Judges Opinions Public Notices, — January 16, 2020 12:03 — 0 Comments

Public Notices, December 11, 2019

Volume 57, No. 19

 

PUBLIC NOTICES

DECEDENTS’ ESTATES

NAME CHANGE

NOTICE TO DEFEND AND CLAIM RIGHTS

NOTICE OF INTENTION TO REQUEST ENTRY OF DIVORCE DECREE

NOTICE AND AFFIDVIT

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

In Re: 64 Vehicle Accident On Interstate 78 on February 13, 2016 NO. 2018-00326

 

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that Letters Testamentary or of Administration have been granted in the following estates. All persons indebted to the said estate are required to make payment, and those having claims or demands to present the same without delay to the administrators or executors named.

 

FIRST PUBLICATION

 

ESTATE OF ZDZISLAW BARCYXK, late of the City of Lebanon, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, deceased. Letters of Administration have been granted to the undersigned Administrator.

 

Ankur Shah, Administrator

James N. Clymer, Esquire

Clymer Musser & Sarno, PC

408 West Chestnut Street

Lancaster, PA 17603

 

ESTATE OF HELEN M. FISHER, a/k/a HELEN ELIZABETH FISHER, late of Annville Township, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, deceased. Letters Testamentary have been granted to the undersigned Executrix.

 

Lorene M Taraschi- Executrix

Gerald J. Brinser, Esquire

P.O. Box 323

Palmyra, PA 17078

 

ESTATE OF THOMAS E. LIGHT, late of Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, deceased. Letters Testamentary have been granted to the undersigned Executrix.

 

Barbara J. Light

Anthony J. Fitzgibbons, Esquire

279 North Zinn’s Mill Road

Suite D

Lebanon, PA 17042

 

ESTATE OF JACK E. SCHWARTZ, late of South Londonderry Township, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, deceased. Letters Testamentary have been granted to the undersigned Executrix.

 

Melody K. Donmoyer, Executrix

Keith D. Wagner, Esquire

Brinser Wagner

P.O. Box 323

Palmyra, PA 17078

 

 

 

SECOND PUBLICATION

 

ESTATE OF SAMUEL M. BLACK, late of Cornwall Borough, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, deceased. Letters Testamentary have been granted to the undersigned Executrix.

 

Alicia Black-Kirby, Executrix

c/o C. Thomas Work, Esquire

 

  1. Thomas Work, Esquire

Stevens & Lee

P.O. Box 679

Reading, PA 19603

 

ESTATE OF NANCY A. ROGERS a/k/a NANCY ANNE ROGERS, late of North Lebanon Township, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, deceased. Letters Testamentary have been granted to the undersigned Co-Executors.

 

David C. Rogers, Co-Executor

430 Orchard Lane

Manheim, PA 17545

 

Martha A. Gingrich, Co-Executrix

240 Freeport Road

Lebanon, PA 17046

 

Frederick D. Rogers, Co-Executor

547A Hershey Road

Hummelstown, PA 17036

 

Johnathan B. Batdorf, Esquire

317 East Lancaster Avenue

Shillington, PA 19607

 

ESTATE OF JOHN T. GABRIEL, late of Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, deceased. Letters Testamentary have been granted to the undersigned Executor.

 

Thomas J. Gabriel, Executor

George E. Christianson, Esquire

411 Chestnut Street

Lebanon, PA 17042

 

ESTATE OF MARK S. TICE, late of Jackson Township, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, deceased. Letters Testamentary have been granted to the undersigned Executor.

 

William F. Seifert, Executor

207 N. Locust Street

Myerstown, PA 17067

 

Kenneth C. Sandoe, Esquire

Steinder & Sandoe

36 West Main Avenue

Myerstown, PA 17067

 

ESTATE OF HAROLD L. YOHN, late of Bethel Township, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, deceased. Letters Testamentary have been granted to the undersigned Executrix.

 

Amy Shirk, Executrix

104 Beech Avenue

Fredericksburg, PA 17026

 

Kari E. Panza, Esquire

R.J. Marzella & Associates

3513 North Front Street

Harrisburg, PA 17110

 

THIRD PUBLICATION

 

ESTATE OF TINA J. TIENE, late of Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, deceased. Letters Testamentary have been granted to the undersigned Executrix.

 

Traci M. Bookbinder, Executrix

Anthony J. Fitzgibbons, Esquire

279 North Zinns Mill Road

Lebanon, PA 17042

 

ESTATE OF ANNA B. ALBERT, a/k/a ANNA E. ALBERT, a/k/a ANNIE E. ALBERT, late of North Annville Township, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, deceased. Letters Testamentary have been granted to the undersigned Executrix.

