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Klopman-Baerselman v. Air & Liquid Systems Corp.

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

August 7, 2019

ERIC KLOPMAN-BAERSELMAN, as Personal Representative for the Estate of RUDIE KLOPMAN-BAERSELMAN, deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
AIR & LIQUID SYSTEMS CORPORATION, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER ON DEFENDANT O'REILLY'S MOTION FOR PROTECTIVE ORDER

          ROBERT J. BRYAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Defendant O'Reilly Auto Enterprises, LLC's (“O'Reilly”) Motion for Protective Order (Dkt. 271). The Court has considered the motion, all materials filed in support of and in opposition to the motion, and the remainder of the record herein, and it is fully advised.

         For the reasons set forth below, O'Reilly's Motion for Protective Order should be granted, in part, and denied, in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On June 28, 2019, Plaintiff served O'Reilly with a notice of deposition requiring O'Reilly to designate a FRCP 30(b)(6) corporate representative. Dkt. 271-1. The notice contains 52 topics of examination. Dkt. 271-1. O'Reilly filed the instant motion, disputing the appropriateness of Topics 4, 5, 7-22, 24-26, 28-30, 32-41, 43, 46, and 49-52. O'Reilly argues that “[t]he scope of plaintiff's notice of deposition is impossibly broad, unduly burdensome, and disproportionate to the needs of this case. The Court should issue a protective order, limiting the scope of the upcoming deposition as requested in this motion.” Dkt. 271, at 10. Pursuant to LCR 26(c)(1), counsel for O'Reilly certifies that the parties engaged in a good faith meet and confer attempting to resolve the disputed issues. Dkt. 271, at 2.

         II. DISCUSSION

         The rules guiding this order were well laid out by the Court in Boyer v. Reed Smith, LLP, C12-5815 RJB, 2013 WL 5724046, at *2 (W.D. Wash. Oct. 21, 2013):

Pursuant to Fed. R .Civ. P. 30(b)(6), a party may serve notice on an organization that describes “with reasonable particularity the matters on which examination is requested.” The noticed organization must then “designate one or more officers, directors, or managing agents, or other persons who consent to testify on its behalf.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 30(b)(6). “The persons so designated shall testify as to the matters known or reasonably available to the organization.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 30(b)(6).
Although there is conflicting case law from other circuits on the proper scope of a Rule 30(b)(6) deposition in light of its “reasonable particularity” requirement, districts in the Ninth Circuit have concluded that “[o]nce the witness satisfies the minimum standard [for serving as a designated witness], the scope of the deposition is determined solely by relevance under Rule 26, that is, that the evidence sought may lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.” Detoy v. City and County of San Francisco, 196 F.R.D. 362, 367 (N.D. Cal. 2000); see also U.S. E.E.O. V. v. Caesars Entertainment, Inc., 237 F.R.D. 428, 432 (D. Nev. 2006).
Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1) provides that “[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.]” The scope of discovery permissible under Rule 26 should be liberally construed; the rule contemplates discovery into any matter that bears on or that reasonably could lead to other matter that could bear on any issue that is or may be raised in a case. Phoenix Solutions Inc. v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 254 F.R.D. 568, 575 (N.D. Cal. 2008). Discovery is not limited to the issues raised only in the pleadings, but rather it is designed to define and clarify the issues. Miller v. Pancucci, 141 F.R.D. 292, 296 (C.D. Cal. 1992).
In turn, Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(2)(c) provides that “[o]n motion or on its own, the court must limit the frequency or extent of discovery otherwise allowed by these rules or by local rule if it determines that: (i) the discovery sought is unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or can be obtained from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive; (ii) the party seeking discovery has had ample opportunity to obtain the information by discovery in the action; or (iii) [the proposed discovery is outside the scope permitted by Rule 26(b)(1)].” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c)(1) provides that a court “may, for good cause, issue an order to protect a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense.” To establish “good cause, ” a party seeking a protective order for discovery materials must “present a factual showing of a particular and specific need for the protective order.” Welsh v. City and County of San Francisco, 887 F.Supp. 1293, 1297 (N.D. Cal. 1995); see also Gen. Dynamics Corp. v. Selb Mfg. Co., 481 F.2d 1204, 1212 (8th Cir. 1973). In determining whether to issue a protective order, courts must consider “the relative hardship to the non-moving party should the protective order be granted.” Gen. Dynamics, 481 F.2d at 1212. Under the liberal discovery principles of the Federal Rules, a party seeking a protective order carries a heavy burden of showing why discovery should be denied. Blankenship v. Hearst Corp., 519 F.2d 418, 429 (9th Cir. 1975). The court may fashion any order which justice requires to protect a party, or person, from undue burden, oppression, or expense. United States v. Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc., 666 F.2d 364, 369 (9th Cir. 1982).

         The Court need not, and does not, discuss each of the many topics in dispute. Below, the Court discusses select topics demonstrating the need for Plaintiff to amend and reserve the notice of deposition in conformity with the liberal rules and purpose of discovery set forth above.

         Topic 4: O'Reilly's corporate history and business, including the dates of inception; the asbestos containing products it manufactured, distributed, and sold; the brands of brakes, clutches, and gaskets it sold; the identity of its suppliers of brakes, clutches, and gaskets; the quantity of brakes, clutches, and gaskets it purchased and sold each year before 2003; the scope of its business; the locations of its business; the locations of production, distribution, and sale; yearly revenue from its business before 2003; O'Reilly's total revenue from the years when it was selling and distributing asbestos-containing brakes, clutches, and/or gaskets; and O'Reilly's business relationship with CSK Auto.

         Topic 4 is overbroad, unduly burdensome, and not proportional to the needs of the case. See McArthur v. Rock Woodfired Pizza & Spirits,318 F.R.D. 136, 142 (W.D. Wash. 2016) (finding that extensive financial information sought by plaintiff was not proportional to the needs of the case); Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1)-(2). Portions of Topic 4 appear to relate to all of O'Reilly's business activity, regardless of its relationship, if any, to asbestos-containing products or a particular geographic ...


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