Thomason v. Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North America Inc et al
ORDER AND OPINION granting 98 Motion to Compel. Signed by Honorable J Michelle Childs on 2/3/17.(jtho, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF SOUTH CAROLINA
William Thomason, Jr. as Executor and
Surviving Closest Relative of William
Poole Thomason and Eugenia McCuen
Toyota Motor Corporation, Toyota Motor
Engineering & Mfg., North America, Inc.,
Toyota Motor Mfg., Kentucky, Inc., and
Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.,
Civil Action No. 6:14-cv-04895-JMC
ORDER AND OPINION
Plaintiff William Thomason, Jr., the Executor and the Surviving Closest Relative of
William Poole Thomason and Eugenia McCuen Thomason, filed an action against Defendants
Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, Inc., Toyota Motor Manufacturing
Kentucky, Inc., Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc., and Toyota Motor Corporation (collectively
“Defendants”), seeking economic, non-economic, and punitive damages for “the untimely deaths
of William Poole Thomason and Eugenia McCuen Thomason.” (ECF No. 1 at 12-13.)
This matter is before the court pursuant to Defendants’ Motion to Compel Plaintiff’s
Compliance with Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(a)(2). (ECF No. 98.) Defendants request that the court
compel “Plaintiff to produce his experts’ work product, references and other supporting
data.”(ECF No. 98 at 4.)
For the reasons set forth below, the court GRANTS Defendants’ Motion to Compel
Plaintiff’s Compliance with Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(a)(2) (ECF No. 98).
I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
On December 30, 2015, Plaintiff filed a Complaint against Defendants alleging (1)
negligence resulting in the death of William Poole Thomason and Eugenia McCuen Thomason
(ECF No. 1 at 7), (2) violation of federal motor vehicle safety standards (ECF No. 1 at 10), and
(3) breach of warranties (ECF No. 1 at 12).
On December 20, 2016, Defendants filed a Motion to Compel Plaintiff’s Compliance
with Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(a)(2) stating that “[p]laintiff has served his Rule 26(a)(2) disclosures and
supplemental expert disclosures of his design expert, Neil Hanneman, without supplying or
otherwise adequately identifying certain information that the expert relies on for his opinions.”
(ECF No. 98 at 1.)
On January 4, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Response in Opposition and argued “Defendants’
motion does not account for the 2.29 [gigabytes] of additional files associated solely with [Neil
Hannemann’s] report and opinions.” (ECF No. 101 at 2.)
On January 11, 2017, Defendants filed a Reply to the Response in Opposition and
claimed that the documents supplied by Plaintiff are insufficient because they “do not appear to
contain the . . . information outlined in [Defendants’] Motion.” (ECF No. 103 at 2.)
II. LEGAL STANDARD
The amended Fed. R. Civ. P. 26 provides that “[p]arties may obtain discovery regarding
any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party’s claim or defense and proportional to the
needs of the case, considering the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount in
controversy, the parties’ relative access to the relevant information, the parties’ resources, the
importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the
proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit. Information within this scope of discovery need
not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). The scope of
discovery permitted by Rule 26 is designed to provide a party with information reasonably
necessary to afford a fair opportunity to develop its case. Nat’l Union Fire Ins. Co. of Pittsburgh,
P.A. v. Murray Sheet Metal Co., Inc., 967 F.2d 980, 983 (4th Cir. 1992).
Fed. R. Civ. P. 33(b)(3) requires that each interrogatory must, to the extent there is no
objection, be answered separately and fully in writing under oath. Fed. R. Civ. P. 34(a)(1)(A)
permits a party to serve upon any other party a request within the scope of Rule 26(b) to produce
and permit the requesting party to inspect, copy, test, or sample any designated tangible things.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 34(b)(2)(B) requires that for each item or category, the response must either state
that inspection and related activities will be permitted as requested or state with specificity the
grounds for objecting to the requests, including the reasons.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 37 states, “[o]n notice to other parties and all affected persons, a party
may move for an order compelling disclosure or discovery. The motion must include a
certification that the movant has in good faith conferred or attempted to confer with the person or
party failing to make disclosure or discovery in an effort to obtain it without court action.” Fed.
R. Civ. P. 37(a)(1). “For purposes of [Rule 37(a)], an evasive or incomplete disclosure, answer,
or response must be treated as a failure to disclose, answer, or respond.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(a)(4).
