Monsanto Company et al v. Omega Farm Supply, Inc.,
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER: IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiffs Motion to Compel ( 22 ) is GRANTED with respect to Interrogatories No. 1, 2, 4, 6 and 7, and with respect to Requests for Production No. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plainti ffs Motion to Compel is DENIED without prejudice with respect to Requests for Production No. 6 and 7. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Defendant Omega Farm Supply shall comply with this Order and respond to the above-specified outstanding or incomplete discovery requests no later than Wednesday, October 28, 2015. Signed by District Judge John A. Ross on 10/9/15. (JAB)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
MONSANTO COMPANY and
MONSANTO TECHNOLOGY, LLC,
OMEGA FARM SUPPLY, INC. d/b/a
OMEGA FARM SUPPLY
& GIN COMPANY,
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs Monsanto Company and Monsanto
Technology, LLC's (collectively "Monsanto") Motion to Compel. (Doc. No. 22.) In response to
Monsanto's motion, Defendant Omega Farm Supply, Inc. ("Omega") responds that, with regard
to some disputed requests, Omega has already fully responded, and with regard to some others,
that they are "making every effort to locate responsive documents to the extent that they exist."
(Doc. No. 23 at 2.) In response to the actual requests, Omega has also asserted a litany of
objections. (Doc. No. 22-1.) Upon review of the parties' briefing and the discovery requests
propounded, the Court will grant Monsanto's motion in substantial part.
Factual and Procedural Background
On May 20, 2014, Monsanto filed its Complaint against Omega, alleging claims for
breach of contract, inducement to infringe1 ,and patent infringement with regard to two separate
patents held by Monsanto. (Doc. No. 1.) Monsanto's patents relate to its seed technologies. Id.
Purchasers of Monsanto's technologically engineered seed are granted a limited use license,
which generally prohibits the planting of saved, second generation seed. Id. at 5. Monsanto
alleges that Omega entered into such an agreement, but subsequently breached it by facilitating
the saving, ginning, and delinting of second generation Monsanto-produced seed. Id. at 5-6.
Omega denies these allegations. (Doc. No. 18.)
On March 25, 2015, Monsanto served on Omega its First Set of Interrogatories and
Requests for Production.
(Doc. No. 22-1.)
Omega responded on May 5, 2015, stating in
response to some inquires that it "will produce" responsive documents, and objecting to
numerous inquiries. Id. Monsanto's briefing suggests that, in the ensuing months, Omega has
failed to produce responsive documents, and that counsel for Omega has repeatedly failed to
respond to communications from Monsanto's counsel. (Doc. No. 26 at 3.)
The Federal Rules relating to discovery permit each party to serve the opposing party
with document requests and interrogatories which relate to "any matter that may be inquired into
under Rule 26(b)." Fed. R. Civ. P. 33(a)(2) and 34(a). Where a party fails to cooperate in
discovery, the propounding party may move the Court "for an order compelling an answer,
designation, production, or inspection." Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(a)(3)(B).
Interrogatories and Requests for Production
Identification of Growers, Entities, and Purchasers: In Interrogatory No. 1, Monsanto
requests Omega to "describe in detail each grower and entity for whom you caught seed between
2009 and the present." (Doc. No. 22-1 at 3.) Request for Production No. 1 demands documents
containing the same information. Id. at 8. Omega's responses, while providing some of the
requested information, also state that "Omega does not maintain record [sic] indicating the exact
years of such activity." Id.
In its motion, Monsanto explains that in fact, Omega's claim is
erroneous: Omega's own previously submitted documents apparently undermine its claim. (Doc.
No. 22 at 2.) Omega acknowledges that it "is currently examining its archived records and will
produce responsive invoice documents ... Omega will identify any additionally located growers
if any such growers are evidenced through additionally located documents as they exist." (Doc.
No. 23 at 2.)
Similarly, in Interrogatory No. 2, Monsanto requests Omega to "identify all persons to
whom it sold or transferred cotton seed from another grower's harvest." (Doc. No. 22-1 at 3.)
Although Omega responded that it was not aware of any such growers, Monsanto was able to
identify two such responsive individuals utilizing Omega's own records. (Doc. No. 22 at 2.)
Omega has objected that these inquiries are "vague, compound, overbroad ... [and]
unduly burdensome" and has also objected that Monsanto is already in possession of some of the
requested information. (Doc. No. 22-1 at 3, 5, 8). The Court overrules Omega's objections to
these discovery requests. The Federal Rules allow a party to "obtain discovery regarding any
nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense." Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(l).
