The perils of social networking and other discovery issues

In this case, nothing came of it, but it remains dangerous to those who are unaware.  Turk wrote about it too.

CPLR § 3101 Scope of disclosure

Abrams v Pecile. 2011 NY Slip Op 03108 (App. Div., 1st 2011)

In this action for, among other things, conversion and intentional infliction of emotional distress, plaintiff alleges that defendant, a former employee of plaintiff's husband, retained, without permission, a copy of a CD containing seminude photographs of plaintiff taken by her husband during their honeymoon. Plaintiff further alleges that defendant refused to return the CD and photographs unless plaintiff's husband paid defendant $2.5 million to settle her sexual harassment claims brought against plaintiff's husband and his brother.

Supreme Court improvidently exercised its discretion in ordering plaintiff to comply with the outstanding discovery demands. With respect to defendant's demand for access to plaintiff's social networking accounts, no showing has been made that "the method of discovery sought will result in the disclosure of relevant evidence or is reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of information bearing on the claims" (Vyas v Campbell, 4 AD3d 417, 418 [2004][internal quotation marks and citation omitted]; see also McCann v Harleysville Ins. Co. of N.Y., 78 AD3d 1524, 1525 [2010]). Because plaintiff admits that she has copies of the photographs contained on the subject CD, defendant has also failed to show that she needs access to plaintiff's hard drive in order to defeat plaintiff's conversion claim. Nor has defendant shown that broad discovery concerning plaintiff's finances, education, immigration status, and educational background is "material and necessary" (CPLR 3101[a]).

With respect to defendant's demand for materials prepared in anticipation of litigation, defendant has failed to show "substantial need" for the materials or that she is "unable without undue hardship to obtain the substantial equivalent of the materials by other means" (Santariga v McCann, 161 AD2d 320, 321-322 [1990]; see CPLR 3101[d][2]). Further, defendant is not entitled to privileged communications between plaintiff and her prior counsel (see CPLR 4503[a]).

Discovery of materials concerning plaintiff's family and her husband's business should be obtained through nonparty discovery pursuant to CPLR 3101(a)(4).

Defendant's remaining discovery demands are either overbroad or irrelevant.

JFK Family Ltd. Partnership v Millbrae Natural Gas Dev. Fund 2005, L.P., 2011 NY Slip Op 03211 (App. Div., 2nd 2011)

No appeal lies as of right from an order denying an application to direct a witness to respond to questions posed during the course of a deposition (see McGuire v Zarlengo, 250 AD2d 823, 824; Mann v Alvarez, 242 AD2d 318, 320). However, this Court may deem the plaintiffs' notice of appeal from such an order to be an application for leave to appeal, and grant leave to appeal (see McGuire v Zarlengo, 250 AD2d at 824; Mann v Alvarez, 242 AD2d at 320), and we do so here. 

CPLR 3101(a) requires, in pertinent part, "full disclosure of all matter material and necessary in the prosecution or defense of an action." Generally, CPLR 3101 is to be construed liberally in favor of disclosure, so long as the information sought meets the test of "usefulness and reason" (Allen v Crowell-Collier Publ. Co., 21 NY2d 403, 406, 406-407; see Scalone v Phelps Mem. Hosp. Ctr., 184 AD2d 65, 69-70). However, the principle of "full disclosure" does not give a party the right to uncontrolled and unfettered disclosure (see Gilman & Ciocia, Inc. v Walsh, 45 AD3d 531, 531). Moreover, the Supreme Court has broad discretion over the supervision of disclosure, and its determination will not be disturbed absent an improvident exercise of that discretion (Spodek v Neiss, 70 AD3d 810, 810; Reilly Green Mtn. Platform Tennis v Cortese, 59 AD3d 694, 695; Cabellero v City of New York, 48 AD3d 727, 728; Gilman & Ciocia, Inc. v Walsh, 45 AD3d at 531). Under the circumstances of this case, the Supreme Court's denial of those branches of the plaintiffs' motion pursuant to CPLR 3216 which were to compel the defendants to disclose certain documentary evidence and its grant of those branches of the defendants' cross motion which were for a protective and confidentiality order as to certain evidence sought through discovery, were provident exercises of its discretion.

The plaintiffs' remaining contentions, including those referable to their application to compel deposition witnesses to respond to certain questions, are without merit.

Taylor v New York City Hous. Auth., 2011 NY Slip Op 03229 (App. Div., 2nd 2011)

"[N]o appeal as of right lies from an order directing a party to answer questions propounded at an examination before trial" (Nappi v North Shore Univ. Hosp., 31 AD3d 509, 510-511 see Scalone v Phelps Mem. Hosp. Ctr., 184 AD2d 65, 69). An order deciding "a motion to compel a witness to answer questions propounded at an examination before trial is akin to a ruling made in the course of the examination itself and as such is not appealable as of right even where it was made upon a full record and on the defendant's motion to compel responses" (Singh v Villford Realty Corp., 21 AD3d 892, 893 [citations omitted]; see Daniels v Fairfield Presidential Mgt. Corp., 43 AD3d 386, 387; Cedrone v Bon Secours Community Hosp., 31 AD3d 596). The plaintiffs have not sought leave to appeal, and there is nothing in the record that would warrant granting leave to appeal on the Court's own motion (see Daniels v Fairfield Presidential Mgt. Corp., 43 AD3d at 387).

W&W Glass, LLC v 1113 York Ave. Realty Co. LLC, 2011 NY Slip Op 02786 (App. Div., 1st 2011)

 

The record fails to support the motion court's determination that defendants' failure to comply with discovery obligations was willful, or in bad faith (see Fish & Richardson, P.C. v Schindler, 75 AD3d 219 [2010]; Banner v New York City Hous. Auth., 73 AD3d 502 [2010]. Absent such showing, the motion court erred in imposing the "harshest available penalty" against defendants (see Basset v Bando Sangsa Co., 103 AD2d 728, 728 [1984]).

Finally, we note that the record discloses no evidence of defendants' repeated failures to comply with the court's discovery orders. Indeed, there appear to be no prior motions by plaintiff to compel disclosure, rendering any motion to strike the answer pursuant to CPLR 3126 premature in this case.

The bold is mine.

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