Specifically, a party “may move for an order compelling an answer, designation, production, or
inspection.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(a)(3)(B). Broad discretion is given to a district court’s decision to
grant or deny a motion to compel. See, e.g., Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon, Inc., v. Alpha of
Va., Inc., 43 F.3d 922, 929 (4th Cir. 1995).
Defendants request that this court:
[G]rant the motion and issue an order compelling Plaintiff and his expert Neil
Hanneman to produce the following documents, or otherwise specifically identify
them in the voluminous documents already produced during discovery of this
case: (1) ‘published research material’ referenced on page 2, Item III.C.2. of Mr.
Hannemann’s 8/29/14 report; (2) ‘any other documents produced by other
manufacturers in similar incidences’ referenced on page 3, Item III.C.8 of the
8/29/14 report; and (3) ‘published literature, including patents, SAE standards,
and NHTSA documents’ referenced on page 4, Item V.C, of the report.
(ECF No. 103 at 3.)
Plaintiff asserts that the information requested by Defendants is available as part of a
supplemental production. (ECF No. 101 at 2 (“Plaintiff has referred Defendants to previous
productions because the documents requested by Defendants and relied upon by Mr. Hannemann
were previously produced to Defendants.”).) Second, Plaintiff believes that Defendants’ motion
is unnecessary, unduly burdensome, and an attempt to expand the scope of discovery. (ECF No.
101 at 2-3.)
Defendants claim that “[r]eferring [Defendants’] counsel to thousands of pages of
documents and dozens of gigabytes of data produced by [Defendants’] experts, not Plaintiff,
violates the spirit, if not the letter, of Rule 26(a)(2)(B)’s requirements.” (ECF No. 98 at 4.)
Specifically, Defendants call the court’s attention to the “vaguely disclosed materials relied upon
for opinions contained in his reports” (ECF No. 98), and identifies deficient identification
numbers in the expert report:
[t]he documents Plaintiff produced . . . contain links to some patents . . . [and]
some internet articles regarding Smart Key issues . . . [y]et do not contain any
research published in technical journals, nor do they contain any documents that
appear to have been produced by other manufacturers in Smart Key litigation . . .
[t]here are also no documents authored by SAE, or by NHTSA other than some
links to Safety Recalls.
(ECF No. 103 at 2.)
In response, Plaintiff maintains that Defendants are capable of discovering the
information because the materials are in their possession. (ECF No. 101.) Additionally, Plaintiff
insists their position is justified because Defendants production of discovery materials “left
[Plaintiff] with the task of attempting to parse through documents which took up in excess of
forty bankers boxes.” (ECF No. 101 at 3.) Plaintiff further declares that “[i]ronically, now that
Plaintiff’s experts state that they have ‘considered the materials produced by Defendant[s]’ the
task of reviewing the entirety of the same [information] is too burdensome to comport with the
rules of discovery.” (ECF No. 101 at 3.)
However, the court observes that the Joint Rule 26(f) (Conference of the Parties;
Planning for Discovery) Report, agreed upon by both parties, includes:
Any issues about disclosure or discovery of electronically stored information,
including the form or forms in which it should be produced.
Response: The Parties do not foresee any issues arising relating to the disclosure
or discovery of electronically stored information.
(ECF No. 30 at 3; 3.)
Therefore, the court is not persuaded by Plaintiff’s argument that Defendants must
engage in a similar, burdensome discovery process because it is inconsistent with the conditions
of disclosing expert testimony in Fed. R. Civ. P 26(a)(2). Moreover, if the parties had agreed to
the production format, then Plaintiff would have avoided the burden of searching through forty
bankers boxes of information. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 34, Committee Notes on Rules (2006)
(“Stating the intended form before the production occurs may permit the parties to identify and
seek to resolve disputes before the expense and work of the production occurs.”)
Parties are obligated to furnish the information an expert has used for forming their
expert opinion by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(a)(2)(B)(ii) (“the
facts or data considered by the witness in forming [all opinions]”). Plaintiff has failed to do so.
Therefore, the court finds that Defendants’ request for the information Mr. Hanneman relied on
to form the opinion found in his expert report is within the scope of discovery and proportional
to the needs of the case.
For the aforementioned reasons, the court GRANTS Defendants’ Motion to Compel
(ECF No. 98). Plaintiff is directed to provide Defendants with the relevant information related to
Mr. Hanneman’s expert witness report by February 13, 2017.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
United States District Judge
February 3, 2017
Columbia, South Carolina
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