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Tsanacas v. Amazon.Com, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Sherman Division

January 8, 2018




         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Compel Documents from Defendant Chris Leath (Dkt. #25). After reviewing the relevant pleadings and motion, the Court finds the motion should be granted in part and denied in part.


         Plaintiff Peter Tsanacas alleges that his personal, confidential information was unlawfully distributed to third-parties by Defendant Chris Leath (“Defendant” or “Leath”), an Amazon Senior Category Merchandise Manager, who allegedly accessed Plaintiff's Amazon account using his home computer and sent pictures of Plaintiffs confidential information by text to a woman in Texas. Plaintiff's causes of action against Leath include federal claims under the Stored Communications Act, 18 U.S.C. 2701-2712, and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, 18 U.S.C. 1030; and state law claims under the Texas Harmful Access by Computer Act, the Texas Identity Theft Enforcement and Protection Act, the Deceptive Trade Practices Act, invasion of privacy, negligence, gross negligence and defamation.

         On August 15, 2017, Plaintiff served his first set of requests for production (“RFPs”) to Leath (Dkt. #26, Exhibit A). On September 14, 2017, Defendant Leath served his responses to Plaintiff's first set of RFPs (Dkt. #26, Exhibit B).

         On October 25, 2017, the Court held a telephone conference on certain discovery issues, including Leath's invocation of the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination in response to document requests. The Court directed both parties to provide additional briefing on the issue.

         On October 30, 2017, Plaintiff filed this motion to compel (Dkt. #25). On November 13, 2017, Leath filed a response (Dkt. #26).


         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1), parties “may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense . . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). Relevance, for the purposes of Rule 26(b)(1), is when the request is reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Id.; Crosby v. La. Health & Indem. Co., 647 F.3d 258, 262 (5th Cir. 2011). It is well-established that “control of discovery is committed to the sound discretion of the trial court.” Freeman v. United States, 556 F.3d 326, 341 (5th Cir. 2009) (quoting Williamson v. U.S. Dep't of Agric., 815 F.2d 368, 382 (5th Cir. 1987)).

         Rule 37 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows a discovering party, on notice to other parties and all affected persons, to “move for an order compelling disclosure or discovery.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(1). The moving party bears the burden of showing that the materials and information sought are relevant to the action or will lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Export Worldwide, Ltd. v. Knight, 241 F.R.D. 259, 263 (W.D. Tex. 2006). Once the moving party establishes that the materials requested are within the scope of permissible discovery, the burden shifts to the party resisting discovery to show why the discovery is irrelevant, overly broad, unduly burdensome or oppressive, and thus should not be permitted. Id.

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 34 governs requests for production of documents, electronically stored information, and tangible things. Rule 34 requires responses to “either state that inspection and related activities will be permitted as requested or state with specificity the grounds for objecting to the request, including the reasons.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(b)(2)(B). “An objection [to the entire request] must state whether any responsive materials are being withheld on the basis of that objection.” Id. 34(b)(2)(C). On the other hand, “[a]n objection to part of a request must specify the part and permit inspection of the rest.” Id.

         After responding to each request with specificity, the responding attorney must sign their request, response, or objection certifying that the response is complete and correct to the best of the attorney's knowledge and that any objection is consistent with the rules and warranted by existing law or a nonfrivolous argument for changing the law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(g). This rule “simply requires that the attorney make a reasonable inquiry into the factual basis of his response, request, or objection.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(g) advisory committee note (1983).

         The federal rules follow a proportionality standard for discovery. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). Under this requirement, the burden falls on both parties and the court to consider the proportionality of all discovery in resolving discovery disputes. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1), advisory committee note (2015). This rule relies on the fact that each party has a unique understanding of the proportionality to bear on the particular issue. Id. For example, a party requesting discovery may have little information about the burden or expense of responding. Id. “The party ...

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