 

Mary A. College, Executrix

Gerald J. Brinser, Esquire

P.O. Box 323

Palmyra, PA 17078

 

ESTATE OF SUSAN J. MURRAY, late of North Londonderry Township, Lebanon County Pennsylvania, deceased. Letters of Administration have been granted to the undersigned Administratrix.

 

Jennifer S. Beard, Administratrix

5816 Mayfair Drive

Harrisburg, Pa 17112

 

Kenneth F. Lewis, Esquire

1101 N. Front Street

First Floor

Harrisburg, PA 17102

 

ESTATE OF RONALD R. LOUSER, late of Jackson Township, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, deceased. Letters of Administration have been granted to the undersigned Administratrix.

 

Faye R. Louser, Administratrix

Kevin M. Richards, Esquire

P.O. Box 1140

Lebanon, PA 17042-1140

 

ESTATE OF V. CARL GACONO, a/k/a VENICE CARL GACONO, late of Annville Township, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, deceased. Letters Testamentary have been granted to the undersigned Co-Executrices.

 

Rebecca Gacono Harlan, Co-Executrix

Mary Ann Gacono Darok, Co-Executrix

 

Kevin M. Richards, Esquire

P.O. Box 1140

Lebanon, PA 17042-1140

 

ESTATE OF PATRICIA A. SCHOOLS, late of Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, deceased. Letters Testamentary have been granted to the undersigned Co-Executors.

 

Diane K. Stevens, Co-Executrix

356 Kalmia St.

Warminster, PA 18974

 

James A. Schools, Co-Executor

47 Brown Road

Wyalusing, PA 18853

 

Daryl J. Gerber, Esquire

The Law Office of Daryl J. Gerber

46 E. Main Street

Palmyra, PA 17078

 

ESTATE OF GUY R. FESSLER, SR., a/k/a GUY R. FESSLER, late of the City of Lebanon, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, deceased. Letters Testamentary have been granted to the undersigned Co-Executrices.

 

Vickie Lee Hocker, Co-Executrix

Jaqueline V. Dullebawn-Mease, Co-Executrix

 

Kevin M. Dugan, Esquire

Feather and Feather, P.C.,

22 West Main Street

Annville, 17003

 

ESTATE OF BETTY L. KEISER, late of Annville, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, deceased. Letters Testamentary have been granted to the undersigned Executrix.

 

Stephanie Keiser, Executrix

John E. Feather, Jr., Esquire

Feather and Feather, P.C.,

22 West Main Street

Annville, 17003

 

ESTATE OF GEORGE C. POTASH, late of the City of Lebanon, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, deceased. Letters Testamentary have been granted to the undersigned Executor.

 

George C. Potash, III, Executor

Estate of George C. Potash

Reilly Wolfson Law Office

1601 Cornwall Road

Lebanon, PA 17042

 

ESTATE OF ROBERT J. LILLIE, a/k/a ROBERT JONES LILLIE, late of Cornwall Borough, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, deceased. Letters Testamentary have been granted to the undersigned Executrix.

 

Kathryn J. Lillie, Executrix

Kevin M. Richards, Esquire

P.O. Box 1140

Lebanon, PA 17042-1140

 

 

NAME CHANGE

 

IN RE: NAME CHANGE OF SUSAN L. MAST IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS LEBANON COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA Civil Action-Law No. 2019

 

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that on December 5, 2019, the Petition of Susan L. Mast was filed in the above-named Court, praying for a Decree to change her name from Susan L. Mast to SUSAN LANGE MARTIN.

 

The Court has fixed the 6th day of January, 2020 at 1:30 P.M. in Courtroom No. 1 of the Lebanon County Courthouse, 400 South Eighth Street, Lebanon, Pennsylvania 17042, as the time and place for the hearing on said Petition, when and where all persons interested may appear and show cause, if any they have, why the prayer of the said Petition should not be granted.

 

Timothy T. Engler, Esquire

Attorney for Petitioner

36 W. Main Avenue

Myerstown, PA 17067

(717) 866-5737

 

 

SHANNON T. O’BRIEN,                                                    : IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS OF

Plaintiff                       : LEBANON COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA

: CIVIL ACTION – FAMILY DIVISION

  1. : IN DIVORCE

:

MICHAEL T. O’BRIEN,                               : NO. 2017-20746

Defendant                   :

 

 

NOTICE TO DEFEND AND CLAIM RIGHTS

 

You have been sued in Court. If you wish to defend against the claims set forth in the following pages, you must take prompt action. You are warned that if you fail to do so, the case may proceed without you and a Decree of Divorce or Annulment may be entered against you by the Court. A Judgment may also be entered against you for any other claim or relief requested in these papers by the Plaintiff. You may lose money or property or other rights important to you, including custody or visitation of your children.

