd., 297 F.R.D. 611, 615-16 (D.Kan. 2014) (citation omitted). Rule 26(b)(3)(A) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure states that:

Ordinarily, a party may not discover documents and tangible things that are prepared in anticipation of litigation or for trial by or for another party or its representative (including the other party's attorney, . . . insurer, or agent). But, subject to Rule 26(b)(4), those materials may be discovered if:
(i) they are otherwise discoverable under Rule 26(b)(1); and
(ii) the party shows that it has substantial need for the materials to prepare its case and cannot, without undue hardship, obtain their substantial equivalent by other means.

         The Fourth Circuit set forth a three part framework for determining the ...


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