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Coon v. Southwestern Vermont Medical Center

United States District Court, D. Vermont

July 30, 2014

Donald J. Coon, Plaintiff,
v.
Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, Shea Family Funeral Homes, Lon McClintock, Esq., Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER (DOCS. 131, 132)

JOHN M. CONROY, Magistrate Judge.

On June 25, 2013, Plaintiff Donald J. Coon, proceeding pro se , commenced this action against several Defendants, including Defendant Shea Family Funeral Homes ("Shea"). Mr. Coon's claims stem from the death of his mother, Joan Marie Hunt, while Ms. Hunt was a patient at the Southwestern Vermont Medical Center ("SVMC"); from Shea's actions following Ms. Hunt's death; and from Attorney Lon McClintock's alleged breach of duties he owed to Mr. Coon during an investigation into Ms. Hunt's death. Motions to dismiss SVMC and Attorney McClintock as Defendants were granted by a prior Opinion and Order ( see Doc. 72). Familiarity with that Opinion and Order is presumed, although I briefly outline some of Mr. Coon's allegations in the "Background" section below.

The remaining claims in this matter are against Shea only. They are: (1) common-law conversion by repossession of a grave stone installed by Shea; (2) intentional infliction of emotional distress for grave desecration and the removal of the grave stone; and (3) breach of contract for overcharging for professional funeral services.[1] Several motions are currently pending, including a Motion to Quash Subpoena (Doc. 131) filed by NBT Bancorp ("NBT") under Fed.R.Civ.P. 45 to quash Mr. Coon's subpoena commanding NBT to provide him with "all loan, insurance on loan documents, [and] banking acct records for Joan Marie Hunt." (Doc. 131-1 at 1.) Mr. Coon opposes NBT's Motion, ( see Doc. 135), and has filed a related Motion to Compel NBT to Answer Subpoena, (Doc. 132). Mr. Coon also requests a hearing. (Doc. 132 at 1.)

All parties have consented to direct assignment to the undersigned Magistrate Judge. (Docs. 4, 10, 11, 48.) The Court concludes that no hearing is necessary. For the reasons that follow, NBT's Motion to Quash (Doc. 131) is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART and Mr. Coon's Motion to Compel (Doc. 132) is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

Background

Mr. Coon claims that his half-sister Joanne Becker murdered Ms. Hunt at SVMC. Mr. Coon also claims that Ms. Becker hired Shea to cremate Ms. Hunt's remains before any autopsy could be performed. In addition, Mr. Coon claims that Shea wrongly concluded that a balance was due for the services it provided (including provision of a grave marker), and that Shea desecrated Ms. Hunt's grave and removed the grave marker.

As noted above, the subpoena at issue commands NBT to provide Mr. Coon with "all loan, insurance on loan documents, [and] banking acct records for Joan Marie Hunt, " for the period between January and July 2010. (Doc. 131-1 at 1.) The subpoena commands compliance by June 16, 2014. ( Id. ) The Proof of Service indicates that Daniel J. Coon hand delivered the subpoena to an NBT bank officer in Albany, New York on June 3, 2014. ( Id. at 2.)

Analysis

NBT seeks to quash the subpoena, arguing that: (1) it was improperly served; (2) Ms. Hunt's account records from banks are irrelevant to the action; and (3) disclosure of the account records is improper without determining who controls Ms. Hunt's estate and its accounts.

I. Service of the Subpoena

NBT notes that under Fed.R.Civ.P. 45(b)(1), parties may not serve subpoenas. According to NBT, the subpoena was improperly served by Mr. Coon himself. Mr. Coon argues that service was proper because his half-brother Daniel Coon delivered the subpoena. Here, it is clear from the face of the Proof of Service that it was Daniel Coon who delivered the subpoena. Rule 45(b)(1)'s prohibition against parties serving subpoenas is not a basis for quashing the subpoena.

II. Relevance

NBT argues that the records Mr. Coon seeks are not relevant to the case. Mr. Coon maintains that the records are necessary "to see what Joanne paid to Shea[]" and "if Shea[] collected from these acc[oun]ts." (Doc. 135 at 4; see also Doc. 132 at 1 ("We do not know who, which, or when acc[ount]s Joanne M Becker paid, if she gave monies to Mark Shea, his company or what? We need to see the acc[oun]t activities to know what happened during all this time.").) Since there is a dispute about whether Shea charged Ms. Hunt's estate for sums that had already been paid, ( see Doc. 164 at 5), the Court concludes that transaction information on Ms. Hunt's NBT account ...


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