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Mafille v. Kaiser-Francis Oil Co.

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

May 1, 2019




         Plaintiffs' Motion to Quash Subpoenas, For Protective Order, and Request for Expedited Briefing Schedule or Hearing, [Dkt. 24');">24], is before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge for decision. The matter has been fully briefed, [Dkt. 24');">24, 32');">32, 35');">35], and is ripe for decision.

         It does not appear that counsel have met and conferred before this motion was filed as required by both the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Local Rules of this Court. Judging by the tone of the emails attached to the briefs and the tone adopted by counsel for both sides in their briefing, it appears that counsel for neither side is amenable to approaching this matter civilly. The approach apparently taken by counsel is not acceptable. Counsel are required to personally meet face-to-face in a sincere good faith effort to resolve differences. LCvR 37.1. Only after such a meeting has occurred will the court consider future discovery matters. Counsel are advised that an exchange of posturing emails will not satisfy the meet and confer requirement and counsel refusing to engage in a good faith meet and confer will bear the expense of future motions. The present motion has been resolved without the required meet and confer to demonstrate to counsel the breadth of discovery that will be permitted in the belief that the general tenor of this order will guide the counsel going forward.

         Defendant issued subpoenas to Plaintiff Christopher Mafille's (Christopher) employer, Unit Corporation, the preschool Plaintiffs' daughter attends, Google, and an entity called BFHO.[1] Plaintiffs seek an order quashing the subpoenas and the issuance of a protective order prohibiting Defendant “from conducting any further discovery subsequent to the date of Marlana's termination of employment unless approved by this Court.” [Dkt. 24');">24, p. 2]. Plaintiffs request an extraordinary protective order. By and large even complicated multi-party cases proceed to trial without the need for such court oversight. Plaintiffs have not demonstrated the need for the entry of such an unusual order. The request for a protective order is denied.

         Plaintiffs have asserted employment discrimination and tort claims, including loss of consortium arising out of Defendant's termination of Plaintiff, Marlana Mafille's (Marlana) employment with Defendant. Defendant asserts that Marlana's employment was terminated for faulty performance issues, that she abandoned her position, and failed to follow applicable procedures for taking leave. Defendant further states that following Marlana's termination, it determined that additional grounds existed for termination of her employment, including that Plaintiff was running an on-line clothing business during her work hours, and she allegedly disclosed Defendant's confidential trade secret information to her husband, Christopher. Plaintiffs argue generally that the information is sought by these subpoenas for the purpose of harassment and that Defendant is not entitled to discovery on any topic that relates to reasons that might justify the termination of Marlana's employment which Defendant discovered after her employment was terminated. No. authority is offered for this proposition and the court rejects the concept that discovery is somehow frozen at the date Marlana's employment was terminated.

         Subpoena to Unit Corporation

         Unit Corporation is Christopher's employer. The subpoena seeks: documents demonstrating benefit descriptions and information including leave policies; documents showing what benefits were utilized, and the cost of benefits to Plaintiff; documents related to an email which was attached to the subpoena as an exhibit, but which was not provided to the court; and all documents containing communications between Christopher's work email at Unit Corporation and a list of other email addresses used by the Plaintiffs.

         Plaintiffs make a general relevancy argument and also argue that the benefit information sought constitutes collateral source information which in no event would be admissible concerning damages. Plaintiffs also state that Defendant has all emails Marlana may have sent from Defendant's email system and therefore there is no need to make Unit Corporation search for those emails. Defendant asserts that the emails are probative of Marlana's misuse of leave time and conducting other business while on the job. Defendant also states that the emails sought will reflect Plaintiffs' use and dissemination of the trade secrets Marlana shared with Christopher.[2] Defendant further asserts that in view of the loss of consortium claim, Defendant may discover communications respecting the health of the Plaintiffs' marriage. Unit Corporation has not objected to the subpoena.

         The court finds that the subpoena to Unit Corporation is properly limited to Request No. 5, which seeks documents from Christopher distributing the alleged Kaiser-Frances trade secrets/confidential communications. The court fails to see how discovery about benefits afforded Christopher by his employer, his family's use of the benefits, and the cost of benefits is relevant even for discovery purposes. The court finds that production of emails between Christopher and Marlana is overly invasive into what may be personal and private conversations between husband and wife. The emails, whatever their content, will not be sufficiently probative of loss of consortium to justify the privacy invasion.

         The motion for protective order is granted in part and denied in part as to the Unit Corporation subpoena.

         School Subpoena

         Montessori Academy of Owasso is the preschool where Plaintiffs' daughter attends preschool. Defendant issued a subpoena to the school seeking production of records from 2017 to the present which reflect attendance at school, reasons provided for absences or tardies, who dropped off or picked up Plaintiffs' daughter, enrollment, and withdrawal from summer programs for 2018. [Dkt. 24');">24-2]. Plaintiffs broadly assert that the child is being used as a tool to punish them for bringing this action and state their belief that it will not be long before Defendant issues subpoenas for their children's medical records and veterinary records for their dog. [Dkt. 24');">24, p. 11]. Plaintiffs also assert that the subpoena hectors the school and speculate that their child could lose her place at the school. [Dkt. 35');">35, p. 5]. Defendant asserts that the school records may show Marlana's work hours and hours she did not work and that information is relevant to her credibility on the number of hours worked so as to meet the requirements for FMLA leave. The school has not objected to the subpoena.

         Plaintiffs have provided no basis for their objections and dire predictions. The court finds that the school subpoena does not seek personal information unrelated to this lawsuit about Plaintiffs' minor child and further that the information is relevant for discovery purposes. The motion to quash is denied as to the Montessori Academy of Owasso.

         Subpoena ...

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