 

When the ground for the divorce is indignities or irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, you may request marriage counseling. A list of marriage counselors is available in the Office of the Prothonotary at 400 South 8th Street, Municipal Building, Room #104, Lebanon, PA 17042.

 

IF YOU DO NOT FILE A CLAIM FOR ALIMONY, MARITAL PROPERTY, COUNSEL FEES OR EXPENSES BEFORE THE FINAL DECREE OF DIVORCE OR ANNULMENT IS ENTERED, YOU MAY LOSE THE RIGHT TO CLAIM ANY OF THEM.

 

YOU SHOULD TAKE THIS PAPER TO YOUR LAWYER AT ONCE. IF YOU DO NOT HAVE A LAWYER OR CANNOT AFFORD ONE, GO TO OR TELEPHONE THE OFFICE SET FORTH BELOW TO FIND OUT WHERE YOU CAN GET LEGAL HELP.

 

MidPenn Legal Services

513 Chestnut Street

Lebanon, PA   17042

Telephone: (717) 274-2834

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SHANNON T. O’BRIEN,

Plaintiff

 

 

vs.

: IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS OF LEBANON COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA CIVIL ACTION·FAMILY DIVISION

IN DIVORCE

 

 

 

MICHAEL T. O’BRIEN,

Defendant

: NO. 2017-20746

 

NOTICE OF INTENTION TO REQUEST ENTRY OF DIVORCE DECREE

 

To: Michael T. O’Brien, Defendant

 

You have been sued in an action for divorce. You have failed to answer the complaint or file a counter affidavit to the Plaintiffs affidavit. Therefore, on or after 20 days from Service upon you, the Plaintiff can request the court to enter a fmal decree in divorce.

 

If you do not file with the Prothonotary of the court an answer with your signature notarized or verified or a counter affidavit by the above date, the court can enter a fmal decree in divorce. A COUNTER AFFIDAVIT WHICH YOU MAY FILE WITH THE PROTHONOTARY OF THE COURT IS ATTACHED TO THIS NOTICE.

 

Unless you have already filed with the court a written claim for economic relief, you must do so by the above date or the court may grant the divorce and you will lose forever the right to ask for economic relief.

The filing of the form counter-affidavit alone does not protect your economic claims.

 

YOU SHOULD TAKE THIS PAPER TO YOUR LAWYER AT ONCE. IF YOU DO NOT HAVE A LAWYER OR CANNOT AFFORD ONE, GO TO OR TELEPHONE THE OFFICE SET FORTH BELOW. THIS OFFICE CAN PROVIDE YOU WITH INFORMATION ABOUT HIRING A LAWYER. IF YOU CANNOT AFFORD TO HIRE A LAWYER, THIS OFFICE MAY BE ABLE TO PROVIDE YOU WITH INFORMATION ABOUT AGENCIES THAT MAY OFFER LEGAL SERVICES TO ELIGIBLE PERSONS AT A REDUCED FEE OR NO FEE.

 

MIDPENN LEGAL SERVICES

518 Chestnut Street LEBANON, PA 17042 (717) 274-2834

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SHANNON T. O’BRIEN, Plaintiff

 

vs.

IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS OF LEBANON COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA CIVIL ACTION- FAMILY DIVISION

: INDIVORCE

 

 

 

MICHAEL T. O’BRIEN, Defendant

: NO. 2017-20746

 

 

 

 

NOTICE

 

 

If you wish to deny any of the statements set forth in this affidavit, you must file a counteraffidavit within twenty (20). days after this affidavit has been served on you or the statements will be admitted.

 

AFFIDAVIT UNDER SECTION 3301(D) OF THE DIVORCE CODE

 

  1. 1. The parties to this action separated on June 1, 2016 and have continued to live separate and apart for a period of at least two years.

 

  1. The marriage is irretrievably broken.

 

 

  1. 3. I understand that I may lose rights concerning alimony, division of property, lawyer’s fees or expenses if I do not claim them before a divorce is granted.

 

I verify that the statements made in this affidavit are true and correct. I understand that false statements herein are made subject to the penalties of 18 Pa C.S. ‘4904 relating to unsworn falsification to authorities

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Re: 64 Vehicle Accident on Interstate 78 on February 13, 2016

 

Civil Action-Law-Multiple Vehicle Motor Vehicle Accident-Negligence-Personal Injury-Wrongful Death-Commercial Trucks-Discovery-Reasonableness of Request-Information about Unrelated Litigation-Policies and Procedures Manuals-Information regarding Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations

 

A sixty-four (64) vehicle accident occurred on Interstate 78 during an unexpected snow squall that occurred on February 13, 2016, resulting in numerous lawsuits in multiple courts. All of the lawsuits were coordinated for purposes of discovery before the Court, which was called upon to resolve discovery issues including whether the trucking companies involved should produce information regarding other litigation involving their vehicles, the companies should be required to produce copies of policies and procedures manuals and the companies should provide information regarding documentation submitted to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

 

  1. Pa.R.C.P. Rule 4003.1(a) provides that parties to litigation may obtain discovery regarding any matter that is not privileged and is relevant to the subject matter involved in the pending action, whether it relates to the claim or defense of the party seeking discovery or the claim or defense of any other party.