The above-mentioned requests appear to be reasonably calculated to lead to material relevant to
Omega is ordered to identify and produce documents and information
responsive to Interrogatory Nos. 1 and 2 and Request for Production No. 1, or to otherwise state
definitively that all responsive documents and information have been provided.
Mechanical Changes Made to Gin: In Interrogatory No. 6 and Request for Production No.
2, Monsanto requests information related to changes allegedly made by Omega to its gin which
would facilitate the use of second generation seed.
(Doc. 22-1 at 7-9.)
Interrogatory No. 6 with a single sentence, and responds to Request for Production No. 2 by
stating that it will provide responsive photographs, but without a commitment to provide all
Id. Additionally, Omega asserts stock objections related to form and
burdensomeness. (Doc. No. 22-1 at 7.) Monsanto argues that Omega's responses are cursory
and insufficient. (Doc. No. 26 at 9.) The Court agrees. Monsanto's requests are reasonable
within the limitations of Rule 26(b)(1 ), and Omega has failed to demonstrate how responding
will be burdensome. Omega's objections are overruled, and Omega is ordered to fully and
thoroughly identify and produce documents and information responsive to Interrogatory No. 6
and Request for Production No. 2.
Processes Related to Fuzzy Seed: In Interrogatory Nos. 4 and 7, Monsanto requests
information related to Omega's processes for distributing fuzzy seed. (Doc. No. 22-1 at 6-7.)
Omega has responded to each interrogatory as vague, overbroad, compound, and unduly
burdensome. Id. Subject to these objections, Omega responds to both inquiries with the same
sentence: "Growers may bring a wagon to the gin and request service from [three named
individuals.]" Id. Monsanto argues that this response is cursory and fails to fully respond to the
queries posed. (Doc. No. 26 at 9.)
The Court agrees. Again, Monsanto's requests invoke
information relevant to their claims and fall within the limitations of Rule 26(b)(l). Omega's
objections are overruled, and Omega is ordered to fully and thoroughly identify and produce
documents and information responsive to Interrogatories No. 4 and 7.
Documents Related to the Employment of Michael Brooks: Requests for Production Nos.
3, 4, and 5 seek information related to the employment and compensation of Michael Brooks, an
individual who has been identified as having allegedly played a role in the conduct purportedly
giving rise to Monsanto's Complaint. (Doc. No. 22 at 9-10.) Omega's own responses thus far
have also identified Mr. Brooks as an individual with knowledge of facts relating to Monsanto's
response to Interrogatory No. 7, Doc. No. 22-1 at 8.) In general,
Omega has responded that responsive documents do not exist. Id. However, Omega's reply
briefing appears unclear on the issue. For example, while Omega's brief first states with regard
to Request for Production No. 5 that "no such relevant documents exist under Omega's custody
or control," it proceeds to almost immediately add that "[s]ubject to the foregoing, Omega will
supplement its response to provide information concerning Michael Brooks' compensation once
a Protective Order is put in place." (Doc. No. 23 at 5-6.)
Omega is ordered to identify and produce documents and information responsive to
Requests for Production No. 3, 4, and 5, or to otherwise state definitively that all responsive
documents and information have been provided. If a protective order is desired, such a proposal
should be submitted to the Court in advance the response deadline set forth below.
Documents Related to Buddy Brogdon: Finally, Requests for Production Nos. 6 and 7
seek information related to Buddy Brogdon, a former co-owner of Omega Farm Supply. (Doc.
No. 22-1 at 10-11.) Omega objects that the information requested is not relevant and is protected
by the attorney-client privilege. Id. With regard to these requests, the Court agrees with Omega
as to relevance. Monsanto has failed to carry its burden in explaining why information relating
to Mr. Brogdon might be relevant to its claims. Although "the standard of relevance in the
context of discovery is broader than in the context of admissibility," the discovery process
cannot be used for "fishing expeditions in discovery." Hofer v. Mack Trucks, Inc., 981 F.2d 377,
380 (8th Cir. 1992). Monsanto has made no showing or formal allegation that Mr. Brogdon is
connected to the facts underlying claims in this lawsuit, and therefore, has not met a threshold
showing of relevance. With respect to these two requests, Monsanto's motion is denied without
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiffs Motion to Compel is GRANTED with
respect to Interrogatories No. 1, 2, 4, 6 and 7, and with respect to Requests for Production
No. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiffs Motion to Compel is DENIED without
prejudice with respect to Requests for Production No. 6 and 7.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Defendant Omega Farm Supply shall comply with
this Order and respond to the above-specified outstanding or incomplete discovery requests no
later than Wednesday, October 28, 2015.
Dated this 9th day of October, 2015.
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