333 F.R.D. 581 (N.D.Fla. 2019), 3:19-cv-1545-MCR/MJF, Huddleston v. Bowling Green Inn of Pensacola, LLC

Docket Nº:3:19-cv-1545-MCR/MJF
Citation:333 F.R.D. 581, 105 Fed.R.Serv.3d 630
Opinion Judge:Michael J. Frank, United States Magistrate Judge
Party Name:Jessica Stout HUDDLESTON, Plaintiff, v. BOWLING GREEN INN OF PENSACOLA, LLC, Defendant.
Attorney:Gary Eugene Smith, Gary E. Smith PC, Plano, TX, for Plaintiff. Frederick L. Conrad, III, Mark Warfield Peters, Waller Lansden Dortch, Nashville, TN, for Defendant.
Case Date:December 18, 2019
Court:United States District Courts, 11th Circuit, Northern District of Florida

Page 581

333 F.R.D. 581 (N.D.Fla. 2019)

105 Fed.R.Serv.3d 630

Jessica Stout HUDDLESTON, Plaintiff,

v.

BOWLING GREEN INN OF PENSACOLA, LLC, Defendant.

No. 3:19-cv-1545-MCR/MJF

United States District Court, N.D. Florida, Pensacola Division

December 18, 2019

Page 582

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 583

Gary Eugene Smith, Gary E. Smith PC, Plano, TX, for Plaintiff.

Frederick L. Conrad, III, Mark Warfield Peters, Waller Lansden Dortch, Nashville, TN, for Defendant.

ORDER

Michael J. Frank, United States Magistrate Judge

This case is before this court on Plaintiff’s motion for a protective order and Defendant’s motion to compel Plaintiff’s deposition. For the reasons set forth below, this court will deny both motions.

I. Background

On May 28, 2019, Plaintiff initiated this action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. She alleges disparate treatment on the basis of her sex. At the time Plaintiff filed her complaint, she alleged that she was a resident of Okaloosa County, Florida. At some point, she moved to the Federal Republic of Germany when her husband’s employment resulted in his relocation there. Defendant’s principal place of business is Florida.

Defendant seeks to depose Plaintiff in the Northern District of Florida. Plaintiff, who is the mother of an infant child, seeks a protective order that would allow Defendant to depose her telephonically, but would protect her from any requirement to travel to the Northern District of Florida for a deposition. Plaintiff argues that a "deposition by telephone will work no conceivable harm on Defendant’s ability to gather all discoverable information and evidence" and Defendant seeks a deposition in the Northern District "purely for the purposes of harassment and to inflict undue burden on Plaintiff." (Doc. 15). She further contends that holding a deposition in Florida will "work a great financial hardship on Plaintiff because of the travel expenses and time away from her infant will be emotionally and financially burdensome. Traveling to Pensacola will be virtually impossible." (Id.

).

Defendant argues that Plaintiff "failed to show good cause to avoid having her deposition taken in person in the forum she chose for this litigation." (Doc. 17 at 1). Defendant seeks "to depose Plaintiff in person in order to gauge her demeanor and veracity as well as to avoid the difficulty and confusion associated with finding a court reporter in a foreign country and examining Plaintiff on dozens of documents via telephone." (Id. at 1).

II. Discussion

A. Plaintiff’s Motion for a Protective Order

The "Federal Rules of Civil Procedure specifically give a party the right to question a witness by oral deposition."

Page 584

Nat’l Life Ins. Co. v. Hartford Acc. & Indem. Co., 615 F.2d 595, 599 (3d Cir. 1980); Colonial Times, Inc. v. Gasch, 509 F.2d 517, 521 (D.C. Cir. 1975) ("As a general proposition each party to a civil law suit has the right to take depositions of the other party, absent a protective order entered by the trial judge."). Under Rule 30(a)(1), a "party may, by oral questions, depose any person, including a party, without leave of court ...." Fed.R.Civ.P. 30(a)(1).

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, however, do not mandate a particular situs for a deposition. See Salve Regina College v. Russell, 499 U.S. 225, 236, 111 S.Ct. 1217, 1223, 113 L.Ed.2d 190 (1991) ("The civil rules do not specify the place for deposing a party ...."). This allows for greater flexibility and empowers the parties and their attorneys to arrive at an agreement on the situs. The Local Rules for the Northern District of Florida provide some guidance to parties in that one such Rule requires any party that seeks affirmative relief in this District to submit to a deposition in this District. Local Rule 26.1(B)(1) provides: (B) Place of Depositions. Unless the Court orders otherwise for cause,

(1) a party who asserts a claim for affirmative relief— other than costs and attorney’s fees— can be required to appear once in this District for a deposition ....

N.D. Fla. Loc. R. 26.1(b)(1). This Rule obviously admits of exceptions, however, insofar as the Rule is prefaced by the notation that "for cause" this court may order otherwise. Id.

Furthermore, Rule 26(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a court "for good cause shown ... may make any order which justice requires to protect a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense ...." Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c). A party seeking a protective order bears the burden of establishing good cause. See Chicago Tribune Co. v. Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc., 263 F.3d 1304, 1313 (11th Cir. 2001); Landry v. Air Line Pilots Ass’n Int. 7 AFL-CIO, 901 F.2d 404, 435 (5th Cir. 1990). "For good cause to exist, the party seeking protection bears the burden of showing specific prejudice or harm will result if no protective order is granted." Phillips ex rel. Estates of Byrd v. Gen. Motors Corp., 307 F.3d 1206, 1210 (9th Cir. 2002). Under the "good cause" standard, the court must balance the competing interests of the parties. McCarthy v. Barnett Bank of Polk Cty., 876 F.2d 89, 91 (11th Cir. 1989); Farnsworth v. Procter & Gamble Co., 758 F.2d 1545, 1547 (11th Cir. 1985); see Cazorla v. Koch Foods of Mississippi, L.L.C., 838 F.3d 540, 555 (5th Cir. 2016). Trial courts have broad discretion "to decide when a protective order is appropriate and what degree of protection is required." Seattle Times Co. v. Rhinehart, 467 U.S. 20, 36, 104 S.Ct. 2199, 2209, 81 L.Ed.2d 17 (1984).

A district court also enjoys "great discretion in designating the location of taking a deposition." Thompson v. Sun Oil, Co., 523 F.2d 647, 648 (8th Cir. 1975) (per curiam); see Afram Export Corp., 772 F.2d at 1365 (noting a district courts broad discretion to set the location of a...

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