Trabakoolas et al v. Watts Water Technologies, Inc. et al

Filing 128

ORDER re 123 Discovery Letter Brief Discovery Dispute Joint Submission: Plaintiffs' Request for a Protective Order filed by Sheila Stetson, Jason Trabakoolas. The Court GRANTS Plaintiffs' request for a protective order. Signed by Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers on 4/29/13. (fs, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 4/29/2013)

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1 2 3 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 4 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 5 6 7 8 JASON TRABAKOOLAS and SHIELA STETSON, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, 9 10 11 Northern District of California United States District Court 12 Case No.: 12-cv-01172-YGR ORDER REGARDING DISCOVERY LETTER BRIEF (DKT. NO. 123) Plaintiffs, v. WATTS WATER TECHNOLOGIES, INC., et al., Defendants. 13 14 The parties have filed a joint discovery letter brief in which Plaintiffs seek a protective order 15 related to certain requests for admission (“RFAs”) served by Defendants. (Dkt. No. 123.) Identical 16 requests have been served on each Named Plaintiff. The RFAs fall into two categories: 17 (1) RFA nos. 1–8 and 23, which seek admissions from Plaintiffs regarding Liberty Mutual Insurance Company’s relationship with Arbitration Forums, Inc., the rules governing that relationship, and effect of that relationship; and 18 19 (2) RFA nos. 38–50, which seek admissions regarding the relationship of class counsel, Saltz Mongeluzzi Barret & Bendesky, PC (“Saltz Firm”) and The Law Offices of Robert A. Stutman, P.C. (“Stutman Firm”) in a prior litigation, In re Riverwalk Fire Litigation (“Riverwalk Litigation”).1 20 21 22 Plaintiffs primarily argue that the RFAs seek information beyond their reasonable knowledge 23 24 25 26 27 28 or relative control. Because Plaintiffs were not party to any agreement between Arbitration Forums and Liberty Mutual, they do not have any personal knowledge regarding the first category. Further, Plaintiffs were not parties to the Riverwalk Litigation, thus they do not have any knowledge on those issues. Plaintiffs assert that it would be an undue burden for them to familiarize themselves with the 1 In addition to referring to the RFAs by number, the Court may refer to the RFAs by the categories set forth above—i.e., “first category” and “second category.” 1 matters at issue in the RFAs, and that, regardless, the information sought is not relevant to the facts or 2 claims in this action. 3 Defendants respond with three primary arguments. First, Plaintiffs have propounded their 4 own discovery relating to Arbitration Forums on the same topics as the RFAs at issue, and thus there 5 is no burden because they have already gathered information on the relevant issues. Second, it is 6 irrelevant that Plaintiffs are not members of Arbitration Forums or were not parties in the Riverwalk 7 Litigation because that information is within their control through obtained discovery (first category) 8 and because the Saltz Firm is their agent with knowledge of their own partnering relationship with 9 the Stutman Firm in the Riverwalk Litigation (second category). Third, the discovery is relevant 10 because solicitation of Named Plaintiffs, if improper, raise issues of typicality, adequacy, and/or 11 predominance for class certification. Northern District of California United States District Court 12 The Court agrees with Plaintiffs that a protective order is warranted. RFA nos. 1–8 and 23 are 13 not properly directed to Plaintiffs. If Defendants seek admissions regarding Liberty Mutual’s 14 relationship with Arbitration Forums, the rules that bound their relationship, and the effect of that 15 relationship, Defendants can obtain that information from Liberty Mutual directly. To the extent that 16 Plaintiffs have been deposed on these issues already, they have stated they do not have personal 17 knowledge. The fact that Plaintiffs have obtained some discovery on these issues does not change the 18 fact that Defendants seek admissions that are rightfully directed to Liberty Mutual. It would be an 19 undue burden for Plaintiffs to personally become familiar with the nature of the relationship of 20 Liberty Mutual and Arbitration Forums such that they can admit or deny RFA nos. 1–8 and 23. 21 Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2)(C), Plaintiffs have shown that “the discovery sought is unreasonably 22 cumulative or duplicative, or can be obtained from some other source that is more convenient, less 23 burdensome, or less expensive.” As such, good cause has been shown to warrant a protective order. 24 As to the second category, the Court finds that RFA nos. 38–50 are also not properly directed 25 to Plaintiffs. Defendants admit that the requests are directed to the knowledge of their current 26 counsel, the Saltz Firm. While Defendants characterize this as a “reasonable” investigation, the Court 27 views this an improper use of discovery. At least as these RFAs relate to Plaintiffs, they target 28 information that is wholly unrelated to their claims against Defendants and for which Plaintiffs have 2 1 no personal knowledge on their own. Indeed, the requests relate to a “relationship” that occurred 2 entirely in the course of another litigation. Counsel are not “agents” under the discovery rules such 3 that a party must admit or deny requests based information known only by counsel about another 4 litigation, none of which would be known to the party in the first place. 5 6 For the foregoing reasons, the Court GRANTS Plaintiffs’ request for a protective order. Plaintiffs are not required to respond to RFA nos. 1–8, 23, and 38–50. 7 This Order terminates Dkt. No. 123. 8 IT IS SO ORDERED. 9 10 Dated: April 29, 2013 _________________________________________ 11 YVONNE GONZALEZ ROGERS UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE Northern District of California United States District Court 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 3

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