Spouse of defendant in sexual harassment case will not be subject to deposition

By Nicholas Malfitano | Apr 5, 2016

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania  

PHILADELPHIA – Per a federal court ruling, a protective order has been granted in a sexual harassment case that prevents a defendant’s spouse from providing a deposition in this matter.

On Thursday, Judge Michael M. Baylson ruled LTK (the initials of the wife of defendant Duc Van Nguyen) would not have to give a deposition in a sexual harassment case where her husband, Nguyen, is a defendant.

Plaintiff Kathy Tong filed suit against medical packaging company Mangar Industries, Inc. and Nguyen, alleging Nguyen engaged in behavior towards her during the time of her employment which qualified as sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA), including an alleged sexual assault in February 2014.

Tong and her counsel sought to depose LTK in this matter, but defense counsel asserted marital privilege grounds and moved for a protective order to prevent LTK’s deposition – on the basis that such testimony would “not be relevant” and “the ensuing disclosures to LTK will lead to destruction of their marriage.”

“Defendants have agreed to stipulate, for all purposes in this case, including trial, that Nguyen lied to LTK about his relationship with plaintiff. There are disputes between plaintiff and Nguyen as to exactly what the nature of their relationship was, and the extent of any sexual relations,” Baylson said.

“Requiring LTK to give a deposition in this case would cause great embarrassment, and may lead to the destruction of whatever may be left of the marriage between Nguyen and LTK, without adding any substantive evidence, particularly in light of the stipulation referred to above,” Baylson added.

Baylson explained if LTK’s deposition had taken place, and plaintiff’s counsel’s questions had informed LTK her husband had been sued over a disputed sexual relationship with plaintiff, her knowledge would likely not be admissible at trial.

“Perhaps plaintiff’s counsel may have noticed this deposition in part because it may have increased the probability of starting settlement discussions. The Court does not make any suggestion of impropriety, but requiring marital discovery which is marginal discovery may put pressure on one party to enter into settlement negotiations,” Baylson said.

“Pressure to settle is really not a proper function of a judge in deciding a discovery dispute. Indeed, judges may encourage settlements but should avoid any pressure to settle. The fact that settlements have become so frequent, that civil trials are almost a relic of history, requires us to be neutral in deciding discovery disputes and to avoid settlement pressures,” Baylson concluded.

Baylson then granted the defendants’ motion for a protective order and to quash the plaintiff’s subpoena order against LTK.

The plaintiff is represented by Timothy M. Kolman, Wayne A. Ely and W. Charles Sipio of Kolman Ely, in Penndel.

The defendants are represented by Marjorie N. Kaye, Asima Ahmad and Samantha Sherwood Bononno of Jackson Lewis, and Thomas Justin Chapman and William H. Catto of Litchfield Cavo, all in Philadelphia.

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case 2:15-cv-01620

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nickpennrecord@gmail.com

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