 

  1. Rule 4003.1(b) provides that it is not grounds for objection that the information sought will be inadmissible at trial if the information sought appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.

 

  1. Pa.R.C.P. Rule 4011(b) prohibits discovery that would cause unreasonable annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, burden or expense to the deponent or any party.

 

  1. The trial court enjoys broad discretion in establishing the limits of discovery.

 

  1. Although discovery should be liberally allowed, the trial court must discourage so called fishing expeditions.

 

  1. In determining whether discovery is burdensome, a trial court must balance one party’s right to discovery and another party’s right to be free from unreasonable annoyance.

 

  1. In determining the reasonableness of a discovery request, a trial court must evaluate the nature of the dispute before the court and the importance of the materials sought.

 

  1. Defendants’ objection to the request for information regarding other litigation involving their vehicles is sustained with Plaintiffs being afforded the opportunity to re-craft more specific requests for information pertaining to the particular vehicles and operators involved in the instant accidents.

 

  1. Defendants’ objection to the production of copies of policies and procedures manuals is sustained with Plaintiffs being afforded the opportunity to request production of policies, procedures and training information for drivers about what should be accomplished during inclement weather, policies, procedures and training information regarding a driver’s duty status and attentiveness and policies, procedures and training information regarding how a truck should be operated in a safe manner.

 

  1. Defendants will be directed to disclose their USDOT numbers that will enable Plaintiffs to access desired information pertaining to Federal Motor Carrier Safety regulations.

 

L.C.C.C.P. No. 2018-00326, Opinion by Bradford H. Charles, Judge, March 28, 2019.

 

IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS OF

LEBANON COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA

 

CIVIL ACTION – LAW

 

In Re: 64 Vehicle Accident on                                        : NO. 2018-00326

Interstate 78 on February 13, 2016                    :

                                                                                               

                  

 

ORDER OF COURT

 

AND NOW, this 28th day of March 2019, upon consideration of the Objections to Uniform Request for Production of Documents and Interrogatories that have been proffered to defendant trucking companies, the Order of this Court is as follows:

  1. The objection to Interrogatory 30 is sustained without prejudice to the ability of any party to re-submit more focused questions regarding a trucking company’s involvement in litigation unrelated to the February 13, 2016 accident.
  2. The objection to Interrogatory 38 is sustained with the understanding that all trucking company defendants will provide their USDOT numbers so that access to information on the Motor Carrier Safety Administration website can be facilitated.
  3. The objections to Document Request numbers 5 and 14 are sustained without prejudice to the ability of any party to resubmit more specific documents requests regarding company policies, procedures, training manuals, etc. that address issues that are directly relevant to the February 13, 2016 motor vehicle accident.

 

BY THE COURT:

 

 

BRADFORD H. CHARLES

 

BHC/pmd

cc:     Court Administration

All counsel by email

All Judges by email

Judge John Tylwalk

Stephanie Axarlis, Court Administrator

 

 

IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS OF

LEBANON COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA

 

CIVIL ACTION – LAW

 

In Re: 64 Vehicle Accident on                                          : NO. 2018-00326

Interstate 78 on February 13, 2016                    :

                                                                                               

                       

APPEARANCES:

 

David Lutz, Esquire                                             For Susan Anderson &

                                                                             Timothy Buckley

Joseph Hudock, Esquire                                     FOR John Casale

 

Kathleen Dapper, Esquire                                   FOR Shota Manvelidze

Patrick Murphy, Esquire                                      FOR Jonathan P. Seaver

Joseph Murphy, Esquire                                     FOR Lambert D. Pearce

Christina Pitchford, Esquire                               FOR Melissa Hamilton

Karl Hildabrand, Esquire                                     FOR Sean K. Lindstrom

Mark Gianotti, Esquire                                        FOR Keith R. Coyle

Susan Engle, Esquire                                          FOR Omar Placencio-Correa

George Eager, Esquire                                        FOR Robert E. Helwig, Jr. Frederick G. Perry, Frank Cefai, Alfonso Figueroa, Gina R. Faison, Camela J. Cichocki, Mako J. Wertz, Kenneth G. Morris, Carol Byer, Anthony Beers

