Perkins et al v. LinkedIn Corporation

Filing 35

ORDER re 34 Discovery Dispute Joint Report #1. Signed by Magistrate Judge Howard R. Lloyd on 3/17/2014. (hrllc1, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 3/17/2014) Modified text on 3/18/2014 (dhmS, COURT STAFF).

Download PDF
*E-Filed: March 17, 2014* 1 2 3 4 5 6 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 For the Northern District of California NOT FOR CITATION 8 United States District Court 7 SAN JOSE DIVISION 11 PAUL PERKINS, ET AL., Plaintiffs, 12 v. No. C13-04303 LHK (HRL) ORDER RE DISCOVERY DISPUTE JOINT REPORT #1 13 LINKEDIN CORPORATION, [Re: Docket No. 34] 14 15 16 Defendant. ____________________________________/ In this putative class action, Plaintiffs sue defendant LinkedIn Corporation (“LinkedIn”) for 17 allegedly wrongfully accessing their contacts from external email accounts and spamming them with 18 invitations to join LinkedIn. This challenged feature is called “Add Connections.” LinkedIn moved 19 to dismiss Plaintiffs’ First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) on the basis that Plaintiffs lack standing 20 because they have not suffered a cognizable injury. In doing so, LinkedIn asserted that certain 21 public statements of Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn’s Executive Chairman and Co-Founder, relied on by 22 Plaintiffs to establish standing were misquoted. Shortly after opposing the motion in mid-January 23 2014, Plaintiffs noticed Hoffman’s deposition for March 18, 2014. On February 24, counsel for the 24 parties met and conferred by telephone to discuss LinkedIn’s objection to the deposition. Unable to 25 resolve the dispute after approximately 30 minutes, the parties filed the instant Discovery Dispute 26 Joint Report (“DDJR”) in which LinkedIn seeks a protective order pursuant to the “apex doctrine” 27 preventing the deposition of Reid Hoffman. 28 1 “The party seeking a protective order bears the burden of showing good cause for the order 2 by ‘demonstrating harm or prejudice that will result from the discovery.’” Apple Inc. v. Samsung 3 Elecs. Co., 282 F.R.D. 259, 262-263 (N.D. Cal. 2012) (quoting Rivera v. NIBCO, Inc., 364 F.3d 4 1057, 1063 (9th Cir. 2004)). “When a party seeks the deposition of a high-level executive (a so- 5 called “apex” deposition), courts have observed that such discovery creates a tremendous potential 6 for abuse or harassment.” Id. at 263 (internal quotation marks omitted). “In determining whether to 7 allow an apex deposition, courts consider (1) whether the deponent has unique first-hand, non- 8 repetitive knowledge of facts at issue in the case and (2) whether the party seeking the deposition 9 has exhausted other less intrusive discovery methods.” Id. Absent extraordinary circumstances, it is For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 very unusual for a court to prohibit the taking of a deposition. Id. “When a witness has personal 11 knowledge of facts relevant to the lawsuit, even a corporate president or CEO is subject to 12 deposition.” Id. A claimed lack of knowledge, by itself is insufficient to preclude a deposition. Id. 13 Plaintiffs assert that Hoffman has unique first-hand knowledge of matters directly relevant to 14 the standing issues raised by Defendants in their motion to dismiss because Hoffman purportedly 15 conceived of the “Add Connections” feature. Moreover, Hoffman is the only person who can 16 explain the meaning behind his public statements about the feature, which the parties dispute. 17 LinkedIn alleges that Plaintiffs are abusing the discovery process by misquoting Hoffman, thereby 18 fabricating a dispute in order to justify taking a deposition to which it would otherwise not be 19 entitled. Additionally, Plaintiffs fail the second prong of the “apex doctrine” inquiry because they 20 have not obtained any other discovery in the case. On the other hand, Plaintiffs argue that LinkedIn 21 cannot challenge the veracity of the quoted statements in its motion to dismiss and then deny 22 Plaintiffs their only means of authenticating the statements. Moreover, in the meet and confer, 23 LinkedIn failed to suggest any other means of discovering the relevant information. 24 While it seems likely that Hoffman has significant first-hand knowledge of relevant 25 information, the Court is concerned by Plaintiffs lack of any other discovery prior to seeking to 26 depose the Executive Chairman. However, the Court is also concerned with LinkedIn’s failure to 27 propose any alternative means of discovery in lieu of deposing Hoffman that might allow Plaintiffs 28 to discover relevant information about the conception and development of Add Connections. In 2 1 other words, the Court is not convinced that the parties’ meet and confer was at all meaningful, and 2 the 30 minute phone call did not adequately substitute for the in-person meet and confer between 3 lead counsel “for as long as and as often as is needed to reach full agreement” required by the 4 undersigned’s Standing Order re: Civil Discovery Disputes. 5 Accordingly, lead counsel for each party shall meet and confer in person, and if the dispute 6 remains unresolved, file a Supplemental DDJR #1 within five days from the date of this order, not to 7 exceed four pages, in which the parties address any proposed alternative discovery methods. The 8 Hoffman deposition shall be stayed during this time and pending judicial resolution of the 9 Supplemental DDJR, if filed. For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 11 12 IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: March 17, 2014 HOWARD R. LLOYD UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 3 1 C13-04303-LHK (HRL) Notice will be electronically mailed to: 2 Daniel Paul Hipskind 3 Dorian Seawind Berger 4 Jerome Cary Roth 5 Larry C. Russ 6 Larry Craig Russ 7 Rosemarie Theresa Ring , Esq,,,,,,,,,, 8 9 Counsel are responsible for distributing copies of this document to co-counsel who have not registered for e-filing under the court’s CM/ECF program. For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 4

Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.

Why Is My Information Online?