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City of Spokane v. Monsanto Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Washington

July 19, 2019

CITY OF SPOKANE, a municipal corporation located in the County of Spokane, State of Washington, Plaintiff,
MONSANTO COMPANY; SOLUTIA INC.; PHARMACIA CORPORATION, also known as Pharmacia LLC; and DOES 1 through 100, Defendants.



         Before the Court, without oral argument, is Plaintiff the City of Spokane's Motion to Compel Responses to Plaintiff's Discovery Requests, ECF No. 271, and Defendant Pharmacia LLC's Motion for Protective Order Quashing Plaintiff's Fourth Amended Notice of Deposition Pursuant to F.R.C.P. 30(b)(6) of Defendants, ECF No. 281. The parties oppose each other's discovery motions. ECF Nos. 283, 292. Plaintiff also moves for sanctions against Defendants. ECF No. 292 at 18-19. Having reviewed the file and relevant legal authorities, the Court is fully informed and grants in part and denies in part the discovery motions, and denies the motion for sanctions.


         This case involves the Spokane River's contamination by polychlorinated biphenyls (“PCBs”). See ECF No. 1. Plaintiff filed this action on July 31, 2015. Id. On April 7, 2016, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation denied Plaintiff's motion to transfer this case for centralized proceedings. ECF No. 50. The parties exchanged initial disclosures on June 10, 2016. ECF No. 58 at 2. On October 26, 2016, the Court granted in part and denied in part Defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint. ECF No. 74. On February 14, 2017, the Court granted Plaintiff's motion to dismiss counterclaims. ECF No. 100. On July 10, 2017, the Court granted Plaintiff's motion to dismiss amended counterclaims. ECF No. 167.

         The Court has repeatedly observed this case is complex and voluminous. ECF Nos. 104, 112, 166, 172, 185, 206, 230, 244, 257, 267. The Court authorized additional discovery on July 11, 2017, July 19, 2017, May 14, 2018, and May 14, 2019. ECF Nos. 172, 185, 230, 267. And the Court resolved discovery disputes on February 21, 2017, May 21, 2017, August 18, 2017, and June 21, 2018. ECF Nos. 104, 158, 199, 241.

         The parties now dispute a broad array of Plaintiff's requests for production, interrogatories, and designated topics for examination at the deposition of Defendants' Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30(b)(6) witness. The Court has determined oral argument is unnecessary to resolve these disputes. ECF No. 298.


         The scope of discovery generally encompasses

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.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1).

         On a motion to compel discovery, “[t]he party opposing discovery bears the burden of resisting disclosure.” Rogers v. Giurbino, 288 F.R.D. 469, 479 (S.D. Cal. 2012). The Court has “wide discretion in controlling discovery.” Jeff D. v. Otter, 643 F.3d 278, 289 (9th Cir. 2011) (quoting Little v. City of Seattle, 863 F.2d 681, 685 (9th Cir. 1988)).

         For good cause, the Court may issue a protective order “to protect a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c)(1). “A party asserting good cause bears the burden . . . of showing that specific prejudice or harm will result if no protective order is granted.” Foltz v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 331 F.3d 1122, 1130 (9th Cir. 2003). “[B]road allegations of harm, unsubstantiated by specific examples or articulated reasoning, do not satisfy th[is] test.” Id. (quoting Beckman Indus., Inc. v. Int'l Ins. Co., 966 F.2d 470, 476 (9th Cir. 1992)).


         A. Relevance generally

         Defendants repeatedly argue that Plaintiff's discovery requests seek irrelevant information. ECF Nos. 281, 283, 296. But Defendants' concept of relevance is too narrow. “Relevance, for discovery purposes, encompasses ‘any matter that bears on, or that reasonably could lead to other matter that could bear on, any issue that is or may be in the case.'” Equal Emp't Opportunity Comm'n v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 276 F.R.D. 637, 641 (E.D. Wash. 2011) (quoting Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 351 (1978)). Having reviewed each of Defendants' relevance objections, the Court hereby overrules them.

         B. Plaintiff's motion to compel discovery

         1. Documents outside the PCB archive

         Plaintiff argues Defendants refuse to produce documents outside their PCB archive. ECF No. 271 at 7-11. Defendants argue they have produced or will produce such documents, to the extent they exist and are relevant and responsive to Plaintiff's discovery requests. ECF No. 283 at 11-12. Defendants emphasize they have already provided many ...

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