eDiscovery Daily Blog

Court Denies Non-Party’s Request to Quash Subpoena in Telecommunications Dispute: eDiscovery Case Law

In Fair v. Commc’ns Unlimited Inc., No. 4:17 CV 2391 RWS (E.D. Mo. Jan. 16, 2019), Missouri District Judge Rodney W. Sippel denied the motion to quash discovery filed by non-party Charter Communications (Charter), finding that the plaintiff had demonstrated that she had been unable to obtain the information from the defendants, that her request was not overbroad or unduly burdensome, that the information requested would not disclose personally identifiable information (PII) and that any sensitive or confidential information could be protected with redactions or a protective order.

Case Background

In this dispute regarding alleged misclassification of the plaintiff and other technicians as independent contractors, the court previously granted conditional certification to an opt-in class of Technicians who installed cable on behalf of the defendant.  On May 11, 2018, the plaintiff served a subpoena on Charter, noticing a 30(b)(6) deposition of a corporate representative and requesting four categories of documents: (1) any agreements between Charter and defendants, (2) applications used by Charter to track technicians, (3) technician information stored in those applications, and (4) the size, number, and types of emails exchanged between Charter and defendants during a three year period representing the window of time for which potential opt-in class members would have worked for Defendants.

On July 24, Charter filed this motion to quash the plaintiff’s subpoena, representing that she sought the same information from the defendants three times, and that she had not received any responsive documents by when she served the subpoena, or by August 7, when she filed her response in opposition. After the plaintiff’s second motion to compel against the defendants was granted, they agreed to provide the plaintiff with any agreements they had with Charter, but she continued to maintain “her entire subpoena to Charter is valid.”

Judge’s Ruling

Judge Sippel addressed each of Charter’s arguments for quashing the subpoena, as follows:

  • Any agreements or emails it has exchanged with Defendants and their employees are more conveniently obtained from Defendants: “Fair sought this information from the parties three times before seeking it from Charter”;
  • Fair’s request is overbroad, because it is not related to the narrow question of how Defendants pay their employees: “Charters’ application information, agreements, and emails are also necessary to demonstrate how much control Defendants exercised over the Technicians… As a result, Fair’s request is not overbroad or unduly burdensome.”;
  • Complying with the subpoena would violate customer privacy because it would reveal the addresses of customers: “The only data that Fair seeks from the tracking applications include Technicians’ contact information, identification numbers, and time stamp data…Fair also asks that Charter “identify” certain aspects of the tracking applications, but only in general terms… Charter’s PII argument is without merit.”;
  • The requested information includes sensitive and confidential commercial information: “if any of the requested documents would disclose sensitive or confidential commercial information, Charter can protect that information with redactions or a protective order.

As a result, Judge Sippel denied Charter’s motion to quash the plaintiff’s subpoena.

So, what do you think?  Was the judge correct in rebutting Charter’s objections?  Please let us know if any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Case opinion link courtesy of eDiscovery Assistant.

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