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Uchytil v. Avande, Inc.

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

February 27, 2018

MARIA UCHYTIL, on behalf of the United States of America, Plaintiff,
AVANDE, INC., a Washington corporation, AVANDE FEDERAL SERVICES, a Delaware corporation, and ACCENTURE FEDERAL SERVICES LLC, a Delaware limited liability corporation, Defendants.



         This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' motion for a protective order (Dkt. No. 121) and Plaintiff/Relator Maria Uchytil's (“Relator”) cross-motion to compel (Dkt. No 125). Having thoroughly considered the parties' briefing and the relevant record, the Court finds oral argument unnecessary and hereby GRANTS in part and DENIES in part both motions (Dkt. Nos. 121, 125) for the reasons explained herein.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Relator filed this action on behalf of the United States pursuant to the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act. See 31 U.S.C. § 3724.[1] Relator alleges that Defendants procured government contracts for their computer software product Task Management Tool (“TMS”), through fraudulent statements. (Dkt. No. 105.) Parties are nearing the end of discovery and are unable to resolve a dispute over the scope of production.

         On December 18, 2017, Relator issued Defendants a discovery request seeking documents related to TMT “from April 23, 2010 to the present.” (See Dkt. Nos. 121 at 5, 112-13 at 8, 10, 11.) Defendants oppose this request, asserting that discovery should be limited to “specific contracts (23) and a specific time period (2010-[2012]), ” based on contracts listed in the Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”) (the “Accused Contracts”), and the time period they describe as the “focus” of the pleadings. (Dkt. No. 121 at 1.) Relator asks the Court to compel production of all contracts, invoices, software releases, revenue data, and time records relating to all versions of TMT from April 2010 to the present. (Dkt. No. 125 at 3-4.)


         Discovery motions are strongly disfavored. The party resisting discovery has the burden to establish when limitations are appropriate. Blankenship v. Hearst Corp., 519 F.2d 418, 429 (9th Cir. 1975). The Court will first address Defendants' motion for a broad protective order and will subsequently address Relator's motion to compel specific documents.

         A. Temporal Limitations

         The Court finds it appropriate to temporally limit discovery to the time period of 2010 to 2012. Relator seeks discovery from 2010 to the present. Defendants object that this request is “overbroad, unduly burdensome, and seeks documents that are neither relevant nor proportional to the needs of the case.” (Dkt. No. 122 at 6.) The Court finds Relator's request inconsistent with the principles of discovery and the pleading requirements for cases alleging fraud.

         The pleadings “logically shape the scope of discovery.” United States ex rel. Jacobs v. CDS, P.A., Case No. C14-0301-BLW, 2016 WL 4146077, at *2 (D. Idaho Aug. 3, 2016) (denying discovery for a “broader time period than that detailed in the complaint”); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1) Advisory Committee Note-2000 Amendments. All specific allegations of misconduct in the SAC occurred between April 2010 and December 2012.[2] To expand discovery beyond this point, Relator relies on vague language in the pleadings alleging misconduct “beginning in May 2010 and continuing at least until the time [she] left AVAFed” on January 31, 2012. (Dkt. Nos. 105 at 11-14, 125 at 4-6) (emphasis added). Given the heightened pleading standard for fraud claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(b), these general allegations are not sufficient to allow discovery to extend five years beyond specific allegations in the pleadings. Fed.R.Civ.P. 9(b); U.S. ex rel. Spay v. CVS Caremark Corp., Case No. C09-4672, 2013 WL 4525226 at *2 (E.D. Pa. Aug 27, 2013) (“cursory allegations” that defendant “contine[d]” to engage in fraudulent conduct beyond time period of specific allegations “are unquestionably insufficient to open the door to broad and burdensome discovery”).

         Relator further argues that discovery should extend to the present based on Defendants' development of a “clean room” version of TMT. (Dkt. No. 134 at 2.) She avers she has examined versions of TMT released through August 2016 and determined that Defendants never developed a clean-room version of the software. (Id.) Relator argues this evidence indicates that Defendants continued to fraudulently sell TMT to government customers through the present day. (Id.) But the operative complaint discusses development of a “clean room” version of TMT only through December 2012. (See Dkt. No. 105 at 11.) Relator “cannot broaden the scope of [her] pleading by submission of this evidence.” U.S. ex rel. Spay, Case No. C09-4672, 2013 WL 4525226 at *3.

         The court in Spay noted that claims governed by Rule 9(b) must have “discernable boundaries and manageable discovery limits.” Id. (citing U.S. ex. rel. Clausen v. Lab. Corp. of Am., Inc., 198 F.R.D. 560, 564 (N.D.Ga. 2000), aff'd 290 F.3d 1301 (11th Cir. 2002), cert. denied, 537 U.S. 1105 (2003). Extending discovery based on non-specific claims of continued misconduct or allegations not in the pleadings would be inconsistent with this principle. It would also impose a significant burden on Defendants, who would be required to produce five additional years of documents near the close of discovery and to potentially seek additional production from Government agencies. (See Dkt. No. 121 at 5) (describing extensive discovery efforts thus far.) Thus, the Court finds it reasonable to limit additional discovery to the period of January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2012.[3]

         B. Substantive Limitations

         Defendants also seek to limit discovery to documents connected to contracts named in the SAC. (Dkt. No. 131 at 3.) Relator maintains that these are merely “example contracts” that do not limit the scope of her claims. (Dkt. No. 125 at 9). The Court finds that Defendants have not ...

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