State Farm Fire & Casualty Company v. Toshiba America Information Systems, Inc. et al
ORDER granting 57 Matsushita's Motion to Compel Responses to Discovery to the extent TAIS shall provide a redacted version of the Quanta documents and denied in all other respects. TAIS shall submit a redacted version of the Quanta documents to the undersigned magistrate judge on or before August 18, 2015. Following the court's review, the court will order TAIS to provide Matsushita the Quanta documents. Ordered by Magistrate Judge Thomas D. Thalken. (JSF)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEBRASKA
STATE FARM FIRE & CASUALTY
TOSHIBA AMERICA INFORMATION
SYSTEMS, INC. and
ELECTRICAL CO. LTD.,
This matter is before the court on the defendant’s, Matsushita Electric Industrial
Company, Co. Ltd., improperly identified as Matsushita Electric Electrical Co. Ltd. in
plaintiff’s Amended Complaint, and now known as Panasonic Corporation (Matsushita),1
Motion to Compel Responses to Discovery (Filing No. 57). Matsushita filed a brief
(Filing No. 58) and index of evidence (Filing No. 59) in support of the motion. The
defendant, Toshiba America Information Systems, Inc. (TAIS), filed a brief (Filing No.
60) and index of evidence (Filing No. 61) in opposition. TAIS also emailed a four-page
document to the undersigned magistrate judge for in camera review.2 Matsushita did
not file a brief in reply.
This lawsuit emanates from a September 3, 2008, fire involving a laptop owned
by the plaintiff’s, State Farm Fire & Casualty Company (State Farm), insured. See
Filing No. 34 - Amended Complaint.
State Farm alleges the laptop incorporated a
battery designed and manufactured by Matsushita. Id. ¶ 5. According to State Farm’s
supplemental response to Matsushita’s discovery, State Farm indicated TAIS has
documents and information concerning the laptop’s battery’s origination. See Filing No.
59-4 Ex. C - State Farm’s Supp. Resp.
In response to Matsushita’s interrogatory
Panasonic Corporation of North America entered its appearance and answered on behalf of Matsushita
as the proper party defendant. See Filing No. 40 - Answer.
The four-page document provided for in camera review will be filed separately under seal.
regarding the battery’s origination, TAIS answered: “Upon information and belief, the
battery installed in the laptop at issue was manufactured by Matsushita. TAIS does not
possess any specific information concerning the components of the laptop, including
make, model or specifications of the battery.”
See Filing No. 59-2 Ex. A - TAIS’
Interrog. Ans. Similarly, TAIS responded it does not possess documents identifying the
See Filing No. 59-3 Ex. B - TAIS’ Resp.
In light of the
foregoing, Matsushita and State Farm agreed to voluntarily dismiss Matsushita from the
case. See Filing No. 59-5 Ex. D - Emails; Filing No. 59-6 Ex. E - Partially Executed
Stipulation for Dismissal. However, the parties did not execute the stipulation because
TAIS refused to sign the stipulation.
Thereafter, TAIS advised the parties, by email, the battery installed in the laptop,
Serial No. 78228141W, was manufactured by Matsushita Electronics Corporation/WUXI
Matsushita Battery Co. Ltd., and specifically the serial number for the battery installed in
the laptop was 862100026APN. See Filing No. 59-7 Ex. F - TAIS’ Email. Eventually,
TAIS provided a supplemental answer to Matsushita stating the same. See Filing No.
59-8 Ex. G - TAIS’ Supp. Ans. Additionally, TAIS answered “based upon information
supplied from the records maintained by Quanta,” the company responsible for
assembling and installing the battery in the laptop,
Unknown persons at Quanta and Toshiba Corporation, a
Japanese corporation, may have information relating to this
Interrogatory. TAIS does not possess specific information
concerning the components of the Laptop, including
specifications of the battery. Upon information and belief,
based on information supplied from business records
maintained by Quanta, the part number for the battery
component that was installed by Quanta is 302052243.
Id. Matsushita filed the instant motion seeking the documents TAIS relies upon, which
were supplied by Quanta, to show the battery is a Matsushita product. See Filing No.
