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Viall v. Stellar Recovery, Inc.

United States District Court, District of Colorado

March 27, 2015

VIRGINIA VIALL, Plaintiff,
v.
STELLAR RECOVERY, INC., Defendant.

ORDER ON PENDING MOTIONS

Nina Y. Wang, United States Magistrate Judge.

This civil action is before the court on Defendant Stellar Recovery, Inc.’s Motion for Protective Order. [#22, filed December 17, 2014]. Also before the court is Plaintiff Virginia Viall’s Motion to Extend the Discovery Cutoff Date and the Dispositive Motion Deadline (“Motion to Extend”) [#26, filed January 9, 2015] and Motion to Compel the Defendant’s Responses to the Plaintiff’s Written Discovery Requests Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 33, 34, and 37 (“Motion to Compel”) [#27, filed January 9, 2015]. Pursuant to the Order Referring Case dated September 8, 2014 [#11] and the memoranda dated December 17, 2014 [#22] and January 12, 2015 [#28], respectively, these Motions were referred to this Magistrate Judge.

This court has carefully considered the Motions and related briefing, the entire case file, as well as applicable case law. Having determined that a hearing would not materially assist the court in resolving these three pending motions, the court VACATES the hearing currently set for April 9, 2015. For the following reasons, the Motion for Protective Order is GRANTED, the Motion to Extend is GRANTED IN PART, and the Motion to Compel is DENIED.

BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff Virginia Viall (“Plaintiff” or “Ms. Viall”) commenced this litigation on May 30, 2014 with the filing of her Complaint, which asserts one claim for the violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, (“FDCPA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1692e preface, e(2)(A), e(8), and e(10). She alleges that during a telephone conversation with an employee of Defendant Stellar Recovery, Inc. (“Defendant” or “Stellar”) in May 2013, she informed the employee that she disputed her Comcast account that had been tendered to Stellar for collection (the “account”). [#1 at ¶¶ 18, 22, 32]. Plaintiff further contends that Defendant’s employee reported a balance due on the account to the credit reporting agencies without advising of the dispute. [#1 at ¶¶ 38, 39]. Plaintiff seeks statutory damages along with “her costs and reasonable attorney’s fees;” she does not seek actual damages. [#17, § 5].

Stellar filed its Answer and Affirmative Defenses to the Complaint on June 24, 2014. [#6]. Defendant admitted that its employee spoke with Ms. Viall on the telephone regarding the account [#6 at ¶ 30], it communicated information regarding the account to the credit reporting agencies [#6 at ¶ 38], and it has retained a copy of “some of the audio recording(s) of its telephone conversation(s) with the Plaintiff regarding the account.” [#6 at ¶ 47]. However, Stellar denies that: (1) Ms. Viall notified Stellar’s employee that she disputed the Comcast account [id. at ¶ 32], (2) it had knowledge the account was disputed [id. at ¶ 37], and (3) it was aware of the dispute but failed to communicate that fact to the credit bureaus. [id. at ¶ 39]. Stellar asserted as an affirmative defense that “even if the alleged conduct were to be attributed to Defendants [sic] and were to be construed as a violation of the FDCPA, it was the result of a bona fide error that occurred despite Defendants’ policies and procedures [sic] to prevent such violations.” [Id. at 7]. Defendant later withdrew the affirmative defense of bona fide error. [#22-3] Thus, the factual disputes in this case implicate what Ms. Viall said to Stellar’s employee during their telephone conversation(s) in May 2013, and whether the substance of their communication required Stellar to notify the credit reporting agencies that Plaintiff was disputing the account.

On September 19, 2014, Magistrate Judge Boland held a Scheduling Conference at which he ordered the Parties to complete discovery by January 9, 2015, file dispositive motions by February 6, 2015, and participate in a Final Pretrial Conference on April 14, 2015. [#16, #17].

On December 17, 2014, Defendant filed the pending Motion for Protective Order to limit the scope of the topics set forth by Plaintiff in the Rule (30)(b)(6) Notice of Deposition of Viall’s corporate representative. [#22]. Plaintiff filed a Response to the Motion for Protective Order on January 7, 2015. [#25]. Defendant filed its Reply in support of the Motion for Protective Order on January 21, 2015 [#30]. During the briefing of the Motion for Protective Order, Plaintiff served a subpoena on Comcast Holdings Corporation f/k/a Comcast Corporation to produce certain documents on January 5, 2015 (the “Comcast Subpoena”). [#26-1].

On January 9, 2015, Plaintiff filed the instant Motion to Extend [#26] and Motion to Compel [#27]. Defendant filed its Response to the Motion to Compel [#31] on February 2, 2015, and filed its Response to the Motion to Extend [#33] on February 4, 2015. These three pending motions are now ripe for disposition and set for the hearing on April 9, 2015. [#39].

ANALYSIS

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) authorizes discovery of “any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense--including the existence, description, nature, custody, condition, and location of any documents or other tangible things and the identity and location of persons who know of any discoverable matter.” Relevancy is broadly construed, and a request for discovery should be considered if there is “any possibility” that the information sought may be relevant to the claim or defense of any party. See, e.g., Sheldon v. Vermonty, 204 F.R.D. 679, 689-90 (D. Kan. 2001). “When the discovery sought appears relevant, the party resisting the discovery has the burden to establish the lack of relevancy by demonstrating that the requested discovery (1) does not come within the scope of relevance as defined under Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1), or (2) is of such marginal relevance that the potential harm occasioned by discovery would outweigh the ordinary presumption in favor of broad disclosure.” Simpson v. Univ. of Colo., 220 F.R.D. 354, 359 (D. Colo. 2004) (citations omitted).

This second prong reflects the principle of proportionality that is inherent in the Federal Rules, and governs all discovery. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1) and (b)(2)(C)(i)-(iii). It is incumbent upon the court to consider how much discovery is reasonable in a given case in light of the claims and defenses asserted, the significance of the discovery sought to the propounding party, and the costs and burden to the producing party. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2)(C)(i)-(iii). The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure also permit a court to restrict or preclude discovery when justice requires in order to protect a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(c). Whether to issue a protective order rests within the discretion of the court. See Wang v. Hsu, 919 F.2d 130 (10th Cir. 1990).

A. Motion for Protective Order

On November 11, 2014, counsel for Plaintiff, Mr. Larson, provided counsel for Defendant, Mr. Lico, with a draft of the Notice of the Rule 30(b)(6) Deposition. Mr. Larson revised the notice after Mr. Lico expressed his position that several topics appeared vague and irrelevant. After receiving the final Notice of Deposition, Mr. Lico conferred with his client who decided to withdraw the affirmative defense of bona fide error (“BFE”). [#22 at 2]. Mr. Lico communicated this decision to Mr. Larson on December 8, 2014, along with a list of topics he believed were irrelevant following the withdrawal of the BFE defense. Id. Mr. Larson emailed a new version of the Notice of the Rule 30(b)(6) Deposition (the ...


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