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Coleman v. Reed

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

April 12, 2017

STEVEN M. COLEMAN, Plaintiff, and CHEROKEE INSURANCE COMPANY, as subrogee of Freestates Trucking, LLC, Intervenor Plaintiff,
v.
DONALD WILLIAM REED, and SUNWEST MUD COMPANY, INC., Defendants. AND DONALD WILLIAM REED, Third-Party Plaintiff,
v.
STEVEN M. COLEMAN, Counter-Defendant, and UNIVERSAL SPECIALIZED, INC., d/b/a ECONOMY TRANSPORT, INC., Third-Party Defendant.

          ORDER

          VICKJ MlLES-LaGRANGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is third-party defendant Universal Specialized, Inc.'s (“Universal”) Motion to Compel Production of Documents and Interrogatory Responses of Defendant Sunwest Mud Company, Inc., filed January 4, 2017. On January 25, 2017, defendant Sunwest Mud Company, Inc. (“Sunwest”) filed its response, and on February 1, 2017, Universal filed its reply. Based upon the parties' submissions, the Court makes its determination.

         This case arises out of a motor vehicle accident that occurred on September 20, 2014, involving two tractor-trailers. At the time of the incident, defendant/counter-plaintiff/third-party plaintiff Donald Reed (“Reed”) was acting in the course of his employment with Sunwest, and plaintiff/counter-defendant Steven Coleman was an independent contractor driving for Universal. Universal has requested Sunwest to provide documents and information relating to Sunwest's investigation of the subject accident and to produce Reed's personnel file. Sunwest has objected to providing said information and documents.

         A. Sunwest's Accident Investigation and Related Reports and Documents

         Sunwest conducted an investigation into the subject incident and prepared an incident report two days after the accident. Sunwest asserts that its investigation and incident report are privileged pursuant to 49 U.S.C. § 504(f). Section 504(f) provides:

No part of a report of an accident occurring in operations of a motor carrier, motor carrier of migrant workers, or motor private carrier and required by the Secretary, and no part of a report of an investigation of the accident made by the Secretary, may be admitted into evidence or used in a civil action for damages related to a matter mentioned in the report or investigation.

49 U.S.C. § 504(f).

         The incident report and investigation at issue were not made by the Secretary. Further, Sunwest does not contend that the incident report was required by the Secretary; Sunwest merely asserts that motor carriers must make all records and information pertaining to an accident available to a representative of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The Court finds that a requirement that records and information be made available is not the same as a report being required by the Secretary. Accordingly, the Court finds that Sunwest has not demonstrated that the statutory privilege set forth in § 504(f) covers the investigation conducted by Sunwest or the incident report that Sunwest prepared. The Court, therefore, finds that Sunwest should be compelled to produce information and documents relating to Sunwest's investigation of the subject accident.

         B. Reed's Personnel File

         Universal seeks the production of the following:

True, correct, and complete copies of Reed's Driver Personnel File and any other files maintained by you relating to Reed, along with any documents contained therein, including:
(a) Owner/operator, employment, or other types of contracts, agreements, payroll or money advanced records, attendance records, computer generated documents and any other summary type document regardless of subject, description or form relative to Reed or the services performed by Reed;
(b) Records pertaining to all determinations as to whether this and any other accidents involving Reed were avoidable or preventable; and
(c) Hiring, suspension, termination, warning notices, complaints, letters, memorandums and any other similar type ...

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