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Laws v. Stevens Transp., Inc.

United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Eastern Division

February 19, 2013, Filed

Case No. 2:12-cv-544



This is a personal injury case arising out of a motor vehicle accident. According to the parties, the accident occurred in Lima, Ohio when plaintiff Benjamin Laws' rental car and a truck owned by defendant Stevens Transport and driven by defendant Charles G. Dunn, III collided.

The parties have reached an impasse over this issue: must certain photographs taken on the day of the accident be turned over to the plaintiffs? There is no question that plaintiffs have asked for all such photographs, nor any question that defendants have not produced all the ones in their possession. The legal impediment to producing the withheld photographs is, according to defendants,  [*2] the work product doctrine. For the following reasons, the Court agrees and will deny plaintiffs' motion to compel production of the photos in question.

I. The Facts

The parties do not appear to dispute the relevant facts. The accident happened on June 4, 2010. The only evidence about the photographs which defendants have withheld is found in an affidavit from defendants' counsel, Robert C. Buchbinder, which was filed as a supplemental exhibit (Doc. 40). According to that affidavit, Mr. Buchbinder was contacted in some way (his affidavit does not say how) by "[r]epresentatives of the Defendants" that same day and asked to begin an investigation of the accident. Mr. Buchbinder then hired Dave Helm, an investigator who works for Custard Insurance Adjusters. Mr. Helm went out to the scene of the accident and took the photographs which plaintiffs want to see. Several reports, with exhibits, prepared by Mr. Helm on the date of the accident are listed on defendants' privilege log. The Court infers from defendants' memorandum in opposition (Doc. 38) that the photographs show the truck at the accident scene and the condition of the rental car "at a nearby lot ...." See Doc. 38 at 6 ("Defendants  [*3] further submit that if Plaintiffs are entitled to impose upon Defendants' work product, then the following limited photographs, if any, should be produced at Plaintiffs' reasonable expense: 1. Photographs taken of the Defendants' tractor trailer at the scene on June 4, 2010; 2. Photographs taken of Mr. Laws' rental car at a nearby lot on June 4, 2010"). The Court notes that there appear to be photos of the truck taken on the day of the accident which may have been produced, since in an email dated December 21, 2012, Mr. Buchbinder told plaintiffs' counsel that he would produce pictures taken by the adjuster of the "point of impact" area of the truck after it was moved. See Doc. 37, Exhibit G.

There are other photographs of the accident. Mr. Dunn took photos with his cell phone. Those have been produced. They all appear to show the accident scene prior to any vehicles being moved. It also appears to be a fact (although the Court is unsure of the evidentiary basis for it, other than the fact that defendants have said it and plaintiffs have not refuted it) that the rental car was both unrepaired and available for some months after the accident, and at a time when plaintiffs were represented  [*4] by counsel.

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2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 22159 *; 2013 WL 608046

Benjamin Laws, Jr., et al., Plaintiffs, v. Stevens Transport, Inc., et al., Defendants.

Subsequent History: Motion granted by, Motion denied by, Motion to strike denied by Laws v. Stevens Transp., Inc., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 32221 (S.D. Ohio, Mar. 8, 2013)

Motion granted by, Motion denied by, Partial summary judgment denied by Laws v. Stevens Transp., Inc., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 120088 (S.D. Ohio, Aug. 23, 2013)

Motion granted by Laws v. Stevens Transp., Inc., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 195003 (S.D. Ohio, Sept. 9, 2013)

Motion granted by, in part, Motion denied by, in part, Motion granted by, Motion denied by Laws v. Stevens Transp., Inc., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 129764 (S.D. Ohio, Sept. 11, 2013)


photographs, pictures, rental car, defendants', work product, discovery, anticipation of litigation, accident scene, undue hardship, Plaintiffs'