Patricia Burns-Horn, Esquire                              FOR Paul S. Pear

Lisa DiBernardo, Esquire                                    FOR Antonio Frutos

Paul Grego, Esquire                                            FOR Michael S. Petit

John Giunta, Esquire                                          FOR Anthony Rios

William Barrett, Esquire                                      FOR Justine Peel

Matthew Siegel, Esquire                                      FOR Fred Vidito

Gary Gremminger, Esquire                                  FOR Guy W. Ehler

June Essis, Esquire                                            FOR Danny R. Fantom

Steven Snyder, Esquire                                       FOR Todd P. Wagner

Bryon Kaster, Esquire                                         FOR Gilbert White

Alan S. Battisti, Esquire                                      FOR Eric G. Longstreet

John Statler, Esquire                                          FOR Pearce Harhigh, Carl J. Spickler, Katherine E. Thompson

Stephen Summers, Esquire                                 FOR Dominick Chiera

Francis Gartner, Esquire                                     FOR Fernando Vales

Seth Black, Esquire                                             FOR Robert Pretorious

Michael Cognetti, Esquire                                   FOR Patricia A. Nesmejanow

Darren Powell, Esquire                                       FOR Michelle A. Erle

Mitchell Berger, Esquire                                     FOR Kristyn L. Mitchell

James DeCinti, Esquire                                       FOR Clarence A. Herman

Kevin Allen, Esquire                                            FOR Giovanni Napolitano

Matthew Garson, Esquire                                    FOR Michael R. Moseman

Zachary Ballard, Esquire                                    FOR Daniel Mollenkopf

Ashley Oakey, Esquire                                        FOR David K. Peterman

Patrick Heffron, Esquire                                     FOR Jan W. Ruhle

John O’Rourke, Esquire                                      FOR Maria T. Prey

Edward McKarski, Esquire                                  FOR Christopher J. Taylor

Joseph Pulcini, Esquire                                      FOR Robert J. Imboden

James Dodd-o, Esquire                                       FOR Rebecca A. Walser

Rolf Kroll, Esquire                                               FOR Stewart T. Meeryle

Adrian Cousens, Esquire                                    FOR Karl J. Schuster

Bryan Smith, Esquire                                          FOR Michael J. Hauer

Nicholas Ortiz, Esquire                                       FOR Bryan Snyder

Theodore Schaer, Esquire                                   FOR Solomon Garrett

 

OPINION BY CHARLES, J., March 28, 2019

 

Before this Court are issues pertaining to discovery that have been raised by various trucking companies whose vehicles were involved in the sixty-four (64) vehicle accident on Interstate 78 that occurred on February 13, 2016. Specifically, three issues have been presented for the Court’s determination:

  • Whether the trucking companies should produce information regarding other litigation involving their vehicles?
  • Whether the companies should be required to produce copies of their policy and procedure manuals?
  • Whether the companies should provide information regarding documentation they submitted to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration?

After setting forth a brief procedural background, we will address each of the three issues now before the Court.

 

  1. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

During an unexpected snow squall, sixty-four (64) vehicles became involved in a “pile-up” accident. Numerous law suits were filed as a result of this accident in multiple courts. Pursuant to Pa.R.C.P. 213.1, all of these lawsuits were coordinated for purposes of discovery before this Court.

In late 2018, the parties proffered Uniform Discovery Requests in the form of Interrogatories and Requests for Production of Documents directed to trucking companies, truck drivers and drivers of other vehicles. Numerous objections were proffered to the Uniform Interrogatories.

Over the course of approximately thirty (30) days, this Court ruled on a question by question basis on each Interrogatory and Request for Production. Most of these rulings were definitive. (You should answer this. You do not have to answer that.) However, there were a few Interrogatories and Requests for Production that warranted more extensive analysis. For these discovery requests, we authorized the filing of briefs by the parties[1].

Counsel for OLD DOMINION undertook the lead role to prepare arguments regarding the issues now before this Court. Most other trucking company defendants simply joined in the arguments proffered by OLD DOMINION. However, FED-EX supplemented those arguments with an additional brief of its own. In addition, several other trucking companies provided letters that added additional information to the briefs filed by OLD DOMINION and FED-EX. Together, the submissions of the defendants raise the following:

  • An objection to Interrogatory 30 relating to unrelated litigation based upon relevance and the burdensome nature of the request.
  • An objection to Document Requests 5 and 14 relating to policies and procedures based upon relevance, the proprietary nature of the information, and the burdensome nature of producing everything requested.
  • An objection to Interrogatory 38 based upon relevance and the availability of the sough-after information through a publically accessible website.

