Law School Case Brief
Auto-Owners Ins. Co. v. Se. Floating Docks, Inc. - 231 F.R.D. 426 (M.D. Fla. 2005)
Several district court cases from outside the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit have held that, absent a claim of privilege, a party has no standing to challenge a subpoena to a non-party. The law governing courts in the Eleventh Circuit, however, is somewhat broader, and standing exists if the party alleges a personal right or privilege with respect to the subpoenas.
Plaintiff insurance company brought a civil action against the defendants. At trial, the insurer issued five subpoenas to various non-parties for depositions and production of records. Four of the subpoenas required compliance at the same place and time. A fifth subpoena to non-party ShoreMaster, Inc. requires compliance in Minnesota, the location of the non-party. The subpoenas duces tecum and deposition notices seek discovery regarding the nature of the non-parties' business, the corporations' governing documents, ownership of the corporations, and broad discovery regarding the non-parties' financial transactions. Defendants filed an expedited motion to quash non-party subpoenas for deposition and document production pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 45 and 26. The insurer claimed that defendants lacked standing to quash the subpoenas.
Did the defendants lack standing to quash the subpoenas?
No, as to one untimely subpoena based on adequate notice; yes, as to the grounds of relevance, oppressiveness, and undue burden.
The court found that defendants did have standing as to the one untimely subpoena based on inadequate notice under Fed. R. Civ. P. 45. Nevertheless, the matter was moot because the deposition was rescheduled. Defendants lacked standing on the grounds of relevance, oppressiveness, and undue burden because the non-parties did not object, and defendants failed to establish a personal right regarding confidential or proprietary records. Further, defendants showed no undue burden and had no standing on the grounds of oppression and undue burden placed on the third parties. The court did find good cause for a protective order under Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(c) because it did not depend on legal privilege, and the court agreed that the discovery was irrelevant because it did not relate to a claim or defense but was in aid of execution of a judgment not yet entered. The discovery as to financial matters was grossly overbroad and irrelevant. However, the court found that discovery regarding corporate structure and control was permissible in order to establish that the third parties were possibly interrelated with defendants.
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