Court Disapproves of Overly Burdensome Discovery Requests
Ex parte Dolgencorp, LLC
On April 4, 2016, Deborah Renae Gilliam filed suit against Dolgencorp, LLC (“Dollar General”), among others, after Gilliam was struck by a vehicle upon exiting a Dollar General store. The complaint stated claims of negligence and wantonness. In addition to a notice to subpoena various documents from non-parties, Gilliam filed a request for production of documents which sought all incident reports, along with photographs of any incident within the five-year period leading up Gilliam’s accident, where a vehicle crashed into any Dollar General store in the United States.
The Defendants objected to the request for production, arguing that the request was overly broad and unduly burdensome. In response, Gilliam filed a motion to compel. Again, the Defendants filed a response to the motion, arguing the request was overly broad and unduly burdensome. In support, the Defendants attached an affidavit from a senior claims representative in the Risk Management Department for Retail Risk Solutions, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Dollar General Corporation. The affidavit stated that it took approximately 13 hours to search for other incidents where vehicles ran into Dollar General stores in this district comprised of 18 stores in Alabama, or approximately .001% of all Dollar General stores. The trial court conducted a hearing on the Defendants motion to quash and Gilliam's motion to compel. The trial court entered an order limiting the scope of discovery to any similar incidents in the five-year period leading up the accident where a vehicle crashed into a Dollar General store in the United States. The Defendants filed a motion to reconsider and for a protective order, asserting that the trial court's modification of the request for production would not ease the burden because, despite the limitation on production, an identical search would still be required. The trial court denied the motion and the Defendants petitioned for writ of mandamus.
The Alabama Supreme Court noted that the Defendants presented evidence that it would take a total of 9,389 hours and cost approximately $270,000 to $300,000 to search for the documents requested by Gilliam. Further, the Court stated that, despite the trial court’s modification of the requested production, the discovery ordered was oppressive and burdensome. Thus, they held that the burden on the Defendants to comply with the discovery order was out of proportion to any benefit Gilliam would obtain from the requested information. Accordingly, the Court granted the petition for a writ of mandamus and directed the trial court to modify its discovery order.