TE Connectivity Networks, Inc. v. All Systems Broadband, Inc.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER denying 16 Defendant's Motion to Stay; the parties shall meet and confer in accordance with Rule 26(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure within one week of the date that this Order is filed (Written Opinion). Signed by Judge Ann D. Montgomery on 08/20/2013. (TLU)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF MINNESOTA
TE Connectivity Networks, Inc.,
Civil No. 13-1356 ADM/FLN
All Systems Broadband, Inc.,
Randall E. Kahnke, Esq., and Matthew B. Kilby, Esq., Faegre Baker Daniels, LLP, Minneapolis,
MN, on behalf of Plaintiff.
Lewis A. Remele, Jr., Esq., Frederick E. Finch, Esq., Jan M. Gunderson, Esq., Jonathan C.
Marquet, Esq., and Pamela D. Steinle, Esq., Bassford Remele, PA, on behalf of Defendant.
This matter is before the undersigned United States District Judge for consideration of
Defendant All Systems Broadband, Inc.’s (“ASB”) Motion to Stay Discovery [Docket No. 16].
Plaintiff TE Connectivity Networks, Inc. (“TE”) opposes the motion. For the reasons stated
herein, ASB’s motion is denied.
TE, a Shakopee, Minnesota, based company, develops and sells “fiber connectivity
products” used in the telecommunications industry. Compl. [Docket No. 1] ¶¶ 1, 3. TE
distributed some of its products through TriNet Communications (“TriNet”). Id. ¶ 8. In 2005,
several executives left TriNet to form ASB, a Livermore, California, based company. Id. ¶¶ 4, 9.
At first, ASB did not compete with TE. However, TE alleges ASB eventually hired several
former TE employees who possessed trade secrets and/or confidential or proprietary information
about TE’s products and sales. Several of these employees were bound by confidentiality and
non-competition agreements with TE. Id. ¶¶ 26-28. From these employees, TE alleges ASB
misappropriated trade secrets and proprietary or confidential information, which it used to
develop and market competing products. Id. ¶¶ 54-83. On June 5, 2013, TE filed the Complaint
in suit against ASB. See generally id.
On June 19, 2013, TE agreed to extend ASB’s time to respond to the Complaint until
July 29, 2013. In an effort to avoid discovery delays, TE requested, and ASB agreed, to hold an
early Rule 26(f) conference on the same date. See Stip., June 21, 2013 [Docket No. 6].
Accordingly, Magistrate Judge Franklin Noel entered an order reflecting these agreements.
Order, June 24, 2013 [Docket No. 7].
On July 29, 2013, ASB informed TE that it intended to move to dismiss the Complaint,
and requested TE stipulate to a stay of discovery pending the motion’s resolution. TE agreed to
extend ASB’s time to respond for an additional week—until August 5, 2013—while TE
considered its position. See Stip., July 29, 2013 [Docket No. 8]. Judge Noel again reflected the
agreement in an order. Order, Aug. 5, 2013 [Docket No. 9].
On August 2, 2013, TE informed ASB that it would oppose the motion to dismiss, and
that TE intended to proceed with discovery while the motion was pending. Def.’s Mem. Supp.
Stay [Docket No. 19] 2. On August 5, 2013, ASB simultaneously moved to dismiss the
Complaint and stay discovery pending resolution of its motion to dismiss [Docket Nos. 12, 16].1
In a letter dated August 13, 2013, counsel for ASB requested that, in the event the
Court proceeded without oral argument on the motion to stay, ASB receive permission to file a
reply brief. See D. Minn. L.R. 7.1.(b)(3). As indicated below, a reply brief in this matter would
be unnecessary given the issues raised by the parties. Given the Court’s discretion in this matter,
the request is denied.
Under Rule 26(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a party may move the court for
a protective order staying discovery. A court may only issue such an order, however, upon the
movant’s showing of good cause, including to avoid undue burden or expense. Id.
