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Fish, LLC v. Harbor Marine Maintenance & Supply, Inc.

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

March 1, 2018

FISH, LLC, et al., Plaintiffs,



         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiffs' motion to compel (Dkt. No. 30). Having thoroughly considered the parties' briefing and the relevant record, the Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part the motion for the reasons explained herein.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs engaged Defendant to repair and upgrade a vessel-the Whitewater Adventure. (Dkt. No. 14 at 2.) The vessel sank on or around November 22, 2015 after Defendant returned the vessel to Plaintiffs' boathouse, while repairs and upgrades were ongoing. (Dkt. Nos. 14 at 2- 4, 30 at 2.) Plaintiffs bring claims for breach of contract, breach of warranty, breach of a bailment agreement, and negligence. (Dkt. No. 14 at 4-7.) Plaintiffs allege the vessel sank because Defendant returned the vessel to the boathouse unfinished and in an unseaworthy condition. (Dkt. No. 35 at 1.) Plaintiffs believe Defendant returned the vessel unfinished because the shop was overworked and understaffed. (Id.) Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages. (Dkt. No. 14 at 8.) At issue are the following of Plaintiffs' discovery requests:

INTERROGATORY NO. 24: Identify each and every vessel in [Defendant's] repair facility between August 1, 2015 and November 30, 2015, specifying the date the vessel was delivered to [Defendant] for service and the date the vessel was redelivered to the owner.

(Dkt. Nos. 31-1 at 3.)

REQUEST FOR PRODUCTION NO. 26: Produce the documents relating to [Defendant's] net worth and financial condition for the past ten (10) years, including, without limitation, financial statements, profit and loss statements, cash flow statements, ledgers, payroll records, annual reports, and state and federal corporate tax returns.

(Id. at 4.)

         Defendant objected to the requests as “overly broad and unduly burdensome.” (Dkt. No. 31-2 at 3.) As to Interrogatory No. 24, Defendant claimed that its available records do not allow it to determine whether its personnel repaired a vessel on-site or in the field during the period at issue. (Id.) For Defendant to fully respond to Plaintiffs' interrogatory, it would need to “manually screen over 80, 000 transactions” from archived parts, labor, and transaction ledgers for each vessel under repair during the period at issue “to identify transactions that would be consistent with a vessel project being performed in the shop (such as a labor entry).” (Dkt. No. 32 at 5.) Follow-up discussions with technicians who worked on the vessel would be required in instances where the ledger review led to inconclusive results. (Id.) Defendant estimates this process would require “thousands of hours” and may not result in accurate information, as some of those technicians are no longer available for query. (Dkt. Nos. 31-2 at 3, 32 at 5.) As to Request for Production No. 26, Defendant claimed that “[e]very single document in [Defendant's] custody and control arguably relates, in some manner, to [Defendant's] financial condition.” (Dkt. No. 31-2 at 4.) Therefore, “[a]ssembling, redacting, and producing all of these documents would be a monumental task, which could take months.” (Id.)

         The parties have met and conferred, and are unable to reach agreement. (Dkt. No. 30 at 1.) Plaintiffs seek an order from the Court compelling Defendant to respond to Plaintiffs' Interrogatory No. 24 and Request for Production No. 26. (Id.) Defendant objects to Plaintiffs' motion and seeks costs and fees in responding pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37. (Dkt. No. 32 at 12.)


         The Court strongly disfavors discovery motions and prefers that the parties resolve discovery issues on their own. However, if the parties are unable to resolve their discovery dispute, the requesting party may move for an order to compel. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(1). The Court has broad discretion to issue an order to compel. Phillips ex rel. Estates of Byrd v. General Motors Corp., 307 F.3d 1206, 1211 (9th Cir. 2002). For the Court to do so, the movant must demonstrate that “the information it seeks is relevant and that the responding party's objections lack merit.” Hancock v. Aetna Life Ins. Co., 321 F.R.D. 383, 390 (W.D. Wash. 2017).

         “Parties may obtain discovery . . . that is relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). Information is relevant if it is “reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.” Surfvivor Media, Inc. v. Survivor Prods., 406 F.3d 625, 635 (9th Cir. 2005). Proportionality is a matter of “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.” Id.

         A. ...

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