Because we concur with the defendants’ arguments about the currently crafted discovery requests, we will be sustaining all of the objections now before us. However, because we also perceive that some of the sought-after information could be relevant as that term is defined in the Pennsylvania Discovery Rules, we will author this Opinion with the goal of providing insight to the parties as they contemplate more focused discovery.

Each issue will be separately addressed below.

 

  1. DISCUSSION
  1. General Legal Principles

To the extent that litigation constitutes a test, it should be an open book one. Pa.R.C.P 4003.1 sets forth the general principle that parties to civil litigation may “obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, which is relevant to the subject matter involved in the pending action, whether it relates to the claim or defense of the party seeking discovery or to the claim or defense of any other party…” Pa.R.C.P. 4003.1(a). the Rule further provides: “It is not grounds for objection that the information sought will be inadmissible at the trial if the information sought appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.” Pa.R.C.P. 4003.1(b). Our Superior Court has stated that under the guiding light of Rule 4003.1, discovery must be “liberally allowed”. PECO Energy Company v. Insurance Company of North America, 852 A.2d 1230 (Pa. Super. 2004).

Of course, there are limitations to discovery. Most pertinent to the issue now before this Court is Subsection (b) of Pa.R.C.P. 4011. This Rule prohibits discovery that “would cause unreasonable annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, burden or expense to the deponent or any party…” Pa.R.C.P. 4011(b).   This prohibition against unreasonable discovery has been litigated literally thousands of times in courts across this Commonwealth. Most published decisions regarding Rule 4011 are from trial courts; Pennsylvania’s Appellate Courts have rarely been required to address the issue. While most discovery-related opinions are decided on fact-specific grounds, there are several guiding principles that have been consistently articulated. Those include the following:

  • The trial court is responsible for overseeing discovery. Trial judges must “ensure adequate and prompt discovering of matters allowed by the Rules of Civil Procedure.” Berkeyheiser v. A-Plus Investigators Inc., 936 A.2d 1117, 1125 (Pa. Super. 2007). See also, PECO Energy Company v. Insurance Company of North America, Supra.
  • Although discovery should be liberally permitted, courts must discourage so-called “fishing expeditions”. See, Sharp v. Travelers Personal Security Insurance Company, 36 Pa.D&C 5th 521 (2014) and Brandu v. Fawzen, 2015 W.L. 1180916 (2015). See also, In RE Thompson’s Estate, 206 A.2d 21 (Pa. 1965) (Applying pre-1978 rules governing discovery).
  • Every discovery request is burdensome to some degree. It is up to the trial court to determine the point at which the burden becomes unreasonable. The Clearfield County Court aptly summarized this dynamic:

“No discovery is possible without some burden, expense or investigation. It is only when the burden becomes unreasonable that the discovery request is in violation of certain provisions of Pa.R.C.P. 4011. Plaintiffs have shown a prima facie right to discovery by seeking relevant material which is not privileged and appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. It seems clear, then, that the burden must be on the defendant to advance reasons why they feel the discovery requests are unreasonably burdensome. Merely showing that the production will occasion some investigative effort and expense, without some evidence that the burden so imposed would be unreasonable, is not sufficient to prevail under rule 4011.” Weber v. Campbell Soup Company, 41 Pa. D&C 3d 229, 233 (1985).

 

  • In determining whether discovery is burdensome, a trial court must balance “one parties’ right to discovery and another person’s right to be free from unreasonable annoyance, oppression or burden.” J. Freehand Inc. v. Smith, 2008 Lexis 299 (Pa. D&C. 2008). In determining the reasonableness of a discovery request, the trial court must evaluate the nature of the dispute before the court and the importance of the materials sought. Guffey v. Kyraizis, 36 Pa. D&C 5th 87 (2014).
  • Trial courts enjoy broad discretion in establishing the limits of discovery. Kerns v. Methodist Hospital, 574 A.2d 1068 (Pa. Super. 1990); Ironworkers Savings and Loan Association v. I.W.S., 622 A.2d 367 (Pa. Super. 1993)

 

  1. Interrogatory 30 pertaining to unrelated litigation

Interrogatory 30 addressed to trucking companies asks the question:

“30. Has your trucking company had any lawsuits filed against it in the previous seven years involving claims of motor vehicle and/or trucking negligence and/or breach of duty? If so, please state:

  • The resolution of such lawsuits;
  • The nature of all circumstances surrounding such lawsuits;
  • Whether or not this driver was a named defendant in any such lawsuits.”

