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Gutshall v. New Prime, Inc.

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Plaintiff brought suit against Tapper and New Time.  Plaintiff served an interrogatory to New Time requesting any surveillance evidence of Plaintiff. At that time, New Time did not have any, so New Time responded in the negative. Thereafter, New Time obtained surveillance evidence, but did not supplement the interrogatory. Plaintiff motioned to compel. New Time alleges the evidence is protect by work product, and it only intended to use the evidence for impeachment purposes.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    In a federal personal injury action, a defendant may not protect surveillance tapes of the plaintiff’s actual physical condition from disclosure under the work product doctrine when the plaintiff has a substantial need for the evidence and cannot obtain the evidence without an undue hardship. 

    Facts.

    When, Plaintiff, Gutshall, was driving a tractor-trailer he was stuck by Robert Tapper, who was driving a tractor-trailer owned by New Prime, Inc.,  at the rear of his trailer. Plaintiff brought suit against Tapper for negligence and seeks to hold New Prime vicariously liable, pursuant to respondeat superior, because Tapper was acting within the scope of his employment when the accident occurred. Plaintiff served an interrogatory requesting information about whether New Prime did any surveillance of Plaintiff and whether there was any evidence to the claim that could be produced. At that moment, New Prime did not conducted any, thus, New Time responded that it had not. Nonetheless, New Prime, later, conducted surveillance. Thereafter, Plaintiff provided notice and motioned to compel discovery responses and exclude the evidence alleging New Prime failed to supplement its responses to the interrogatory. New Prime objected on the grounds that the surveillance was solely to be used for impeachment purposes. Thus, it was not obligated to turn the evidence to Plaintiff. Also, New Prime contends the evidence contained work product protection.

    Issue.

    Whether, in a federal personal injury action, a defendant may protect surveillance tapes of the plaintiff’s actual physical condition from disclosure under the work product doctrine when the plaintiff has a substantial need for the evidence and cannot obtain the evidence without an undue hardship.

    Held.

    No, in a federal personal injury action, a defendant may not protect surveillance tapes of the plaintiff’s actual physical condition from disclosure under the work product doctrine when the plaintiff has a substantial need for the evidence and cannot obtain the evidence without an undue hardship.

    Discussion.

    Under FRCP 26, one must only request evidence that “appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.” Also, FRCP 26, only stated the required initial disclosure a party must make. Here, New Prime contends the surveillance evidence does not need to be turned over to Plaintiff because New Prime solely intends to use it for impeachment purposes.  The court disagrees with New Time because a defendant may not protect surveillance tapes of the plaintiff’s actual physical condition from disclosure under the work product doctrine when the plaintiff has a substantial need for the evidence and cannot obtain the evidence without an undue hardship. Here, the surveillance evidence related to Plaintiff’s physical condition, thus, New Times intended use is irrelevant. Also, Plaintiff would be experience an undue hardship if the evidence is not turned over because such tapes cannot be replicated. Plaintiff cannot obtain an equivalent form of evidence without undue hardship. Furthermore, most federal courts do not even believe surveillance tapes are safeguarding the protection of work product privilege. Therefore, Plaintiff’s motion to compel is granted..


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