Watkins v. Session » The Florida E-Discovery Case Law Database » Levin College of Law » University of Florida

Watkins v. Session

Watkins v. Session

Case Date: 02/18/2021
Citation: 2021 WL 663759; 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 31032
Court Type: Federal District
Court: Southern District of Florida (S.D. Fla.)
Judge: Federal District Judge: Roy K. Altman
Rule(s): Fed. R. Civ. P. Rule 12 and 56
Issues:

This case contained a “farrago” of discovery motions by both the plaintiff and the defendants. The motions were assigned to a Magistrate Judge. Many of these motions were not relevant to E-Discovery issues and thus, only the first of the three Omnibus Orders resolving these motions is pertinent here. Further, only subsection A of the court’s opinion regarding the first Omnibus Order is relevant.

The First Omnibus Order:

A. Defendant’s Motion to Compel

  • In discovery, the Defendants sought (1) ten years of Watkins’s medical records and (2) the identities—though not the content—of any email and social media accounts he’s used over the last five years.
    • Issues Regarding the Medical Records
      • 1.) Plaintiff alleged that “the magistrate judge did not interpret [his arguments] in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.”
      • 2.) Watkins contended that the Magistrate Judge failed to “articulate his premise for finding that the plaintiff’s medical history … is relevant.”
      • 3.) Watkins maintained that “the five year narrowed time frame should be from December of 2015 to January 1, 2011 because that time frame would produce any relevant medical history applicable to the 2015 claimed injuries.”
    • Issues Regarding the Online Accounts
      • 1.) Watkins said that “a party cannot show relevancy by merely making a conclusory claim that discovery ‘could’ lead to discoverable evidence regarding Plaintiff’s claimed emotional damages.”
      • 2.) Watkins complained that “the Magistrate has failed to articulate the premise for his findings that Plaintiff’s emails, social media and online account is relevant.”
Resolution:

Watkins’s Objections [ECF No. 132] to the Magistrate Judge’s First Omnibus Order [ECF No. 124] were OVERRULED.

Resolution of Issues Regarding the Medical Records

  • 1.) The District Court rejected this argument for three reasons.
    • (a) This isn’t a proper objection. SeeVanDiver v. Martin, 304 F. Supp. 2d 934, 937–38 (E.D. Mich. 2004) (“A general objection, or one that merely restates the arguments previously presented[,] is not sufficient to alert the court to alleged errors on the part of the magistrate judge.
    • (b) Watkins was incorrect in asserting that he was owed some special deference. In discovery disputes, by contrast, the burden is on the objecting party—here, Watkins—to show “with specificity how the objected-to request is unreasonable or unduly burdensome.” Alvar v. No Pressure Roof Cleaning, LLC, 2018 WL 1187777, at *2 (S.D. Fla. Mar. 7, 2018).
    • (c) Finally the District Court found that Watkins’s medical records were plainly relevant, on the one hand, because, if they reveal that he suffered from these same symptoms before his arrest, they could undermine his claims. On the other hand, the records are relevant because, if they show that he developed these symptoms only after his arrest, they would bolster his claims. And, of course, the medical records might eviscerate his claims by indicating that he’s never suffered from these symptoms at all—neither before nor after the incident
  • 2.) The District Court found that the Magistrate Judge was right to conclude that the records were relevant and that there’s no rule—nor has Watkins cited any, see generally. First Obj.—that required her to “articulate” her findings in any greater detail than she did.
  • 3.) Since Watkins’s arrest occurred in March 2015, the Magistrate Judge’s timeframe (2014 to 2019) was far more likely to produce relevant evidence. Watkins’s proposed timeframe, after all, would show only what his condition was before his arrest. The Magistrate Judge’s window, by contrast, would give the court a sense of Watkins’s medical history both before and after his arrest. And, given Watkins’s claim that he suffered an onset of symptoms after his arrest, the Defendants should be permitted to compare his pre-arrest and post-arrest medical history.

Resolution of Issues Regarding the Online Accounts

  • 1.) The Magistrate Judge determined that the email and social-media records were relevantSee First Omnibus Order at 7. Since Watkins doesn’t seem to quibble with her finding, he’s waived any such argument. See, e.g.Hamilton v. Southland Christian Sch., Inc., 680 F.3d 1316, 1319 (11th Cir. 2012) (“[T]he failure to make arguments and cite authorities in support of an issue waives it.”). In any case, the Magistrate Judge was right: the identity of Watkins’s email and social media accounts is relevant. In his SAC, Watkins alleges that, as a result of his arrest, he’s been denied multiple jobs, was prevented from visiting the park, and has suffered emotional distress.  Watkins’s online history—and, in particular, his social media posts—may well bolster or undermine these claims.
  • 2.) The identity of his accounts is plainly relevant. And Watkins cites no rule for the proposition that the Magistrate Judge had to “articulate” this very straightforward finding in some greater length.
Relevant Documents:

Opinion

Response to Motion to Compel

Motion to Compel

E-Discovery Issues: Discovery Order, Motion to Compel
E-discovery Tags: Email, Relevancy
E-discovery subjects: Social Media

Published: July 12th, 2021

Category: Uncategorized


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