 

The trucking companies argue that it would be burdensome for them to answer this interrogatory. OLD DOMINION points out that it has 9,100 vehicles and 22,000 employees in 48 states. TRANSSERVICE points out that it has over 30,000 pieces of equipment and over 1,000 drivers in North America. Even these numbers are dwarfed by PENSKE, which maintains a fleet of over 270,000 vehicles.

We are satisfied that Interrogatory 30 is unnecessarily broad. As currently drafted, the interrogatory would be burdensome for multi-state trucking companies to answer. With that being said, we recognize that information gleaned during non-related litigation could become relevant to the case at hand.[2]   We also recognize that the stakes of this incident are high; there are over eighteen lawsuits filed as a result of injuries and deaths caused by the February 13, 2016 accident. For these reasons, we are not prepared today to completely close the door on discovery related to unrelated litigation involving the trucking company defendants.

We will grant the defendant’s objections to Interrogatory 30. In its current form, no defendant will be required to answer Interrogatory 30. However, we will afford leave for any party to re-craft more specific discovery requests pertaining to unrelated litigation. As this additional discovery is prepared, we ask the parties to keep in mind the following:

  • Although it is probably encompassed by other discovery requests, we certainly would permit inquiry regarding other lawsuits that implicated the trucks and the drivers involved in the February 13, 2016 accident now at bar.
  • IF information is gleaned during discovery that implicates a mechanical defect or problem with any particular truck, we would entertain discovery designed to ascertain if other trucks in the defendant’s fleet had similar problems.
  • IF information is gleaned is discovery that the visibility of the truck driver was adversely affected by some design or maintenance feature of the tractor trailer cab, we would permit inquiry relating to other litigation in which similar allegations were proffered.
  • IF information is gleaned in discovery that the truck driver involved in the February 13, 2016 accident was non-compliant with Federal regulations or company policies, we would entertain additional discovery relating to other litigation where similar allegations were proffered.

The above examples are not intended to be exhaustive. However, they are illustrative of our intent to preclude discovery that is unrelated to any specific factual issue that has arisen during discovery. To use a common metaphor, it is neither smart nor productive for someone trying to catch a rainbow trout to throw a large net in the middle of the ocean hoping to catch one rainbow trout out of thousands of other fish. It is far better for that fisherman to cast a fishing line into a lake where rainbow trout are stocked. In terms of discovery, the request for information regarding unrelated litigation should be similarly focused. As currently crafted, Interrogatory 30 is not. Therefore, we will sustain the defendants’ objections to Interrogatory 30.

 

  1. Document Requests 5 and 14 Pertaining to Policies and Procedures

Document Request # 5 directed to trucking companies requested the following:

“A complete copy of any and all of the company’s policies and procedures (together with any training videotapes) relating to: truck driver safety training, compliance, vehicle inspections, drug and alcohol testing, use of electronic records devices, use of satellite telemetry, use of truck driver messaging systems, documentation and correction of hours of service, accident investigation, motor carrier log audit policies and procedures, policies for compliance for the truck driver’s record of duty status for truck driver involved in the subject crash, storage and/or retention and/or destruction of information, freight deliveries, training courses and/or curricular for the dispatcher for the truck driver.”

 

Document Request 14 is a bit more focused. It requests: “A complete copy of any and all of the company’s policies and procedures applicable to mechanics that serviced the vehicle involved in the subject crash at any time before or after the crash.”

It is self-evident that the above sets forth compound requests in a manner that is sweeping and non-specific. For example, Paragraph 5 combines a request for truck driver-specific information with a request for “all of the company’s policies and procedures…” Neither paragraph 5 nor paragraph 14 are specific as to time, geography or the type of vehicle that was involved in the February 13, 2016 accident. As crafted, we agree with the defendants that Document Requests 5 and 14 are unduly broad.

The above conclusion begs the question of whether and to what extent trucking company policies and procedures should be disclosed. Without question, some policies and procedures governing the truck drivers involved in this accident will be relevant. On the other hand, policies and procedures are by definition proprietary and this Court is reluctant to direct a sweeping disclosure of proprietary information that will have no bearing on the outcome of the above-captioned litigation.

