United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division
OWEN SPENDLOVE, et al., Individually and as Representatives of the Class, Plaintiffs,
RAPIDCOURT, LLC, Defendant.
E. Payne, Senior United States District Judge.
matter is before the Court on PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO
COMPEL AND FOR RULE 37 (c) (1) SANCTIONS (ECF No. 72). Having
considered the supporting, opposing, and reply memoranda, and
for the reasons stated below, PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO
COMPEL AND FOR RULE 37(c)(1) SANCTIONS (ECF No. 72) will be
granted in part and denied in part.
General Factual Background
matter arises out of a class action under the Fair Credit
Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1681, et seq.
(``FCRA") brought by Plaintiffs Owen Spendlove and Jacob
Cross ("Plaintiffs") against RapidCourt, L.L.C.
(``RapidCourt") . The gravamen of the case is
Plaintiffs' assertion that RapidCourt unlawfully reported
to Checkr, Inc. ("Checkr"), a third-party consumer
reporting agency not a party in this case, information that
Checkr then reported to the Plaintiffs' potential
employers in violation of the FCRA. See Pis.'
Second Am. Class Action Compl. (ECF No. 113) ¶¶
allege that RapidCourt willfully violated the FRCA by (1)
reporting adverse non-conviction information from Virginia
older than seven years in violation of § 1681(c)(1); (2)
failing to provide consumers with timely notice of the fact
that it had furnished an employment report containing adverse
information while not following strict procedures designed to
ensure that it does not report incomplete or outdated public
records in violation of § 1681 (k) (a); and (3) failing
to provide full copies of consumers' files upon request
in violation of § l68l(g). Id. ¶ 1.
filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Transfer
Venue. (ECF No. 25) . In response, the Plaintiffs moved the
Court to permit jurisdictional discovery. PLS.' MOT. TO
PERMIT JURISDICTIONAL DISC. (ECF No. 32). On May 3, 2019, the
Court granted Plaintiffs' motion, ordering that
"jurisdictional discovery shall proceed forthwith."
(ECF No. 44). Thereafter, the Parties proposed a Scheduling
Order within the parameters set by the Court for the conduct
of jurisdictional discovery. (ECF No. 4 6) . Subsequent
scheduling orders were entered relating to both the class
certification and jurisdictional discovery deadlines,
revising the original deadlines established by the Court.
(ECF Nos. 49, 67).
discovery disputes at hand arose out of RapidCourt's
objections to Plaintiff's discovery requests. On May 8,
2019, Plaintiffs served RapidCourt with Plaintiffs' First
Set of Interrogatories and First Set of Document Requests. On
May 17, 2019, RapidCourt served its Initial Disclosures to
the Plaintiffs. RapidCourt amended its Initial Disclosures on
July 26, 2019. See Fed. R. Civ. P. (a)(1)(A)
(outlining the requirements for initial disclosures).
Following several meet and confer sessions, RapidCourt
supplemented its interrogatory responses on July 14, 2019,
June 21, 2019, July 3, 2019, and August 20, 2019. On June 20,
2019 and August 20, 2019, RapidCourt supplemented its
responses to Plaintiffs' First Set of Document Requests.
31, 2019, Plaintiffs served RapidCourt with Plaintiffs'
Second Set of Interrogatories and Plaintiffs' Second Set
of Requests for Production, to which RapidCourt responded on
July 1, 2019. The parties met and conferred, and RapidCourt
supplemented its responses on August 20, 2019. (ECF No.
19, 2019, Plaintiffs served RapidCourt with Plaintiffs'
Third Set of Interrogatories and Third Set of Request for
Production. RapidCourt responded on July 19, 2019 and
supplemented its responses to Plaintiffs' Request for
Production on August 20, 2019. In addition, on June 18, 2019,
Plaintiffs made a Rule 34 Request requesting that RapidCourt
permit Plaintiffs' counsel and a proposed expert witness
to access to RapidCourt's property in order to inspect
and copy the user interface clients utilize to access court
records, the computer software and underlying source code,
and to conduct a search of Virginia records for Plaintiffs
Spendlove and Cross. See ECF No. 73, Ex. 8 at 2-3.
The Parties met and conferred on Plaintiffs' request, and
RapidCourt responded to this request on August 20, 2019. On
August 30, 2019, Plaintiffs moved the Court to compel
Defendant RapidCourt to provide full and complete responses
to certain discovery requests and to prohibit RapidCourt from
presenting evidence and witnesses not previously disclosed.
PLS.' MOT. TO COMPEL AND FOR RULE 37(c)(1) SANCTIONS (ECF
No. 72) at 1.
Analysis of RapidCourt's Objections
first part of the analysis is to assess RapidCourt's
objections in perspective of the Plaintiffs' arguments.
