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James R. Haynes v. Navy Federal Credit Union

August 6, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Alan Kay United States Magistrate Judge


Pending before the Court is Plaintiff James R. Haynes' ("Plaintiff" or "Haynes") Motion to Compel ("Pl.'s Mot.") [38]. Defendant Navy Federal Credit Union ("Defendant" or "NFCU") filed an Opposition to the Motion to Compel ("Def.'s Opp.") [42], and Plaintiff filed a Reply ("Pl.'s Reply") [45]. Having reviewed the submissions of the parties, the case record, and the relevant case law, the undersigned denies-in-part and grants-in-part the Motion to Compel.


This case is a breach of contract case arising from NFCU's management of a home mortgage loan it made to the Plaintiff. (See Am. Compl. [12] at 1.) Although Plaintiff had two home loans -- this case is about one. (See Am. Compl.; see generally Pl.'s Mot., Ex. D; Def.'s Opp. at 11.) Generally, Haynes alleges that even though he has "continuously made monthly payments," NFCU has "refused, in some cases, to process these payments according to the terms of the contract." (Am. Compl. at 1.) He claims that NFCU has improperly either "return[ed] payments" to him or "shift[ed] payments into a 'suspense account.'" (Id.) Haynes further alleges that on or about March 1, 2011, NFCU falsely reported to credit reporting agencies that he was $36,552 behind on his payments and 61-90 days past due. (Id. at 2.) For a detailed account of the factual history of the case, see Judge Kollar-Kotelly's ruling [18] on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss [13].

Judge Kollar-Kotelly dismissed two counts of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint. (See Mem. Op., Nov. 23, 2011.) Four counts of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint remain. (See Am. Compl.; Mem. Op., Nov. 23, 2011.) First, Plaintiff alleges that his loan contract was breached when payments intended to repay the loan were returned or shifted.*fn1 (Am. Compl. at 1.) Second, Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief and, through an "action of account," a record of the loan at issue. (Id. at 1-2; Mem. Op. Nov. 23, 2011 at 10-11.) Third, Plaintiff alleges that his credit was intentionally damaged in violation of Section 1681s-2(b) of the Fair Credit Reporting Act ("FCRA").*fn2 (Am. Compl. at 2; Mem. Op. Nov. 23, 2011 at 15-16.) Fourth, Plaintiff alleges that he was defamed when allegedly misleading credit information was reported to the credit reporting agencies. (Am. Compl. at 3.)


Federal Rule of Civil Procedure, 26(b) authorizes discovery "regarding any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense . . . ." E.g. Food Lion, Inc. v. United Food and Commercial Workers Int'l. Union, 103 F.3d 1007, 1012 (D.C. Cir. 1997) (relevance for purposes of discovery is broadly construed). Once a relevancy objection has been raised, the party seeking discovery must demonstrate that the information sought to be compelled is discoverable. Meijer, Inc. v. Warner Chilcott Holdings Co., III, Ltd., 245 F.R.D. 26, 30 (D.D.C. 2007); see Alexander v. Federal Bureau of Investigation, 194 F.R.D. 316, 325 (D.D.C. 2000).

Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2)(C), the court may limit discovery on motion or on its own initiative, if it determines that the "burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit, taking into account the needs of the case, the amount in controversy, the parties' resources, the importance of the issue at stake in the litigation, and the importance of the proposed discovery in resolving those issues." Tooley v. Napolitano, 556 F.3d 836, 841 (D.C. Cir. 2009); see also Smith v. Cafe Asia, 246 F.R.D. 19, 21-22 (D.D.C. 2007) (the trial court balances competing concerns when determining discovery matters).

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 33(a)(2) allows interrogatories to "relate to any matter that may be inquired into under Rule 26(b)." Rule 33(b)(3) provides that "[e]ach interrogatory must, to the extent it is not objected to, be answered separately and fully in writing under oath." Fed. R. Civ. P. 33(b)(3). The party moving to compel discovery has the burden of proving that the opposing party's answers were incomplete. Guantanamera Cigar Co. v. Corporation Habanos, S.A., 263 F.R.D. 1, 7 (D.D.C 2009) (citing Equal Rights Ctr. v. Post Props., Inc., 246 F.R.D. 29, 32 (D.D.C. 2007)).

A request for documents under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 34 must "describe with reasonable particularity each item or category of items to be inspected." Fed. R. Civ. P. 34(b)(1)(A). Requests must also be within the scope of Rule 26(b). Fed. R. Civ. P. 34(a). "[I]n drafting document requests, it is the party seeking discovery [who] bears the burden of fashioning the requests appropriately." Washington v. Thurgood Marshall Acad., 232 F.R.D. 6, 10 (D.D.C. 2005). Likewise, a party objecting to a document request must specifically show how the request is burdensome, overly broad, vague, or outside the scope of discovery. Chubb Integrated Sys. Ltd. v. Nat'l Bank of Washington, 103 F.R.D. 52, 59-60 (D.D.C. 1984).


A. Interrogatories

The parties dispute Interrogatories 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 13, 15, 16, and 17. In its Opposition, Defendant provides support to show why it has sufficiently responded to the interrogatories.


Plaintiff requests information on each and every mortgagor who received a waiver from paying escrow funds from January 1, 2008 to the present, together with an explanation for why the waiver was granted. Plaintiff initially requested information from January 1, 2003 to the present, but revised his request after Defendant objected that it was overly burdensome. (Pl.'s Reply at 1.) Although Plaintiff has lightened the burden of the request by reducing the range of dates Defendant would have to search, the request remains overly burdensome. NFCU has nearly 4 million members, 164,000 active first mortgage loans, and no separate database or procedure for identifying persons seeking or receiving waivers from paying escrow funds. (Def.'s Opp. at 6; Def.'s Opp., Exhibit D, Aff. of Vicki Parry at ¶ 2.) Defendant would therefore be required to divert substantial personnel and resources to review each first mortgage loan file for waiver applications. (Def.'s Opp. at 6; Def.'s Opp., Ex. D at ¶¶ 3-4.) Additionally, ...

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