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Lieber v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

September 7, 2017

Rachel Lieber, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated Plaintiff,
v.
Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OF OPINION AND ORDER

          PATRICIA A. GAUGHAN CHIEF JUDGE.

         INTRODUCTION

         This matter is before the Court upon Plaintiff's Motion to Compel Defendant's Responses to Plaintiff's Discovery Requests and to Extend the Non-Expert Discovery Deadline (“Plaintiff's first motion”) (Doc. 25) and Plaintiff's Second Motion to Compel Defendant's Responses to Plaintiff's Discovery Requests and to Redepose Defendant's Corporate Representative (“Plaintiff's second motion”) (Doc. 36). For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's first motion is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART, and Plaintiff's second motion is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, Rachel Lieber, brought this putative class action against Defendant Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., pursuant to the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (“RESPA”), 12 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq. Defendant is the current servicer of Plaintiff's and the putative class members' notes and mortgages on real property that secure those notes. (Am. Compl. ¶ 17). Plaintiff alleges that Defendant violated RESPA and the regulation promulgated by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau regarding the interpretation of RESPA, known as Regulation X, when Defendant failed to respond to Plaintiff's and the class members' “qualified written requests” (“QWRs”), as defined by 12 U.S.C. § 2605(e)(1)(B). Plaintiff's and the putative class members' QWRs were in the form of Requests for Information (“RFIs”) and Notices of Error (“NOEs”). 12 C.F.R. § 1024.35(a), 1024.36(a). Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant inappropriately relied on a blanket “active litigation” exception to its obligation to respond to Plaintiff's and the class's QWRs, when RESPA and Regulation X do not permit such an exception.

         To establish her RESPA claim, Plaintiff will have to prove that the loans at issue were “federally related mortgage loans, ”[1] that the QWR was in writing and contained sufficient information to enable the servicer to identify the name of the borrower and the account number, and that the QWR involved an inquiry related to the “servicing” of a loan. 12 U.S.C. § 2605(e)(1). The “servicing” of a loan is defined as “receiving any scheduled periodic payments from a borrower pursuant to the terms of any loan, including amounts for escrow accounts.” 12 U.S.C. § 2605(i)(3).

         Throughout the period of non-expert discovery as to class certification, [2] the parties had several disagreements as to the sufficiency of Defendant's responses to Plaintiff's discovery requests. The parties attempted to resolve their disputes without court intervention, but a number of disputes remain. Now pending before the Court are Plaintiff's two motions to compel, which Defendant opposes.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) sets forth the permissible scope of discovery:

Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case, considering the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties' relative access to relevant information, the parties' resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit. Information within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). “[T]he scope of discovery under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is traditionally quite broad.” Lewis v. ACB Bus. Serv., Inc., 135 F.3d 389, 402 (6th Cir. 1998). After making a good faith attempt to resolve a dispute, a party may file a motion to compel discovery under Rule 37 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure if it believes another party has failed to respond to discovery requests or that the party's responses are evasive or incomplete. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a). In ruling on such a motion, a trial court has broad discretion in determining the scope of discovery. Lewis, 135 F.3d at 402.

         ANALYSIS

         A. Document Requests 12-15

         Plaintiff first argues that Defendant's responses to her Document Requests 12-15 were inadequate. In these requests, Plaintiff sought:

12. All Information Requests sent to Defendant by any Borrower to which Defendant provided, on or after November 15, 2013, ...

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