The discovery process gives parties to a lawsuit the opportunity to seek information, documents, and other evidence from one another. It’s an essential part of litigation and one that can help a person suing for a personal injury solidify and weigh the merits of his or her case. There are limits on just what you can seek to discover, however, as the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of West Virginia recently explained.
Mr. Deitz was injured in a car accident on I-64 in Barboursville when the vehicle he was driving was allegedly rear-ended by a tractor trailer. Deitz said he was traveling eastbound in a Honda Civic and was attempting to pull over to the side of the road when the tractor trailer plowed into the back of his car. He also said that he suffered serious injuries as a result of the crash, including a permanent brain injury. Deitz sued Pilot Travel Centers, which owned the tractor trailer and employed the driver behind the wheel at the time of the collision, for negligence.
Deitz served Pilot Travel Centers with various discovery requests. Among other questions, he asked the company to disclose whether it had been sued over any other motor vehicle accident over the previous 10 years. If so, Deitz requested that the company describe the lawsuits in detail and explain how they were resolved. PTC balked at the request, arguing that the information about accidents in other cases involving drivers that weren’t involved in Deitz’s case wasn’t relevant to the case at hand. They said it wasn’t likely to turn up information that would be admissible as evidence at trial. Since the company owns roughly 600 stores across the country, it said going back over lawsuits in the previous decade would also be unduly burdensome.
Deitz then asked the District Court to order the company to respond to the discovery process. The District Court sided with Deitz. “The federal discovery rules allow parties to obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party’s claim or defense,” the Court said. “Relevancy in discovery is broad in scope, such that relevancy encompasses any matter that bears or may bear on any issue that is or may be in the case.” As a result, the Court explained that the party opposing discovery usually bears the burden of showing that a certain request is unreasonable or irrelevant.
In this case, the Court said other claims against the company related to accidents involving two or more vehicles were within the scope of permissible discovery. Although the Court said Deitz’s request was “a little broad” and should be pared down to a five-year period, it said the information sought was sufficiently relevant to Deitz’s claim that the company didn’t properly train its drivers.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, the Wolfe Law Firm can help. Our West Virginia car accident lawyers have been serving clients throughout the state for more than 25 years. Located in Elkins, West Virginia, the firm represents clients in a wide range of injury, criminal defense, and bankruptcy matters. Call us at 1-877-637-5756 or contact us online for a free consultation.
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