United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Timothy N. Trainer, Plaintiff,
Continental Carbonic Products, Inc., Defendant.
Matthew J. Schaap, Esq., Dougherty, Molenda, Solfest, Hills
& Bauer P.A., Apple Valley, Minnesota, for Plaintiff.
M. Toft, Esq., Jackson Lewis P.C., Minneapolis, Minnesota,
E. RAU, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on Defendant Continental
Carbonic Products, Inc.'s (“CCPI”) Motion to
Compel Discovery, for Spoliation Sanctions Including
Dismissal of Action, and for Attorneys' Fees
(“Motion to Compel”) [Doc. No. 42]. This matter
has been referred for the resolution of pretrial matters
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and District of Minnesota
Local Rule 72.1. For the reasons stated below, the motion is
Timothy N. Trainer (“Trainer”) is a white male
whose wife is African-American and whose children are
biracial. (Am. Compl.) [Doc. No. 13 ¶¶ 9-10].
CCPI's Burnsville location hired Trainer in August 2013
as a full-time driver. (Id. ¶ 8). After
learning about the race of Trainer's family members,
Trainer's coworker, Travis Gilder (“Gilder”),
began making “offensive and derogatory comments”
regarding Trainer's family. (Id. ¶ 13).
Gilder also made racist jokes and showed Trainer racist
cartoons and memes. (Id. ¶ 15). Gilder was
promoted to assistant manager in September 2014, thereby
becoming Trainer's direct supervisor, and continued to
make racist jokes and comments. (Id. ¶¶
April 2015, Gilder again made racist statements about
Trainer's family, and the two had a verbal altercation.
(Id. ¶ 18). Trainer called an employee in
CCPI's human resources office to report the behavior.
(Id. ¶ 19). Trainer then called human resources
repeatedly because his calls were not returned for seven to
ten days. (Id. ¶ 20). During this period,
Gilder continued to attempt to contact Trainer. (Id.
¶ 21). CCPI fired Gilder three weeks after Trainer's
first complaint. (Id. ¶ 24). In October 2015,
Trainer requested CCPI's investigation file regarding
Gilder because he wanted to file a charge with the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”).
(Id. ¶¶ 25-26). CCPI refused to provide
the file, and fired Trainer three weeks later. (Id.
alleges that CCPI violated the Minnesota Human Rights Act
provisions based on his familial status and that CCPI
wrongfully terminated him. (Id. ¶¶ 29-44).
Motion to Compel, CCPI argues Trainer deleted text messages
and emails that are responsive to its discovery requests.
See (Def.'s Mem. of Law in Supp. of Mot. to
Compel, “Mem. in Supp.”) [Doc. No. 45 at 1]. CCPI
seeks various forms of relief related to this spoliation, and
also seeks information regarding Trainer's tax returns,
government benefits, evictions, and phone records.
(Id. at 22-30). CCPI also seeks attorney's fees.
(Id. at 30-31).
the hearing, the Court ordered the parties to engage in
further meet-and-confer efforts. (Minute Entry Dated May 14,
2018) [Doc. No. 52]. As a result, the parties resolved the
majority of their dispute. (Letter Dated May 21, 2018) [Doc.
No. 54]. The remaining issues relate to text messages and
emails that CCPI argues have not been produced and are
relevant to the claims and defenses in this
case. CCPI also seeks spoliation sanctions-up to
and including dismissal of this lawsuit-and attorneys'
fees. See (Mem. in Supp. at 12) (requesting
dismissal); (id. at 16-18) (requesting an
adverse-inference instruction and a finding that destroyed
evidence was unfavorable to Trainer); (id. at 18)
(requesting “any and all appropriate relief” and
monetary sanctions); (id. at 30) (requesting
reimbursement of reasonable expenses and attorney's
Court first discusses whether the text messages and emails
should be produced, followed by a discussion of sanctions.
Federal Rules permit
discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant
to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the
needs of the case, considering the importance of the issues
at stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the
parties' relative access to relevant information, the
parties' resources, the importance of the discovery in
resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of
the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). But discovery is not boundless.
Discovery must be limited if:
(i) the discovery sought is unreasonably cumulative or
duplicative, or can be obtained from some other source that
is more convenient, ...