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Wetzel v. Certainteed Corp.

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

April 19, 2018

PAULA WETZEL and JOEL WETZEL, individually and on behalf of other similarly situated persons, Plaintiffs,
v.
CERTAINTEED CORPORATION, Defendant.

          ORDER

          The Honorable Richard A. Jones United States District Judge.

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant CertainTeed Corporation's Second Motion for Protective Order Re Plaintiffs' Discovery Requests (Dkt. # 58), Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel (Dkt. # 63), and Plaintiffs' Motion to Extend Deadlines (Dkt. # 80).[1]

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs are conducting pre-class certification discovery for a lawsuit arising from Defendant's allegedly defective shingles. There are four motions pending before the Court, addressed in turn below.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Motion for Protective Order

         The Court has discretion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(c) to “for good cause, issue an order to protect a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense . . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c)(1). Defendants must show the “specific prejudice or harm [that] will result if no protective order is granted. . . . Broad allegations of harm, unsubstantiated by specific examples or articulated reasoning, do not satisfy the Rule 26(c) test.” Coleman v. Schwarzenegger, No. CIV S-90-0520 LKK JFM P, No. C01-1351 TEH, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 123275, *20-21 (E.D. Cal. 2008) (citing Foltz v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 331 F.3d 1122, 1130 (9th Cir. 2003) and Beckman Indus., Inc. v. Int'l Ins. Co., 966 F.2d 470, 476 (9th Cir. 1992)).

         In a class action, the parties often have the opportunity to conduct pre-class certification discovery. This discovery is “limited to certification issues such as the number of class members, the existence of common questions, typicality of claims, and the representative's ability to represent the class.” Gusman v. Comcast Corp., 298 F.R.D. 592, 595 (S.D. Cal. 2014) (citing Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 359 (1978)). However, “the merits/certification distinction is not always clear. Facts that are relevant to the class determination frequently will overlap with those relevant to the merits of the case.” Id. (citing Wal-Mart Stores Inc. v. Dukes, 564 U.S. 338, 350 (2011)).

         Defendant moves for a protective order because it claims that Plaintiffs' discovery is targeted at the merits rather than at the appropriate pre-class certification discovery. Dkt. # 58. Plaintiffs disagree, citing reasons for why each category of discovery is necessary to establish the class in this class action lawsuit. Dkt. # 61. The disputed categories are discussed below.

         Plaintiffs seek discovery regarding the manufacturing process, research and development, and testing to prove Rule 23(a)(2)'s commonality element and Rule 23(b)(3)'s predominance element. Dkt. # 61 at 11. When analyzing commonality, the Court typically examines the parties' claims and defenses and the relative proof regarding the same. With regard to predominance, the Court must determine whether common questions predominate over individual ones such that a class action treatment is superior to individual lawsuits. Discovery regarding manufacturing and testing is necessary for Plaintiffs to attempt to prove these elements. However, at this stage, the Court finds that discovery regarding research and development goes more toward the strength or weakness of Plaintiffs' claims rather than toward the requirements of Rule 23. Accordingly, the Court GRANTS in part Defendant's motion with regard to pre-class certification discovery into research and development.

         Plaintiffs seek discovery regarding the warranty and warranty claims process to prove Rule 23(a)(3)'s typicality element and to identify potential class members. Dkt. # 61 at 14. Defendant argues that it already produced warranty claim files as well as a performance manual. Dkt. # 64 at 7. Discovery regarding the warranty claims process, such as how agents are trained, goes to the merits of the lawsuit rather than to Rule 23's requirements. However, discovery regarding the number of warranty claims paid related to the shingles at issue and any complaints made to state regulatory or administrative entities regarding the shingles at issue is relevant to developing a class list and establishing typicality of claims. Therefore, the Court GRANTS in part Defendant's motion to the extent that discovery regarding the claim process is not relevant to pre-class certification discovery.

         Plaintiffs seek discovery regarding Defendant's retention policy. Dkt. # 61 at 16. Defendant appears willing to produce retention policies related to customer claims and pending litigation matters. Dkt. # 64. The Court finds such policies relevant to pre-class certification discovery and therefore Defendant must produce such documents. However, retention policies regarding topics broader than customer claims, the disputed shingles, or pending litigation go to the merits of the matter and therefore need not be produced at this stage. Therefore, the Court GRANTS in part Defendant's motion for protective order.

         Plaintiffs request documents regarding Defendant's corporate structure. Dkt. # 61 at 16. Plaintiffs argue that these organizational documents will help in identifying potential deposition witnesses. Id. The Court finds that an organizational chart- limited to those departments engaged in manufacturing, testing, sales and marketing, and warranty claims-is relevant to pre-class certification. This enables Plaintiffs to target specific corporate witnesses for deposition purposes. Therefore, the Court DENIES Defendant's motion with regard to this request.

         B. Mot ...


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