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Luken v. Christensen Group Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

November 15, 2017

HENRY G. LUKEN III, Plaintiff,
v.
CHRISTENSEN GROUP INCORPORATED, et al. Defendants.

          ORDER ON MOTION FOR PROTECTIVE ORDER [DKT. 98] AND MOTION TO COMPEL [DKT. 105]

          Ronald B. Leighton United States District Judge.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendants'[1] Motion for Protective Order [Dkt. 98] and Plaintiff Henry G. Luken First Motion to Compel Discovery [Dkt. 105]. Defendants seek a protective order, claiming Luken's forty-seven pages of interrogatories and document production requests are vague, overly broad, impose an undue discovery burden, and violate the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure as well as the Local Civil Rules governing discovery. Luken opposes the motion for protective order and seeks to compel Defendants' responses to his interrogatories, requests for production, and subpoenas. Both sides criticize the tactics of the other for making the discovery process unnecessarily contentious.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Luken was both a shareholder in and a customer of Christensen Shipyards, LTD (CSL), a Vancouver, WA based builder of luxury yachts. The arrangement was unsuccessful on all levels. CSL went into receivership in 2015 and Luken ultimately purchased its assets. This litigation involves complex claims between Luken and CSL and its owners and officers, trading allegations about why it all went wrong and who is financially responsible, to whom.

         Discovery has been a protracted and antagonistic process. The Court has previously granted Defendants' motion to compel Luken to provide initial disclosures and produce documents [Dkt. 46] and has compelled Luken's responses to interrogatories [Dkt. 73]. The Court is again called upon to settle a completely avoidable discovery dispute.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Local Civil Rules for the Western District of Washington govern the discovery process. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1) provides:

[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 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.

         The Local Civil Rules advise that “[t]he proportionality standard set forth in Fed. R. Civ. P.26(b)(1) must be applied in every case when parties formulate a discovery plan and promulgate discovery requests. To further the application of the proportionality standard in discovery, discovery requests and related responses should be reasonably targeted, clear, and as specific as possible.” Local Rules, W.D.Wash. 26(f).

         In circumstances where a party abuses the discovery process, Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c)(1) permits a party from whom discovery is sought to move for a protective order to safeguard the party from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense. Conversely, a party may move to compel disclosure or a discovery response if an opposing party fails to provide the sought-after discovery. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Defendants' Motion for Protective Order [Dkt. 98]

         Defendants argue that Luken's contention interrogatories are overly broad. Defendants estimate that responding to Luken's interrogatories and requests for production would take between 350 to 450 hours of attorney and paralegal time and would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Defendants contend that much of the information Luken seeks is already available in the detailed pleadings and in the discovery already produced.

         Luken asserts that his interrogatories are proper because they ask relevant questions about Defendants' defenses and counterclaims, and that Defendants ...


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