As with the request for information regarding unrelated litigation, we will be granting the defendants’ objections to Document Requests 5 and 14 as crafted. However, we will permit additional document requests to be propounded. As that process is accomplished, we wish to impart the following to the parties:

  • All of the trucking companies should be required to provide copies of any policies, procedures, training instructions or any other information communicated to drivers about what should be accomplished during inclement weather. It is clear to this Court that the accident on February 13, 2016 occurred during a snow squall that impeded visibility. What were drivers instructed by their employer to do under such circumstances? This is a question of direct relevance to how this accident occurred and the trucking company defendants should be required to produce any and all documents relevant to this question.
  • Because each truck driver’s level of attentiveness is relevant to how the February 13, 2016 accident occurred, copies of company policies, procedures, training, etc. regarding a driver’s duty status, limitations on the number of hours per day, week or month that a driver could be on the road, and other similar information will be relevant. Thus, truck company documentation regarding those issues should be produced.
  • Because the manner in which each truck driver operated his/her truck is also relevant to how the February 13, 2016 accident occurred, copies of company policies, procedures, training instructions, etc. pertaining to how a truck should be operated in a safe manner should also be produced.
  • IF there is any evidence that any truck driver had alcohol, prescription medication or unlawful drugs in his/her system, then company policies and procedures, training, instruction manuals, etc. regarding drug and alcohol abuse, testing and sanctions should also be produced.
  • IF there is any evidence of any malfunction of any truck component, then company documents pertaining to maintenance, repair, problem reporting, etc. should also be produced.

 

Once again, the above observations are not intended to be comprehensive. They are intended to reflect the general philosophy of this Court that until or unless an issue becomes factually relevant, policies, procedures and manuals pertaining to that issue should not have to be produced. As currently crafted, Requests 5 and 14 do not draw any distinction between relevant, potentially relevant or irrelevant procedures.[3] Therefore, we will not require responses to Document Requests 5 and 14.

 

  1. Interrogatory 38 Pertaining to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations

 

Interrogatory 38 requests a plethora of information about compliance with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. FED-EX has objected to Interrogatory 38 on several grounds. First, FED-EX argues that all relevant Federal Motor Carrier Safety information is publicly accessible through the website of the Federal Office of Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Second, FED-EX points out that some of the information requested in Interrogatory 38 is within the exclusive control of government officials. Third, FED-EX argues that the information sought is not relevant.

As part of its submission, FED-EX pointed the Court to a public website found at www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety/company-safety-records . We accepted FED-EX’s invitation to peruse that website. The website permits members of the public to obtain free “company snapshot” records that set forth a company’s size, commodity information, safety record, inspection summary and crash information. The website also offers a more comprehensive “company safety profile” that is fee-based.[4]

Information for particular companies can be accessed by inserting a USDOT number or the name of the company for whom records are sought. We did not have the USDOT number for any of the trucking companies, so we attempted to insert the names from the caption into the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website. We were unable to access any records for FED-EX, LONESTAR or TRANSSERVICE LOGISTICS INC. However, we were able to access records pertaining to OLD DOMINION. We learned that OLD DOMINION employs 11,545 drivers. We also learned that for twenty-four (24) months prior to March 21, 2019, OLD DOMINION drivers were involved in a total of seven-hundred twenty-eight (728) motor vehicle accidents that involved twenty-six (26) fatalities and one-hundred ninety-six (196)injuries. According to the website, OLD DOMNION maintained a satisfactory rating for safety compliance.

Because many corporations are wholly or partially owned subsidiaries of others, because the official names of companies can be easily confused, and because computer searches require precisely correct input of information, it may be difficult for the parties to access Federal Motor Carrier Safety information using only the name of a defendant. Therefore, we will direct that truck company defendants should disclose their USDOT numbers. Once that is accomplished, we are confident that any party can access desired information on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website. Beyond facilitating access to the FMCSA publically available information, it will not be necessary for the defendants to respond to Interrogatory 38.

 

 

III.     CONCLUSION

As with so many other legal questions, the scope of discovery should be governed by the concept of reasonableness. Is the request reasonably related to any legitimate factual issue as to how the February 13, 2016 accident occurred? If the answer to that question is yes, and if the discovery related to it is properly focused, we will permit the request for information. However, we will not permit any party to use a bazooka to kill a fly. In this case, we will sustain the objections that have been proffered to Interrogatories 30 and 38, and we will grant the objections to Document Request 5 and 14. However, we would permit the re-drafting of more focused discovery consistent with the directives of this Opinion.

Thus far, this Court has been impressed by the collegiality and level of competence displayed by all counsel who are subject to this Court’s discovery coordination Order. We have no doubt that this Opinion will prompt more specific discovery requests and that the needed information will be cooperatively disclosed in a timely fashion. We will again express the thanks and commendation of this Court to all counsel for the professionalism with which they have approached this very difficult litigation.

With the above being said, we will issue a Court Order today’s date consistent with this Opinion.

 

 

[1] At the request of the parties, the Briefing Schedules were extended.

[2] For example, if there is a prior litigation relating to the truck or the driver involved in this litigation, that could provide relevant information regarding the ability of the driver or the condition of the tractor or trailer.

[3] For example, the requests as currently crafted would require disclosure of sexual harassment policies that could not possibly be relevant to the litigation at hand.

[4] We did not attempt to access the fee-based information.

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