When addressing the validity of a protective order under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(c), courts will judge each individual request by weighing the relevance of each request to the alleged claim, the extent of the burden associated with production, and the benefit gained from obtaining such information.
In Seaside Inland Transport v. Coastal Carriers, LLC, No. 2:17-cv-00143-SMJ, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 20980 (E.D. Wash. Feb. 8, 2019), Seaside Inland Transportation sued Coastal Carriers based on a breach of contract arising from their freight-brokerage agreement. Performance continued under the original agreement from 2003 until Coastal refused to renew the contract in 2017. A dispute arose over uncollected commission fees and freight charges based on the commission structure.
As a result of the suit, Seaside requested a variety of information from Coastal through its topics for a Rule 30(b)(6) deposition. Coastal sought a protective order under Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(c) to shield the production of information that it believed was unduly burdensome, non-proportional, or irrelevant.
In Seaside, as in other cases, the court’s protective order analysis separately weighed the relevance of each request, the scope of available knowledge, and the burden of production versus the benefit of receiving such information. Because this is a fact-specific inquiry, courts are likely to apply Rule 26(c) protective orders in varying degrees. The court looked at the proportionality of each proposed deposition topic before ultimately granting in part and denying in part Coastal’s Rule 26(c) request for a protective order.