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Clark v. Berkshire Health Systems, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

January 2, 2019

SHAYLA CLARK, on behalf of herself and all other employees similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
BERKSHIRE MEDICAL CENTER, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER REGARDING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO COMPEL DISCOVERY (DKT. NO. 36)

          KATHERINE A. ROBERTSON, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Shayla Clark filed this action on behalf of herself and other similarly situated licensed practical nurses employed by Berkshire Medical Center (“BMC”) asserting claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 207(a) and 216(b) (Count I); the Massachusetts Wage Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, §§ 148 & 150 (Count II); Massachusetts common law - quantum meruit (Count III); and Massachusetts common law - unjust enrichment (Count IV). Ms. Clark filed her notice of consent to sue on December 29, 2017. On May 14, 2018, Nicole Millington filed a notice of consent to sue; on May 24, 2018, Shirley Victor also did so (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) (Dkt. Nos. 5, 16, 20).[1] Before the court is Defendant's Motion to Compel Discovery (“BMC's Motion”), which seeks to compel supplemental answers to the interrogatories BMC served on each of the Plaintiffs and the production of engagement letters between Plaintiffs and their counsel (Dkt. No. 36). Plaintiffs oppose BMC's Motion (Dkt. No. 39). The court heard argument from the parties on December 11, 2018 and took BMC's Motion under advisement (Dkt. No. 45). For the reasons set forth below, the court GRANTS BMC's Motion in part and DENIES it in part.

         II. Discussion

         A. Interrogatories

         On July 7, 2018, BMC served a limited set of interrogatories on Plaintiffs posing the following two questions:

Interrogatory 1: Please state the names, addresses, and present or last known places of employment of each person with personal knowledge concerning the facts alleged and the defenses asserted in the First Amended Complaint and the Answer to the First Amended Complaint and briefly summarize the substance of such knowledge.
Interrogatory 2: Please provide an itemized computation of your damages, including a list of the dates on which you contend you missed all or part of a break or otherwise worked more than your scheduled shift and, for each such date, the amount of additional time you allege you worked and any overtime for which you contend you were not compensated.

(Dkt. Nos. 36-4, 36-5, 36-6).

         1. Interrogatory 1

         Ms. Clark's response to interrogatory 1 referred BMC to Ms. Clark's initial disclosures, in which she listed nine individuals including herself, Ms. Millington, and Ms. Victor. She stated that these nine individuals had “knowledge/information” regarding the terms and conditions of her employment, her job responsibilities, and/or hours worked (Dkt. No. 36-19).

         Following BMC's objection to the sufficiency of this response, Ms. Clark supplemented her answer to interrogatory 1 by stating collectively, as to these nine individuals (including herself), that she was unaware of their addresses and present employment but believed that their last place of employment was with BMC. As to the substantive knowledge of these individuals, she stated (again collectively) that she believed these individuals had knowledge of “BMC's policies, practices and procedures with regard to meal breaks, timekeeping, recording of hours worked, and/or monitoring of hours worked, ” and of employees who worked through meal breaks without compensation (Dkt. No. 36-24). In her initial interrogatory responses, Ms. Millington separately listed eight individuals, provided their last known telephone numbers and identified the positions they held or had held at BMC. As had Ms. Clark, Ms. Millington collectively identified topics as to which she believed these eight individuals had knowledge or information (Dkt. No. 36-22). In a supplemental response, she answered, again collectively, that she believed these individuals had knowledge of BMC's policies, practices and procedures with regard to meal breaks, timekeeping, recording of hours worked, monitoring of hours worked, and of employees who worked through meal breaks without compensation (Dkt. No. 36-25). Ms. Victor did not answer BMC's interrogatories at all.

         Having carefully reviewed BMC's entire submission in support of its motion, it does not appear that BMC informed Plaintiffs' counsel of specific claimed deficiencies in Plaintiffs' responses to interrogatory 1 prior to filing its motion to compel (Dkt. Nos. 36-2; 36-20). “The meet and confer requirement in Rule 37(a)(1) is not an empty formality and cannot be satisfied merely by including copies of correspondence that discuss the discovery at issue, particularly when the correspondence only shows the movant threatening a motion to compel if all the requested discovery is not produced.” A.J. Amer Agency, Inc. v. Astonish Results, LLC, C.A. No. 12-351S, 2013 WL 9663951, at *2 (D.R.I. Feb. 25, 2013). See, e.g., Docket No. 36-20. Emails that state a moving party's point of view instead of reflecting good faith efforts to reach an agreement do not satisfy the meet and confer requirement. See Id. (citing Aponte-Navedo v. Nalco Chem. Co., 268 F.R.D. 31, 41 (D.P.R. 2010)). Nonetheless, in view of the time spent in court conferring about the parties' respective positions and discovery obligations, the court intends to rule on BMC's Motion so that the case can move forward. Contrast TG Plastics Trading Co. v. Toray Plastics, No. C.A. 09-336S, 2010 WL 936221, at *3 (D.R.I. Mar. 12, 2010) (ordering the parties to confer in good faith on the appropriate scope of discovery rather than ruling substantively on the pending motion to compel); see also A.J. Amer Agency, Inc., 2013 WL 9663951, at *2 (same).

         BMC's request to Plaintiffs to identify individuals with relevant knowledge and provide a brief summary of that knowledge is a standard interrogatory. Precisely what is required as a response to such an interrogatory is not clearly spelled out in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or in case law. The court agrees with BMC's contention that it is not proper to respond to such an interrogatory on a collective basis, nor is it appropriate to refer the propounding party to the initial disclosures, which are not signed under oath by a party, and which only require that a party identify individuals “likely to have discoverable information . . . that the disclosing party may use to support its claims or defenses.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(a)(1)(A)(i). Cf. Mulero-Abreu v. Puerto Rico Police Dept., 675 F.3d 88, 93 (1st Cir. 2012) (stating that a party should not answer an interrogatory by directing the propounding party to review the contents of other discovery materials). At a minimum, a party responding to an “individuals with knowledge” interrogatory must separately list each individual whom the responding party knows or believes possesses relevant knowledge (whether or not ...


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