In Doma Title Ins., Inc. v. Avance Title, LLC, 2022 WL 2668530 (D. Md. Jul. 11, 2022)(Quereshi, J.), the Court addressed a motion to compel discovery in a breach of contract action.
The Court held that defendant’s discovery objections were too general; however, on the facts presented, including the manner in which plaintiff’s discovery requests were drafted, it permitted supplementation of the objections. It also rejected defendant’s efforts to limit discovery solely to transactions specifically identified in the Complaint and addressed proportionality.
“Once Defendants have stated with particularity any objections they continue to maintain, Plaintiff shall consider narrowing its Requests and Interrogatories in accordance with the directions provided below and any bases stated in Defendants’ amended objections.”
Plaintiff’s document requests sought “any and all” documents on specified topics. Such requests have long been deemed overly broad. Requests for “Any and All” Documents Are Obsolete – E-Discovery LLC (ediscoveryllc.com) The Court wrote that: “Defendants asserted that the requests were overly broad because they were not ‘proportionally tailored’ to the claims and the defenses in the case.” Similarly, plaintiff’s interrogatories requested “all” facts on certain topics. “In response to each of these interrogatories, Defendants limited their responses to communications that occurred after Plaintiff’s filing of the Complaint, without any explanation as to the basis for this limitation.”
The Court wrote that:
It then held: “As Plaintiff notes, Defendants have objected to the contested Requests and Interrogatories by simply stating that the requests are overly broad and not proportionally tailored to the needs of the case. This Court has previously found that objections so phrased are insufficiently particular boilerplate objections.” [emphasis added].
The Court continued: “However, a Court may excuse the failure to state an objection with particularity if doing so would be supported by ‘good cause.’” [emphasis added].
Here, it determined that there was good cause. The parties had extended the discovery deadline so ample time remained. Further, the “wide scope” of the discovery requests was an important factor:
As noted below, Plaintiff demands information related to “all allegations in the Complaint” without any effort to either limit the individuals to which the request applies, identify the specific subject matters at issue, or provide search terms Defendants may use when collecting relevant communications. In sum, given the breadth of the requests and the time remaining before discovery closes in this case, I find that good cause exists to allow Defendants to supplement their objections. Nonetheless, finding that good cause exists does not mean that the objections, as stated, are proper. Accordingly, within fourteen days of this Order, Defendants shall respond to the contested requests with any objections they continue to maintain stating such objections with particularity.
The Court also rejected defendant’s objections and held that, while discovery is “guided” by the allegations of the Complaint, it is not limited to transactions specifically discussed in the Complaint or communications that post-date the Complaint. It wrote:
As noted above, Plaintiff’s Complaint, although it explicitly discusses five specific transactions, does not limit its allegations or the relief it seeks to merely those instances. Rather, the Complaint explicitly states that “Doma expects to receive additional claims arising out of real estate transactions handled by Avance.”
It then turned to proportionality:
Although it is unclear from Defendants’ current responses the specific burden that the Requests and Interrogatories impose, based on the potential scope of the contested Requests and Interrogatories, it is possible to foresee potential issues that may arise. Though it is not the role of the Court to forecast Defendants’ specific objections, I have some concerns with the fact that Plaintiff’s requests as currently worded, in essence, ask for all documents related to, and descriptions of all communications Defendants have had with any person or party related to “allegations in the Complaint,” while providing no further clarification regarding, for example, individuals whose emails should be searched, topics or types of transactions that should be focused on, or terms that should be used when conducting searches of communications. Courts have held that requests similar to those in dispute, when left unnarrowed and unspecified, may be overbroad…. Ultimately, there is not adequate information before the Court to determine whether Plaintiff must further narrow its request, but each of the factors discussed are relevant considerations for the Court, as well as the parties, in determining the burden of a discovery request. [emphasis added].
It ordered plaintiff to review the revised and supplemented objections and then consider whether to limit its requests in time or scope. It specifically directed consideration of overlapping document requests and interrogatories and authorized a return to the Court for further guidance.
The discovery dispute seems to have arisen because of two flaws. Plaintiff’s “any and all” discovery was too broad. Defendant’s objections were not particularized or supported. However, because there was ample time for additional procedures and because of plaintiff’s overly broad discovery, defendant avoided waiver of its objections. In fact, the “any and all” request was so broad that the Court raised the issue sua sponte. It is not clear whether the Court expects a requesting party to clarify “for example, individuals whose emails should be searched, topics or types of transactions that should be focused on, or terms that should be used when conducting searches of communications.”