New Mexico Federal Trial Court Rules for Personal Injury Plaintiff in Discovery Dispute

Legal News GavelA U.S. Magistrate Judge recently ruled in favor of a plaintiff seeking discovery to aid his prosecution of a personal injury case.  The plaintiff had sought to obtain certain information from the defendant Home Depot, including a response to an interrogatory posed to the defendant concerning prior customer claims for injuries that the stores allegedly caused by or involving pallets.  The Court held a telephonic hearing on April 18, 2018 that ran over an hour after reviewing submissions by the plaintiff and the defendant.  Over the course of the hearing, the plaintiff’s counsel agreed to narrow the scope of the interrogatory that was a focus of the hearing, and the Court ordered the defendant to respond to the interrogatory as modified.

The plaintiff, via his counsel, filed a Motion to Compel on May 31, 2018, bringing to the Court’s attention that the defendant had not supplemented its discovery responses to include information concerning previous nationwide claims and lawsuits regarding injuries sustained by the defendant’s customers pertaining to slips, trips and falls involving pallets.  The plaintiff was frustrated because a few weeks earlier during the April 18 hearing the request had been modified to facilitate compliance with it.  The defendant had been allowed to respond with information stored in the defendant’s searchable database and, with respect to claims that had ripened into litigation, the defendant could respond by providing only names of the parties to the filed cases, the case numbers, and the districts in which the cases proceeded.

The defendant asserted several arguments to try to explain why it had not produced the information.  The defendant took the position it had misunderstood the nature of the Order made during the Court’s April 18 hearing, believing the hearing to have consisted of advisory discussions had as part of an informal telephonic conference that did not have a binding effect on the parties.  The Court treated the defense counsel kindly insofar as it accepted his apology over the briefing on the Motion to Compel disregarding what had transpired during the April 18 hearing.  The Court did note that statements made at the hearing contradicted the position taken in briefing on the motion, and that it expected that conduct by the defense counsel was aberrational and would not repeat, having been occasioned by issues such as internal reshuffling of his firm that affected his ability to focus on the case, correspond with the opposing counsel, respond to discovery, and comply with the Court’s earlier Order.

The Court empathized but only to a point, as the defendant’s noncompliance with the discovery Order impeded progress of the case toward trial.  Following a hearing held on July 16, 2018, the Court rejected arguments that searching the defendant’s database to comply with the interrogatory was unduly burdensome, a position the Court observed was not made at the April 18 hearing or in briefing on the Motion to Compel and rather was raised for the first time as part of the hearing on the Motion to Compel.  The Court also rejected other arguments made by the defendant, including that the information sought to be discovered by the plaintiff was highly confidential and subject to protective orders, and that its disclosure would violate privacy interests.

The Court granted the plaintiff an award under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37 of $1,200 by way of reimbursement for his attorney’s time following the April 18 hearing attempting to correspond with the defendant’s counsel and prosecuting the Motion to Compel.  The Court also ordered the defendant to supplement its responses to the plaintiff’s interrogatory by August 16, 2018.  The ruling offers an insight into ways in which plaintiffs in personal injury suits are sometimes confronted with attempts to frustrate and delay the prosecution of their cases by defendants and defense counsel.  An experienced personal injury attorney can help push a case forward.

If you or a loved one suffered a personal injury due to the negligence of a third party, there may be grounds for a monetary award.  In some cases, an award of punitive damages may be available in addition to compensatory damages.  A monetary award can assist people who are injured and their families with medical and other costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering caused by accidents.  To understand more about your case, call New Mexico personal injury lawyer Matthew Vance at the Law Office of Matthew Vance, P.C.  We provide a free consultation and can be reached at (505) 242-6267 or online.

More Blog Posts:
New Mexico District Court Denies Motion to Dismiss Case Brought Under the Federal Tort Claims Act

New Mexico Federal Trial Court Rules Personal Injury Case Should Proceed to Trial