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Connolly v. Alderman

United States District Court, D. Vermont

September 18, 2018

DONALD CONNOLLY, Plaintiff,
v.
PHILIP E. ALDERMAN, ALDERMAN MOTOR CAR, LLC, and ALDERMAN'S AUTOMOBILE CORPORATION, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO COMPEL OVERDUE DISCOVERY RESPONSES AND FOR SANCTIONS (DOC. 45)

          Christina Reiss, Judge.

         This matter is before the court on a motion to compel overdue discovery responses and a motion for sanctions filed on July 6, 2018 by Defendants Alderman Motor Car, LLC, Alderman's Automobile Corporation, and Philip E. Alderman (collectively, "Defendants"). (Doc. 45.) Defendants ask the court to compel Plaintiff Donald Connolly to respond to Defendants' First Set of Interrogatories and Requests to Produce (the "Discovery Requests"). Defendants further seek an award of attorney's fees incurred in filing their motion to compel. In the event Plaintiff fails to comply with Defendants' Discovery Requests, Defendants request that Plaintiff "be sanctioned ... by dismissal of the action or, at minimum, entry of an Order that would prohibit Plaintiff from using or entering into evidence any documents responsive to the Discovery Requests[.]" (Doc. 45 at 2.)

         On July 20, 2018, Plaintiff opposed the motions, asserting that he provided timely responses in accordance with an agreed upon extension. On July 27, 2018, Defendants filed their reply, at which time the court took the pending motions under advisement.

         Plaintiff is represented by John D. Stasny, Esq. Defendants are represented by F. David Harlow, Esq. and Elizabeth K. Rattigan, Esq.

         I. Factual Background and Procedural History.

         On May 4, 2017, Plaintiff filed this action against Defendants, alleging claims of sexual harassment, a hostile work environment, retaliation under Vermont's Fair Employment Practices Act ("VFEPA"), and intentional infliction of emotional distress. He seeks compensatory damages for the stroke he suffered after leaving his employment with Defendants, as well as damages for pain and suffering and severe emotional distress.

         Plaintiff was employed at Defendants' automotive dealerships in Vermont for approximately three years, during which time he contends that he was "subjected ... to regular, graphic descriptions of [coworker Deborah Worchester's] sexual interests and preferred sexual acts; sexual questions about [Plaintiff]; stories about other employees' sex acts; aggressive sexual advances and demands; and other sexual harassment." (Doc. 1 at 1, ¶ 1.) He further alleges that he informed his supervisor at Alderman Toyota, Robert Atkinson, both orally and in writing, about Ms. Worchester's conduct in or about March of 2014 and requested assistance. Plaintiff claims that Mr. Atkinson warned him not to directly complain to Defendant Philip Alderman or his employment may be terminated. On May 16, 2014, after receiving a promotion, Plaintiff was transferred from Alderman Toyota to Alderman Kia. Despite the transfer, Plaintiff alleges that Ms. Worchester "continued to harass [him] with sexual remarks and messages[]" and that Mr. Alderman failed to prevent it. Id. at 6, ¶ 37.

         In Counts I and II, Plaintiff alleges Defendants' conduct violated the VFEPA. In Count III, Plaintiff contends that, "[u]nder Vermont common law," Defendants owed him a duty to use reasonable care to avoid harming him, as well as a duty to anticipate and guard against '"human traits' of their employees which, unregulated, are likely to harm others." Id. at 9, ¶¶ 65-66. He alleges that Defendants negligently failed to properly train employees and managers to appropriately report and respond to allegations of workplace sexual harassment. He further alleges Defendants negligently retained employees whose conduct they knew or should have known would put other employees at risk, as well as negligently responded to his allegations of sexual harassment.

         On March 1, 2018, the court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss Count III of Plaintiffs Complaint. On March 19, 2018, the court signed the parties' stipulated discovery schedule. On April 12, 2018, Defendants served their Discovery Requests which contained instructions directing Plaintiff to "answer the following Interrogatories and Requests to Produce, under oath, within 30 days pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 33 and 34[]" and further stated that "[e]ach Request to Produce shall be responded to with [the] production of documents organized and labeled to correspond to the categories in the request." (Doc. 47 at 1.)

         The court granted Plaintiffs unopposed motion to extend the time for his responses to Defendants' Discovery Requests until May 25, 2018. On May 25, 2018, Plaintiff served unsigned responses to Defendants' Discovery Requests and interposed five general objections. Each of these general objections is waived. See Cole v. AADCO Med. Inc., No. 2:15-cv-200 (Doc. 86 at 8) ("Without supporting affidavits or evidence explaining the burden, a general objection constitutes a waiver"); Sullivan v. StratMar Sys., Inc., 276 F.R.D. 17, 20 (D. Conn. 2011) (granting motion to compel when responding party merely "intone[d] [the] familiar litany that the interrogatories are burdensome, oppressive or overly broad") (alterations in original and internal quotation marks omitted); Klein v. AIG Trading Grp., Inc., 228 F.R.D. 418, 424 (D. Conn. 2005) (ruling that the objecting party must state "specifically how, despite the broad and liberal construction afforded the federal discovery rules, each [request] is not relevant or how each question is overly broad, [unduly] burdensome or oppressive") (alterations in original and internal quotation marks omitted).

         Plaintiff responded to Interrogatories 1-9 with a reasonable degree of completion. With regard to Interrogatories 10-15, however, he provided the following responses:

10. Describe all mental or emotional injuries you have suffered as a result of the incidents that are the subject of the claims in this lawsuit, and identify each physician or trained person who has rendered assistance or treatment; and, described the assistance or treatment with dates.
Response: I have been diagnosed with PTSD, anti-social personality disorder, anxiety, and depression. I started seeing a counselor in December 2014, and I started seeing a psychiatrist shortly thereafter. In the spring of 2017, 1 discontinued counseling and psychiatric therapy due to insufficient funds. I remain on medication for anxiety and depression. See also Plaintiffs health records.
11. Do you claim to have suffered any physical injury as a result of the incidents which are the subject of this lawsuit? If so, please:
a. Describe the injury and the date of the injury;
b. Identify each physician or trained person who has rendered assistance or treatment; and
c. Describe the assistance or treatment with dates.
Response: I suffered a stroke in September, 2014.
12. For any mental, emotional or physical injuries described in response to Interrogatories Nos. 10 and 11 above, please:
a. State each diagnosis made by a physician or a trained person of any physical, mental, emotional or nervous injury caused by the incidents which form the basis of this action;
b. Identify the person making each diagnosis;
c. Identify the documents (if any) in which each diagnosis is ...

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