Thursday, July 20, 2023

Federal Court Parameters on Scope of Permissible Discovery of Prior Incidents Reviewed

In the case if Birl v. Ski Shawnee, Inc., No. 3:22-CV-1598 (M.D. Pa. May 31, 2023 Carlson, Mag. J.), the court granted in part and denied in part a Motion to Compel discovery in a skiing accident case.

More specifically, the court found that a demand for the production of all documents and communications about all prior collision accidents on the Defendant’s property for over twenty (20) years was excessive.

However, the court also noted that a restriction of discovery to only the particular object that the Plaintiff collided with was also too narrow.

The court stated that judicial discretion on discovery issues is limited by valid claims of relevance and privilege. Relevance issues are to be tempered by principles of proportionality. Proportionality, in turn, is determined based upon temporal and topical aspects of the discovery dispute.

Magistrate Judge Carlson otherwise indicated that prior accidents are relevant if they occur under similar circumstances as presented in the pending case, and where such prior accidents are also relevant to the issue of notice on the part of the Defendant.

The court otherwise indicated that five (5) years is a common temporal limit on discovery.

In the end, the court granted the Plaintiff the right to discovery five (5) year records on all collision incidents.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.

I send thanks to Attorney James M. Beck of the Philadelphia office of the Reed Smith law firm for bringing this case to my attention.

Source of Image:  Photo by Mati Mango on

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