The Plaintiffs make a number of arguments relating to
RapidCourt's alleged failures to provide full and
complete responses to certain discovery requests.
Plaintiff's arguments can be distilled down to five main
issues, which are discussed in turn below: (1)
RapidCourt's use of general form objections throughout
its discovery responses; (2) RapidCourt's production of
only the documents that it deemed as relevant and responsive;
(3) RapidCourt's determination of the scope of relevant
jurisdictional discovery; (4) Plaintiffs' requests to
inspect RapidCourt's RCX product and gain access to
RapidCourt's database; and (5) RapidCourt's
objections to the Plaintiff's class certification
RapidCourt's Use of General Objections
the Plaintiffs object to RapidCourt's use of
"general objections." A review of the record on this
issue shows that, in response to every interrogatory and
document request, RapidCourt makes what it calls "common
specific objections," which include objections for
asserted relevance, overbreadth, and burden.
argue that these objections do not comply with the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure, which require objections to be
stated with specificity. RapidCourt responds by arguing that
the objections at issue are "common specific
objections," not general objections. They are, says
RapidCourt, instead thoroughly explained objections that
apply to several specifically identified discovery requests.
See DEF.'S MEMO. IN OPPOSITION TO PLS.' MOT.
TO COMPEL AND FOR RULE 37(c) (1) SANCTIONS (ECF-No. 84) at 4.
analysis of the competing views begins with the governing
principle that the grounds for objecting must be "stated
with specificity. Any ground not stated in a timely objection
is waived unless the court, for good causes, excuses the
failure." Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(b) (4). In addition, any
objection to a request for production of documents must be
specifically stated, and the producing party must permit
inspection of the non-objectionable part. Fed.R.Civ.P. 36 (a)
necessary corollary to these basic principles is that:
[g]eneric, non-specific objections will not suffice when
posed in response to reasonable Interrogatories. Objections
to reasonable Interrogatories must be specific to each
Interrogatory and explain or demonstrate precisely why or how
the party is entitled to withhold from answering.
VICA Coal Co., Inc., v. Crosby, 212 F.R.D. 498, 503
(S.D. W.Va. 2003).
fundamental precept is rather widely accepted, albeit is
often stated somewhat differently. For example, in Barb
v. Brown's Buick, Inc., No. 1:09-cv-785,
2010 WL 446638, at *l (E.D. Va. Feb. 2, 2010), the Court
explained that Fed.R.Civ.P. 33 requires objections to
discovery requests (interrogatories) to be made with
specificity. For that reason, this Court discourages the use
of "general objections." Id. In Mills
v. E. Gulf Coal Prep. Co., 259 F.R.D. 118, 132 (S.D.
W.Va. 2009), the principle was applied to objections to
document requests posited under Fed.R.Civ.P. 34, holding that
such "objections must be stated specifically, and
boilerplate objections regurgitating words and phrases from
Rule 26 are completely unacceptable." Id.; see also
Cappetta v. GC Servs. Ltd., No. 3:08-cv-288, 2008 WL
5377934, at *3 (E.D. Va. Dec. 24, 2008); Hanawha Azdel,
Inc. v. C&D Zodiac, Inc., No. 6:12-cv-00023, 2013 WL
3660562, at *5 (W.D. W.Va. July 11, 2013).
principle problems with general objections are that (1) they
reach so broadly that the requesting party cannot determine
what is being answered or responded to and what is not; and
(2) the generality obscures what the general objection is
foreclosing from discovery. Thus, use of the general
objection precludes meaningful negotiation in the meet and
confer process (which appears to have happened here), and it
allows the producing party a degree of control over the
discovery process not intended by the federal discovery
problems are exacerbated where, as here, there is a general
objection on attorney-client and work-product privilege.
Here, RapidCourt said:
RapidCourt objects to Request Nos. 3, 5, and 7, 9, 10 to the
extent that these Requests seek documents protected from
disclosure by the attorney-client communication privilege
and/or the attorney work product doctrine.
ECF. No. 73, Ex. 3 at Common Specific Obj. 3.
objection tells neither the Plaintiffs nor the Court what is
privileged or why it is asserted.
claims must be raised by a timely filed, legally sufficient
privilege list. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b) (5) (stating
that a party claiming a privilege must expressly make the
claim and describe the nature of the documents so as to
enable other parties to assess the claim); ECF No. 42, Ex. 1
at 3 ("If a party objects to the production of documents
on the grounds of attorney-client privilege, attorney work
product doctrine, or any other privilege, the objecting party
must provide the requesting party with an inventory list of
the documents to which objection is made, . . .").
another example of the kind of problem created by general
objections is found in RapidCourt's general objection as
to time frame and proportionality. It states:
RapidCourt objects to Request Nos. 5 and 7 as seeking
documents that are not relevant to the limited scope of
permissible discovery and that are not proportional to the
needs of the case because ...