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Ex parte Dolgencorp, LLC

Supreme Court of Alabama

September 14, 2018

Ex parte Dolgencorp, LLC
v.
Dolgencorp, LLC In re: Deborah Renae Gilliam

          Tuscaloosa Circuit Court, CV-16-900392

          PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDAMUS

          PER CURIAM

         Dolgencorp, LLC ("Dollar General"), the defendant below, filed a petition for a writ of mandamus requesting relief from a discovery order entered by the Tuscaloosa Circuit Court on February 8, 2017. We grant the petition and issue the writ.

         Facts and Procedural History

         On March 14, 2016, Daisy Pearl White Freeman was operating her vehicle in the Northwood Shopping Center in Northport. She lost control of her vehicle, ran over the curb and onto the sidewalk, and struck Deborah Renae Gilliam, who had just walked out of a Dollar General store located in the shopping center.

         On April 4, 2016, Gilliam sued Dollar General, among others, in the Tuscaloosa Circuit Court. As to Dollar General, the complaint stated claims of negligence and wantonness.

         On August 10, 2016, Gilliam filed a notice of intent to serve subpoenas on nonparties Dolgencorp of New York, Inc.; Dolgen Midwest, LLC; Dolgencorp of Texas, Inc.; Dollar General Partners; DG Louisiana, LLC; and DG Retail, LLC (hereinafter referred to collectively as "the nonparty Dollar General entities"). In the subpoenas, Gilliam requested:

"1. All photographs, surveillance video, and incident reports concerning automobiles that have struck any building owned, leased, managed or rented by [the nonparty Dollar General entities] for the time period March 14, 2011 to March 14, 2016.
"2. All documents that describe the function, use and/or purpose of bollards used in front of any building owned, leased, managed or rented by [the nonparty Dollar General entities].
"3. All correspondence of any kind between [the nonparty Dollar General entities] and [Dollar General] concerning the subject of automobiles striking Dollar General stores."

         On August 24, 2016, Dollar General filed a motion to quash the nonparty subpoenas, arguing that the nonparty subpoenas were unduly burdensome.

         Gilliam also filed a request for production of documents. In request no. 7, she asked that Dollar General "[p]roduce all incident reports along with photographs of any incident in the five year period leading up to the March 14, 2016 [accident] where a vehicle crashed into any Dollar General [store] in the United States." Dollar General objected to the request, arguing, among other things, that the request was overly broad and unduly burdensome. On September 2, 2016, Gilliam filed a motion to compel Dollar General to respond to, among other items, request no. 7.

         On December 15, 2016, Dollar General filed a response to Gilliam's motion to compel, arguing that request no. 7 was overly broad and unduly burdensome. In support, Dollar General attached an affidavit from Cindy Helmbrecht, who worked for Retail Risk Solutions, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Dollar General Corporation, as a senior claims representative in the Dollar General Risk Management Department. She stated, in relevant part:

"11. In developing information to assist with the responses to [Gilliam's] first set of interrogatories and requests for production to [Dollar General] in this case, I conducted a manual search for the district in which [the incident at] the subject Dollar General store occurred for other incidents wherein a vehicle crashed into a Dollar General store in the last 5 years. This district is comprised of 18 stores in Alabama, or approximately 0.001% of all Dollar General stores. This search took me approximately thirteen (13) hours to complete.
"12. Based on the fact that it took me 13 hours to search for other incidents where vehicles ran into Dollar General stores in an 18 store district, I estimate that it would take approximately 9, 389 hours to search for similar incidents occurring at the more than 13, 000 Dollar General stores nationwide."

         On December 19, 2016, Gilliam filed a reply brief in support of her motion to compel.

         On December 19, 2016, the trial court conducted a hearing on Dollar General's motion to quash and Gilliam's motion to compel. On February 8, 2017, the trial court entered an order that provided, in relevant part:

"Having considered the arguments of the parties, the Court finds that [Gilliam's] Motion to Compel is hereby GRANTED in part and [Dollar General's] Motion to Quash is DENIED.
"The scope of discovery is hereby limited in the following respects:
"RFP #7: Produce all incident reports along with photographs of any similar incident (i.e., where cars crashed into the front of a Dollar General due to no bollards) in the five year period leading up to March 14, 2016 where a vehicle crashed into a Dollar General [store] in the United States."

         (Petition, Exhibit #7 (capitalization in original; emphasis added).)

         On March 6, 2017, Dollar General filed a motion to reconsider and for a protective order. It asserted that the trial court's modification of the request for production would not lighten its burden because, even though the modification would limit production, it would still have to conduct the same search. Gilliam filed a response in opposition to Dollar General's motion to reconsider and for a protective order. The parties subsequently filed ...


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