ASB argues courts have routinely stayed discovery pending the resolution of a motion to
dismiss, particularly where a plaintiff may have filed a lawsuit first and then sought discovery as
an after-the-fact attempt to assemble a viable claim. See In re Medtronic, Inc. Sprint Fidelis
Leads Prods. Liab. Litig., No. 08-1905, 2009 WL 294353, at *2 (D. Minn. Feb. 5, 2009) (“A
plaintiff must adequately plead a claim before obtaining discovery, not the other way around.”),
aff’d, 623 F.3d 1200 (8th Cir. 2010). In this case, ASB argues it has filed a well-founded motion
to dismiss. Def.’s Mem. Supp. Stay at 4. If the Court grants the motion, the need for discovery
will become moot. Id. Implicit in this argument is the contention that TE’s lawsuit is without
merit, and staying discovery will save the parties the time and expense of unnecessary discovery.
TE responds that staying discovery pending the resolution of a motion to dismiss is
unusual and far from routine. In general, TE argues, a Rule 12(b)(6) motion should not lead to a
stay of discovery, as saving the time and expense of normal litigation costs is not “good cause”
under Rule 26(c), and ASB has not identified any particular basis otherwise justifying a stay. TE
further argues that ASB’s cited decisions do not stand for the proposition that courts may
generally stay discovery pending the resolution of dispositive motions. In circumstances where
courts have stayed discovery pending the resolution of a motion, they have done so for specific,
somewhat unique, reasons. See, e.g., Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308,
321 (2007) (observing the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act specifically authorizes a stay
of discovery pending resolution of any motion to dismiss); see also Lovelace v. Delo, 47 F.3d
286, 287 (8th Cir. 1995) (holding a stay of discovery may be appropriate while resolving
entitlement to qualified immunity, as such immunity exists to protect government from
ASB is correct that a court may stay discovery for good cause shown. However, “it, of
course, is black letter law that the mere filing of a motion to dismiss the complaint does not
constitute ‘good cause’ for the issuance of a discovery stay.” Chesney v. Valley Stream Union
Free Sch. Dist. No. 24, 236 F.R.D. 113, 115 (E.D.N.Y. 2006); see also Ministerio Roca Solida v.
U.S. Dept. of Fish & Wildlife, 288 F.R.D. 500, 502 (D. Nev. 2013) (“[T]o establish good cause
for a stay, the moving party must show more than an apparently meritorious Rule 12(b)(6)
Federal courts have considered various factors in determining whether a stay is
appropriate in a particular case. Among other things, district courts have taken a “peek” at the
merits of the pending dispositive motion, considered the breadth of pending discovery, and
balanced the harm produced by delaying discovery against the possibility that the entire matter
will be resolved by the motion. See Anti-Monopoly, Inc. v. Hasbro, Inc., No. 94Civ.2120, 1996
WL 101277, at *2-3 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 7, 1996); Mlejnecky v. Olympus Imaging Am., Inc., No.
2:10-cv-02630, 2011 WL 489743, at *7-8 (E.D. Cal. Feb. 7, 2011); Feldman v. Flood, 176
F.R.D. 651, 653 (M.D. Fla. 1997). Generally, the determination is practical, and largely left to
the district court’s discretion. Where a complaint is clearly without merit, or where a motion to
dismiss otherwise seems likely to resolve the entire litigation, a stay of discovery may be
With these considerations in mind, a stay of discovery is not warranted in this case.
Although the Court does not rule on the merits of the Complaint, it does not appear the
Complaint is facially frivolous or clearly without merit. And, although ASB has filed a
potentially viable motion to dismiss, it has not demonstrated any specific good cause warranting
a stay. This case does not involve a statute or doctrine of law which requires the resolution of
motions to dismiss before discovery begins. See Tellabs, 551 U.S. at 321; Lovelace, 47 F.3d at
287. Nor has ASB indicated any particular facts or circumstances that make responding to
discovery in this case unusually burdensome or prejudicial beyond the usual case of this nature.
Without good cause based in either law or fact, the motion to stay will be denied. The Court will
endeavor to issue a timely ruling on ASB’s motion to dismiss once the parties have completed
their arguments. In the meantime, discovery may proceed.
Based on the foregoing, and all the files, records and proceedings herein, IT IS
HEREBY ORDERED that:
Defendant’s Motion to Stay Discovery [Docket No. 16] is DENIED; and
The parties shall meet and confer in accordance with Rule 26(f) of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure within one week of the date that this Order is filed.
BY THE COURT:
s/Ann D. Montgomery
ANN D. MONTGOMERY
U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated: August 20, 2013.
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