57 - Motion, Filing No. 58 - Brief. In response, TAIS argues it does not possess or
control any responsive documents, or entities that would have any responsive
documents, with the exception of the Quanta documents.
See Filing No. 60 -
Response. TAIS explains the Quanta documents are four pages of computer screen
images taken from Quanta’s accounting system, tracing the battery serial number and
TAIS states Quanta provided the documents to TAIS with the
understanding TAIS would not disclose the documents because Quanta deems the
TAIS argues disclosure of the Quanta documents is
unnecessary because the only relevant information contained therein relates to
identification of the serial number and manufacturer, which has already been disclosed
to Matsushita. Id. However, if the court orders TAIS to produce the Quanta documents,
TAIS requests an opportunity to redact sensitive, confidential information relating to
other Quanta suppliers. Id.
“Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant
to any party’s claim or defense.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). “Broad discovery is an
important tool for the litigant, and so ‘[r]elevant information need not be admissible at
the trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of
admissible evidence.’” WWP, Inc. v. Wounded Warriors Family Support, Inc., 628
F.3d 1032, 1039 (8th Cir. 2011) (alteration in original) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P.
26(b)(1)). Accordingly, relevant information includes “any matter that bears on, or that
reasonably could lead to other matter that could bear on, any issue that is or may be in
the case.” Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 351 (1978). Mere
speculation that information might be useful will not suffice; litigants seeking to compel
discovery must describe with a reasonable degree of specificity the information they
hope to obtain and its importance to their case. See Cervantes v. Time, Inc., 464 F.2d
986, 994 (8th Cir. 1972). Once the requesting party meets the threshold relevance
burden, generally “[a]ll discovery requests are a burden on the party who must respond
thereto. Unless the task of producing or answering is unusual, undue or extraordinary,
the general rule requires the entity answering or producing the documents to bear that
burden.” Continental Ill. Nat’l Bank & Trust Co. of Chicago v. Caton, 136 F.R.D.
682, 684-85 (D. Kan. 1991) (citation omitted).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 34 allows a party to request of another party
production of documents for inspection and copying. Fed. R. Civ. P. 34(a). The rule
applies to such documents that are “in the responding party’s possession, custody, or
control.” Id. “[C]ontrol is defined as the legal right, authority, or ability to obtain upon
demand documents in the possession of another.” In re Hallmark Capital Corp., 534
F. Supp. 2d 981, 982 (D. Minn. 2008) (internal citation omitted). A party does not need
to have legal ownership or actual possession of documents, “rather documents are
considered to be under a party’s control when that party has the right, authority, or
practical ability to obtain the documents from a non-party to the action.” Id. “In the face
of a denial by a party that it has possession, custody or control of documents, the
[requesting] party must make an adequate showing to overcome this assertion.”
Hagemeyer N. Am., Inc. v. Gateway Data Scis. Corp., 222 F.R.D. 594, 598 (E.D. Wis.
2004) (internal citations omitted).
After review of the parties’ discovery responses and the Quanta documents
provided for in camera review, the court finds the Quanta documents, which TAIS relied
upon to answer Matsushita’s discovery requests, are relevant and shall be disclosed to
TAIS will have an opportunity to redact any confidential business
information from the Quanta documents before disclosure. To the extent Matsushita
seeks additional documentation of the battery’s origination, Matsushita has offered no
evidence to show TAIS has possession, custody, or control, or the legal right to obtain
additional documentation, assuming such documentation exists.
TAIS cannot be
ordered to produce what it does not have and cannot reasonably obtain. Accordingly,
IT IS ORDERED:
Matsushita’s Motion to Compel Responses to Discovery (Filing No. 57) is
granted to the extent TAIS shall provide a redacted version of the Quanta documents
and denied in all other respects.
TAIS shall submit a redacted version of the Quanta documents to the
undersigned magistrate judge on or before August 18, 2015. Following the court’s
review, the court will order TAIS to provide Matsushita the Quanta documents.
Dated this 11th day of August, 2015.
BY THE COURT:
s/ Thomas D. Thalken
United States Magistrate Judge
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