The Texas Supreme Court found in In re UPS Ground Freight, 65 Tex. Sup. Ct. J. 1532 (Tex. June 17, 2022) [20-0827] that a discovery request in a wrongful death action compelling production of the drug tests and other personal information of uninvolved UPS drivers was overbroad and prohibited by federal law.
This case involves a fatal motor vehicle accident involving a driver for UPS Ground Freight, Inc. (UPS). Phillip Villareal, who worked out of the Irving, Texas, location tested positive for THC after he was involved in a multi-vehicle crash in which Nathan Dean Clark was killed. THC is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis. Clark's mother, Jacintha McElduff, brought a lawsuit against Villareal personally as well as UPS for negligence and gross negligence. McElduff alleged that UPS (1) knowingly failed to drug test Villareal; (2) knowingly allowed him to drive under the influence of cannabis; (3) and knowingly failed to comply with federal alcohol and drug testing laws as well as its own internal company testing policies.
UPS produced documents detailing its testing policies as well as Villareal's drug test results as part of the discovery process. During his deposition, Villareal admitted that he has used cannabis for years and often provided it to other drivers at the Irving facility. In an attempt to establish a pattern and practice of not drug testing drivers, McElduff requested detailed documents regarding the identities and personal information of all UPS drivers working out of the Irving facility as well as all drug and alcohol test results of these drivers- including pre-employment, random, reasonable suspicion, periodic and post-accident testing- with no time restriction parameters.
The trial court compelled production over UPS' objection that the request was overbroad and prohibited for privacy reasons under federal law. The only concession the court made was to limit the time period covered by the request. The court of appeals supported the trial court's decision, but did agree that the discovery order violated nonparty drivers' privacy rights.
The Supreme Court of Texas reversed and held that the trial court abused its discretion in compelling the production of records containing uninvolved employees' personal information. It ordered the trial court to revise its order and redact all personal or identifying information from the documents produced. The trial court overstepped in allowing the plaintiff to compel the personal information of uninvolved UPS drivers and employees. The request was overbroad because the result of other drivers' drug tests were irrelevant as proof that UPS negligently trained, retained, or entrusted a vehicle to Villareal. It also failed to show that UPS was grossly negligent.
In addition, plaintiff's claim that the request goes to prove that UPS did not comply with federal drug testing mandates is also faulty. The information requested was irrelevant in showing that UPS did not comply with the national drug-testing program as the drug testing results of drivers from a single facility would not be sufficient to establish that violations were occurring on a grander scale.