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Sweet v. Audubon Financial Bureau, LLC

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

December 19, 2016

WENDELL SWEET and STEVEN SWEET, Plaintiffs,
v.
AUDUBON FINANCIAL BUREAU, LLC; DOMENICO D'ANGELO; ADAM MARCH; DANIEL VALENTINE; and MIGUEL GUZMAN, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO COMPEL

          William P. Lynch, United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiffs Wendell and Steven Sweet filed a motion to compel “full and complete supplemental responses” to certain discovery requests from Defendant Daniel Valentine. (Doc. 107.) Valentine filed a response in opposition to the motion (Doc. 114), and Plaintiffs filed a reply (Doc. 117). Plaintiffs propounded interrogatories and requests for production to Valentine on September 6, 2016. (Docs. 100, 108.) They argue that Valentine's responses to Interrogatories 2-8 and Requests for Production 1-5 are insufficient and evasive. After this motion was filed, Valentine provided supplemental responses on December 6, 2016. (Docs. 115, 116.) In reply, Plaintiffs' contend that supplemental responses remain deficient as to Interrogatories 2-7 and Requests for Production 1, 2, 4, and 5. Having reviewed the briefing and the relevant law, and being otherwise fully informed on these matters, I grant the motion to compel.

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 33, governing interrogatories to parties, provides that “interrogatories must be answered (A) by the party to whom they are directed . . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(b)(1). Additionally, “[e]ach interrogatory must, to the extent it is not objected to, be answered separately and fully in writing under oath.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(b)(3). A party objecting to an interrogatory must specify its grounds for the objection. Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(b)(4); e.g., Doe v. Nat'l Hemophilia Found., 194 F.R.D. 516, 520 (D. Md. 2000). Any objection not raised or not raised with specificity is waived. Miller v. Pruneda, 236 F.R.D. 277, 281 (N.D. W.Va. 2004). An incomplete or evasive answer is not considered an answer, but rather a failure to answer. Villareal v. El Chile, Inc., 266 F.R.D. 207, 212 (N.D. Ill. 2010) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(4)).

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 34, a party must either produce documents responsive to a request for production (“RFP”) or “state with specificity the grounds for objecting to the request, including the reasons” and “state whether any responsive materials are being withheld on the basis of that objection.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(b)(2). As with interrogatories, general objections to a request for production are insufficient and will be overruled. See Convertino v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 565 F.Supp.2d 10, 12-13 (D.D.C. 2008).

         As an initial matter, it appears that Valentine did not sign or verify his responses. Failure to verify an answer to an interrogatory renders that answer incomplete. Villareal, 266 F.R.D. at 212. Rule 33 is clear that interrogatories must be answered and signed by the party to whom they are directed. See Cabales v. United States, 51 F.R.D. 498, 499 (S.D.N.Y. 1970). On this basis, Valentine's answers to the Interrogatories are incomplete. Valentine has fourteen days from the date of entry of this Order to provide complete answers, including verification.

         Interrogatory No. 2: Interrogatory No. 2 asked Valentine to provide information about his employment history for the last ten years. Specifically:

For the last ten years, for every company for which you have provided services, worked at, owned, or were an officer, director, employee or independent contractor (including self-employment):
a. identify (i.e., state the full name, all known addresses and telephone numbers) the company;
b. state your role, title and provide a description of the duties you were assigned or the services you provided;
c. state the dates of your association with the company;
d. state how you were compensated for your services;
e. identify your immediate supervisor; and
f. describe in detail the reason you stopped working for or providing services to the company.

(Doc. 117 Ex. 1 at 2.) Plaintiffs contend that Valentine's original and supplemental answers were incomplete and evasive. Valentine unilaterally limited the request to the last five years and provided incomplete information for two entities with which he was associated, and objected that the Interrogatory was “overbroad and unduly burdensome” and not reasonably calculated to lead to admissible evidence. (Id. at 3.) In response to the motion, Valentine contends that Plaintiffs are on a fishing expedition and that Interrogatory No. 2 was “over broad and unduly burdensome, ” but that he provided information on relevant business.

         Valentine provided no authority for limiting his response to five years or for providing incomplete information. Additionally, this case was filed in 2013 and has been delayed for three years. I agree with the Plaintiffs that ten years is a reasonable time period under the circumstances. Further, Valentine failed to explain how this Interrogatory is “unduly burdensome.” Finally, Valentine cited no authority for unilaterally limiting the Interrogatory. This case involves claims of deception and corporate cloaking. Under the circumstances, I agree with the Plaintiffs' that Valentine's response to Interrogatory No. 2 was insufficient. Within fourteen days from the date of entry of this Order, Valentine will provide a full response to Interrogatory No. 2. Valentine is reminded that he is required to verify his response to this Interrogatory and to certify under oath that the response is complete.

         Interrogatory No. 3: Interrogatory No. 3 stated:

Concerning your association with Audubon Financial Bureau, LLC (“AFB”):
a. describe all activities you have performed for or on behalf of AFB and the dates for which you performed these activities;
b. state whether you have ever been involved in a decision to hire or fire any AFB ...

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