This blog follows my two previous blogs, Can personnel files be discovered?and Can the personnel files of the insurance company’s claims adjusters be discovered? Part 2. In my first blog post on this topic, I explained that some courts have held that information in personnel files is discoverable when it is “clearly relevant” and the information is “not otherwise readily available.” In my other blog, I further explained how some courts have interpreted what is considered “clearly relevant”. In this blog post, I will focus on what courts have considered “not otherwise readily available”; in this context.
“Not otherwise easily accessible”
IN Weller v. American Home Assurance Companyplaintiffs sought only the personnel files of employees or defendants’ representatives who were involved in handling, adjusting, or monitoring the claims at issue.1 The need for the files often outweighs the general policy against disclosure because “personnel files have an inherent reliability that cannot now be duplicated through any other source.”2 In part because these files were contemporaneous and without litigation in mind, the court did not see how the plaintiff was able to obtain equivalent material elsewhere, and because of this the files were “not otherwise readily available.”3
IN Blount v. Wake Elec. Membership Corp., the plaintiffs requested production of the personnel files of one of the defendant’s employees.4 Although the defendants here argued that the employee’s prior deposition would provide the same information needed about the employee’s educational experience, job duties, and work suitability, the court found that the depositions would not have the same inherent reliability as personnel records and that such information was not otherwise readily available.5
Because some courts have found these personnel files to have characteristics that make them unique in their creation and inherent reliability, their content and the insight they provide have proven to be non-duplicable and otherwise not readily available. It is important to keep these considerations in mind when deciding what you will request through discovery.
1 Weller v. Am. Home Assur. Co., No. 3:05-CV-90, 2007 WL 1097883, at *7 (NDW Va. Apr. 10, 2007) (citing Blount v. Wake Elec. Membership Corp., 162 FRD 102, 106 (EDNC 1993).
2 Id. at *6 (quoting Blount162 FRD at 106).
3 Id. 7 o’clock.
4 Blount162 FRD at 105.
5 Id. at 106.