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Lureen v. Holl

United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Southern Division

August 31, 2017

KERRI LUREEN, AS GUARDIAN AD LITEM OF S.L., A MINOR; Plaintiff,
v.
CHRISTOPHER JOHN HOLL, IN HIS PERSONAL CAPACITY AND AS OWNER; METRO INITIATIVES, LLC, DOCTOR'S ASSOCIATES, INC., JOHN CLARK, IN HIS PERSONAL CAPACITY AND AS OWNER; FRANCHISE WORLD HEADQUARTERS, LLC, SUBWAY IP, INC., Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING IN PART AND GRANTING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO COMPEL DOCKET NO. 58

          VERONICA L. DUFFY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION

         This matter is before the court on plaintiff Kerri Lureen's amended complaint alleging sex discrimination, hostile work environment, constructive discharge, negligence, and assault and battery. See Docket No. 46. Jurisdiction is founded on the presence of a federal question, diversity of citizenship of the parties, and the court's supplemental jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1332, and 1367. Plaintiff has filed a motion to compel two categories of discovery. See Docket No. 58. Defendants resist the motion. See Docket No. 72. The Honorable Lawrence L. Piersol, United States District Court Judge, referred plaintiff's motion to this magistrate judge for decision pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A). See Docket No. 63.

         FACTS

         A. Background and Parties

         Plaintiff is the mother and guardian of S.L., a minor. S.L. worked for a Subway restaurant on East Arrow Avenue NE in Watertown, South Dakota, for approximately 9 months, from August, 2015, to March 16, 2016. S.L. was 15 years old at the time she went to work for Subway. S.L.'s claims center around sexual contact perpetrated by her direct manager at Subway, Kiley Ramstorf, a man 14 years older than she. The Watertown Subway was owed at the time by Metro Initiatives, LLC ("Metro"), a business entity owned by defendants Christopher John Holl and John Clark, together with Ramstorf. Metro owned five separate Subway restaurants. Neither party has informed the court of the locations of these restaurants or the dates during which Metro owned the restaurants.

         After the sexual contact between S.L. and Ramstorf came to light, Ramstorf was charged criminally, convicted, and sentenced to two years' imprisonment for the crime of sexual exploitation of a minor. Ramstorf had been investigated in 2013 and 2014 for suspected sexual contact with minors, apparently without any criminal charges ever being asserted.

         Plaintiff alleges that defendants Doctor's Associates, Inc. ("DIA"); Franchise World Headquarters, LLC ("FWH"); and Subway IP (plaintiff collectively characterizes these parties as "Subway"), provided franchise training and ongoing managerial training of Ramstorf both online, regionally, and at its corporate office in Connecticut. Plaintiff alleges these defendants had substantial control over day-to-day activities of its franchisees, and specifically, over Metro. Plaintiff asserts that the Subway defendants and Metro should be considered a single employer, joint employers, or as principal and agent.

         Plaintiff alleges that defendants Holl, Clark, and Metro had prior knowledge of at least one of Ramstorf's prior criminal investigations for sexual contact with minors. Plaintiff alleges all defendants had been made aware of multiple complaints about Ramstorf's inappropriate behavior toward female employees at the Subway store where S.L. worked and that these complaints were brought to defendants' attention prior to the time Ramstorf victimized S.L. Despite this foreknowledge, plaintiff asserts none of the defendants took any appropriate action to address Ramstorf's behavior toward female employees.

         B. Discovery Disputes

         1. Interrogatory Number 43

         Plaintiff served two discovery requests which are the subject of this motion to compel, one an interrogatory directed to DIA and the other a request for the production of documents directed to defendants. The interrogatory asked the following:

Interrogatory No. 43:
Identify any and all other claims of sexual harassment or any inappropriate sexual behavior or contact between managers or any other female employees at any of your franchises in the last 10 years including but not limited to formal complaints to the EEOC or litigation resulted and state the manner of resolution of those complaints.

See Docket No. 60-1 at p. 15.

         DAI responded to the interrogatory with the objection that it was overbroad, unduly burdensome, not proportional to the needs of the case, and not relevant. Id. DAI explained that the request called for information about franchisees, over which DAI disclaims any management authority regarding managers of Subway franchises or sexual harassment. Id. Also, DAI asserted the discovery request called for information about other franchisees and locations not relevant to this lawsuit. Id.

         In a subsequent letter to defense counsel, plaintiff's counsel asserted the discovery request was relevant under Sandoval v. Amer. Bldg. Maint. Indus., Inc., 578 F.3d 787, 802 (8th Cir. 2009). See Docket No. 60-3 at p. 2. Plaintiff did not address the overbreadth or burden objections made by DAI. Id. DAI pointed this lapse out when it responded via letter. See Docket No. 60-4 at p. 2.

         Plaintiff's counsel wrote a subsequent letter in response, but misconstrued DAI's position and never addressed the overbroad/undue burden issue.[1]See Docket No. 60-5 at p. 2. In another subsequent letter, plaintiff's counsel wrote that DIA "ha[d] not provided case law supporting your position that such information is not relevant. If this information is not provided by July 7, 2017, we will have ...


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