Strickland et al v. Tristar Products, Inc.
ORDER denying without prejudice 35 Motion to Compel. Signed by Magistrate Judge G. R. Smith on 7/5/17. (wwp)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA
ANGELA STRICKLAND &
TRISTAR PRODUCTS, INC.,
Plaintiffs Angela Strickland and Mack Edwards seek to compel
the production of “all documents furnished by Tristar Products, Inc.”
and “copies of all transcripts of depositions of taken by any party” in ten
similar products liability cases (involving the explosion of defendant’s
pressure cookers) pending against Tristar across the country. Doc. 35;
see id. at Exh. A (plaintiffs’ second request for production of
documents). Defendant objected to the “cloned” requests as being too
expansive to be permitted under Fed. R. Civ. P. 34. Doc. 36; see doc. 35
at Exhs. L (response and objections), M & N (counsels’ meet and confer
In particular, defendant argues that plaintiffs have not
identified with particularity any category of documents sought or
specific material issue covered by the documents sought but rather seek
an overly broad swath of documents that far exceeds what Rule 34
Doc. 36 at 1-4.
Plaintiffs, Tristar contends, are
impermissibly seeking to “piggyback” on the discovery already
conducted in other cases, and must instead “do their own work and
request the information they seek directly.”
Id. at 4-5.
importantly, this motion comes at the close of discovery after only one
meet and confer, see doc. 35 at Exhs. M & N, when clearly the parties
could have further narrowed the scope of what plaintiff is seeking and
what defendant was willing to turn over:
Plaintiffs have already received thousands of pages of documents
in response to extensive discovery requests to Tristar and have
taken numerous depositions of current and former employees, who
provided relevant information about the claims and theories in
this case. Plaintiffs have already conducted multiple rounds of
testing on the pressure cooker at issue by their expert. In short,
the mere fact that the ten cases cited by Plaintiffs in their cloned
discovery requests involved a [similar] pressure cooker sold by
Tristar [as the one involved in this case] does not mandate a
wholesale turnover of [all the] discovery from those cases,
especially when Plaintiffs should know enough about their case at
this stage to tailor discovery requests to particular issues germane
to any issues remaining in this case.
Doc. 36 at 6-7 (objecting to the scale and scope of documents requested,
not denying that the documents from the other ten cases were relevant
or contending that nothing at all should be produced).
Plaintiffs have failed to meaningfully meet and confer with
defendant to dramatically narrow the scope of their dispute prior to
seeking court intervention. 1
Plaintiffs are not entitled to “all
documents” and “all depositions” in the 10 identified cases, regardless of
the pertinence of those materials to the instant case. They simply must
identify the materials more specifically than “all.”
Fed. R. Civ. P.
34(b)(1)(A) (requiring “reasonable particularity” in document requests).
So, the Court will trust that the parties can manage to go back and
meaningfully meet and confer before returning with blanket demands
for production or boilerplate objections. 2
See S.D. Ga. L. R. 26.5
Requiring meaningful consultation can lead to informal resolution and thus
conservation of court resources. Avera v. United Airlines, Inc., 465 F. App’x 855, 85859 (11th Cir. 2012) (magistrate judge did not abuse his discretion in denying, without
prejudice, plaintiff’s motion to compel discovery where plaintiff had not sought to
resolve his discovery dispute with defendant before filing the motion); Jo Ann
Howard & Associates, P.C. v. Cassity, 2012 WL 1247271 at *8 (E.D. Mo. Apr. 13,
2012) (rejecting compulsion request in part because “the failure of the parties to
communicate materially impeded their resolution of this matter.”) (emphasis added).
“[J]ust because the information was produced in another lawsuit . . . does not
mean that it should be produced in this lawsuit.” Moore v. Morgan Stanley & Co.,
Inc., 2008 WL 4681942 at *5 (N.D. Ill. 2008). It is clear, however, that the ten other
cases identified by plaintiffs involved similar products that appear to have
malfunctioned in similar ways. See doc. 35 at Exhs. B-K. The questions about why
those identical (and nearly identical) pressure cookers exploded is relevant both to
questions about possible defects in the product and to the manufacturer’s knowledge
of the defect(s). “Piggyback” discovery is permissible for this relevant information,
(“Counsel are reminded that Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(c) [ ] require[s] a party
seeking a protective order or moving to compel discovery to certify that
a good faith effort has been made to resolve the dispute before coming to
court.”); Scruggs v. Int’l Paper Co., 2012 WL 1899405 at *2 (S.D. Ga.
May 24, 2012) (“the lawyers here are professionals” and thus capable of
fulfilling their Local Rule 26.5 duty to fully meet and confer before
seeking the court’s intercession). Put another way, the parties shall in
good faith (at least by phone if not in person) attempt to resolve
movant’s objections without further Court involvement. Fees will be
assessed for any bad faith shown.3
given the similarities and narrow number of cases plaintiffs seek. C.f. Oklahoma v.
Tyson Foods, Inc., 2006 WL 2862216 at *1-2 (N.D. Okla. 2006) (denying motion to
compel clone production of documents from “a similar poultry waste pollution
lawsuit previously brought in this Court” absent a showing of more than “surface
similarities” between the cases); Wollam v. Wright Med. Grp., Inc., 2011 WL 1899774
at *2 (D. Colo. May 18, 2011) (summarily denying unbridled request for “all
discovery” in unidentified number of cases). But that relevance only goes so far -plaintiffs must still be reasonably particular in their requests. “All” is just too broad
when ten cases involving (potentially) hundreds of depositions and tens of thousands
of documents are involved. See, e.g., Wiand v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 2013 WL
6170610 at *3 (M.D. Fla. Nov. 22, 2013).
The parties are reminded that
The scope of discovery under Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1) is broad and includes
discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, which is relevant to the claims
or defense of any party involved in the pending action. Those resisting
discovery must show specifically how the objected-to request is unreasonable
or otherwise unduly burdensome.
Claims and defenses determine discovery’s scope. Evidence is relevant if it has
Plaintiffs’ motion to compel is DENIED without prejudice.
SO ORDERED, this 5th day of July, 2017.
any tendency to make the existence of any fact or consequence more or less
probable than it would be without the evidence.
Daniel Def., Inc. v. Remington Arms Co., LLC, 2015 WL 6142883 at * 2 (S.D. Ga. Oct.
19, 2015) (cites and quotes omitted).
“The standard for what constitutes relevant evidence is a low one.” United States
v. Tinoco, 304 F.3d 1088, 1120 (11th Cir. 2002); McCleod v. Nat’l R.R. Passenger
Corp., 2014 WL 1616414 at * 3 (S.D. Ga. Apr. 22, 2014) (“Rule 26, quite simply, sets
forth a very low threshold for relevancy, and thus, the court is inclined to err in favor
of discovery rather than against it.”). The recent changes to the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure (in particular, Rule 26), although substantive and substantial, do not
change the definition of relevance. Instead, they reemphasize and highlight
requirements already present in the Rules, like proportionality. See Fed. R. Civ. P.
26, advisory committee note (2015) (“Restoring the proportionality calculation to
Rule 26(b)(1) does not change the existing responsibilities of the court and the parties
to consider proportionality. . . .”); Sibley v. Choice Hotels Int’l, 2015 WL 9413101 at
* 2 (E.D.N.Y. Dec. 22, 2015) (“While proportionality factors have now been
incorporated into the Rule 26(b)(1) definition, those factors were already a part of
Federal discovery standards, appearing in Rule 26(b)(2)(C)(iii)”).
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