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Amiri v. Omni Excavators, Inc.

United States District Court, District of Columbia

October 31, 2019

FARIBA AMIRI, Plaintiff,
OMNI EXCAVATORS, INC., et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff Fariba Amiri complains that she was discriminated against when her employer, Omni Excavators, Inc. (Omni), and its principals, Abotorab Rafi and Manual Dias, fired her shortly after she ended an intimate relationship with Mr. Rafi. Ms. Amiri sues Omni and its principals, seeking unpaid wages and damages. Although the case was filed in 2018, it has developed very slowly, in part because of Plaintiff's significant delays in providing discovery. Before the Court is Defendants' motion to exclude any of Plaintiff's evidence and witnesses that should have been, but were not, timely identified.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Complaint in this matter was filed on March 16, 2018. Compl. [Dkt. 1]. Count I alleges a violation of the D.C. Human Rights Act, D.C. Code § 2-1401 et seq.; Count II alleges a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-16a; Count III alleges a violation of the District of Columbia Wage Payment and Collection Act, D.C. Code § 32-1301 et seq.; and Count IV alleges breach of contract. Ms. Amiri worked for Defendant Omni, an excavation contractor located in the District of Columbia, as its Vice President from October 2015 to August 7, 2017. Compl. ¶¶ 7, 21. Ms. Amiri was fired two days after she ended her consensual relationship with Mr. Rafi. Id. ¶¶ 13, 20-21. After filing a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on September 12, 2017, Ms. Amiri filed her federal suit in March 2018. See Compl.

         Defendants filed their Answer on May 1, 2018, and the Court held an initial scheduling conference on June 21, 2018. See Answer [Dkt. 5]; Order [Dkt. 7]. The subsequent scheduling order set deadlines for discovery, essentially as proposed by the parties. Order [Dkt. 8] (Initial Discovery Order). The Initial Discovery Order required that “[t]he parties shall make initial disclosures under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a)(1) no later than July 13, 2018” and that fact discovery ended on December 31, 2018.

         Defendants provided Plaintiff with initial disclosures on July 13, 2018. Four months later, on November 30, each served interrogatories and requests for admissions on Plaintiff. On that date, Ms. Amiri served Omni with document requests. Counsel for Ms. Amiri represents that he responded to the defense requests for admissions on January 2, 2019 but informed Defendants that he needed additional time to answer their interrogatories.

         The Court held a status conference on January 8, 2019 at the end of discovery. During the hearing, the parties advised that they had exchanged written discovery requests but had not yet completed discovery. Defendants complained that Plaintiff had failed to provide initial disclosures and indicated that they planned to move to exclude all evidence that should have been disclosed. Counsel for Plaintiff responded that he thought he had provided initial disclosures but, if he were mistaken, he would serve them quickly. Following the hearing, a Revised Discovery Order extended the discovery deadline to April 5, 2019 and set a briefing schedule for Defendants' motion to exclude Plaintiff's undisclosed evidence.

         Plaintiff provided Defendants with initial disclosures on January 29, 2019, more than six months after the Court-ordered deadline of July 13, 2018. At the same time, Plaintiff submitted answers to Defendants' interrogatories.

         Defendants timely filed their motion to exclude evidence on February 6, 2019. They ask the Court to: “(1) preclude Plaintiff from using information, evidence, witnesses, or information that she failed to disclose as required by [Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a) and Local Court Rule 26.2(a)]; (2) strike the late filed initial disclosure; (3) dismiss the case with prejudice; and, (4) such other and further relief as this Court deems proper.” Defs.' Mot. in Limine to Exclude All of Pl.'s Evidence and Testimony (Mot.) [Dkt. 14] at 6. The matter is ripe for review.[1]

         Oral argument on the motion was set for April 9, 2019 but shortly before, all parties sought a stay and referral to mediation. The Court granted the motion and referred the case to mediation for 90 days. However, on August 15, 2019, the parties notified the Court that mediation had been unsuccessful and requested oral argument on the pending motion. They also advised that depositions had not been completed so asked that “discovery be extended by 60 days, following the Court's ruling on the Motion in Limine, to complete depositions.” Id. The Court held oral argument on September 19, 2019.


         A. Initial Disclosures

         Rule 26(a)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs initial disclosures.

         Under that provision, parties must disclose, without awaiting a discovery request, several categories of information, including:

(i) the name and, if known, the address and telephone number of each individual likely to have discoverable information-along with the subjects of that information-that the disclosing party may use to support its claims or defenses . . . .;
(ii) a copy-or a description by category and location-of all documents, electronically stored information, and tangible things that the disclosing party has in its possession, custody, or control and may use to support its claims or defenses . . . .;
(iii) a computation of each category of damages claimed by the disclosing party-who must also make available for inspection and copying as under Rule 34 the documents or other evidentiary material, unless privileged or protected from disclosure, on which each computation is based . . . .

Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(a)(1) (referencing Fed.R.Civ.P. 34).

         A party's initial disclosure obligations operate as “the functional equivalent of court-ordered interrogatories” and serve to “accelerate the exchange of basic information [about the case] . . . and to eliminate the paper work involved in requesting such information.” Calkins v. Pacel Corp., No. 3:07cv00025, 2008 WL 2311565, at *3 (W.D. Va. June 4, 2008) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 26, Adv. Comm. Notes (1993 Amendments)). The Advisory Committee Notes to Rule 26 state that disclosures concerning individuals likely to have discoverable information, required under Rule 26(a)(1)(i), should “[i]ndicat[e] briefly the general topics on which such persons have information” in order to “assist other parties in deciding which depositions will actually be needed.” Id.

         The commentary further explains that Rule 26(a)(1)(ii), which relates to documents used to support a party's claims or defenses, “does not require production of any documents.” Id. Only a description of documents by category and location is required. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(a)(1)(ii). The commentary states that “[i]f . . . only the description [of documents] is provided, the other parties are expected to obtain the documents desired by proceeding under Rule 34 or through informal requests.” Id; see also 8A Wright & Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 2053 (3d ed.) (stating that the “objective of [a listing of documents by category and location] is to enable the other parties to make informed decisions about which documents they should request . . . pursuant to Rule 34”). While “an itemized listing of each exhibit is not required, ” descriptions of documents should be sufficiently detailed to “enable opposing parties (1) to . . . [decide] which documents might need to be examined, at least initially, and (2) to frame their document requests in a manner likely to avoid squabbles resulting from the wording of the requests.” City of Chicago v. Purdue Pharma L.P., No. 14-CV-4361, 2017 WL 2819948, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 3, 2017) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 26, Adv. Comm. Notes (1993 Amendments)).

         B. Document Requests

         Document requests are governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 34, which allows any party to serve on any other party a request for documents or electronically stored information within the scope of Rule 26(b)[2] that are in the possession, custody, or control of the party upon whom the request is served. Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(a)(1)(A).

         C. Motion for ...

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