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Klopman-Baerselman v. Air & Liquid Systems Corp.

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

August 26, 2019

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

          REPLACEMENT ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO COMPEL FURTHER RESPONSES AND DEFENDANT GENUINE PARTS COMPANY'S CROSS-MOTION FOR PROTECTIVE ORDER AND SANCTIONS

          ROBERT J. BRYAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to Compel Further Responses from Defendant Genuine Parts Company to Plaintiff's First Interrogatories and First and Second Requests for Production (“Motion to Compel”) (Dkt. 237) and Defendant Genuine Parts Company's (“GPC”) Cross-Motion for Protective Order and Sanctions (Dkt. 249). The Court is familiar with the records and files herein and all documents filed in support of an in opposition to the motions. Oral argument is unnecessary to decide these motions.

         For the reasons set forth below, the Court should grant, in part, and deny, in part, Plaintiff's Motion to Compel (Dkt. 237); and the Court should deny GPC's Cross-Motion for Protective Order and Sanctions (Dkt. 249).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff and GPC appear unable to cooperate under the discovery plan outlined by the Parties in the Joint Status Report (Dkt. 125-1). Plaintiff's instant Motion to Compel puts at issue numerous allegedly insufficient answers to discovery requests. Dkts. 237; and 255. The alleged insufficiencies can be categorized as follows, with some overlap:

1. GPC's unclear and evasive preliminary statement and general objections. Dkt. 237, at 9.
2. GPC's evasive, incomplete answers to interrogatories (Interrogatories 1, 3-11, 13-14, and 16-17).[1] Dkt. 237, at 10.
3. GPC's evasive, incomplete answers to interrogatories where GPC improperly references other discovery (Interrogatories 8, 9, and 16). Dkt. 237, at 11.
4. GPC's unanswered interrogatories that GPC improperly refused to answer based on its contention that Plaintiff exceeded the limit of 25 interrogatories (Interrogatories 17-25). Dkt. 237, at 11.
5. GPC's untruthful answers to Requests for Admission (“RFA”) that should be deemed admitted (RFAs 4-5, 8, 20-21, 31-32, 40, 43, 54, 72-74, 84, 94-95, and 97-98). Dkt. 237, at 13.
6. GPC's evasive answers to requests for production where GPC “document dump[ed]” large quantities of unrequested materials (Requests for Production 4, 6, 8-9, 12, 14-19, 21-22, 24-27, 29-38, and 48). Dkt. 237, at 12.
7. Plaintiff also seeks production of photographs and video footage from the site inspection of Mr. Rudie Klopman-Baerselman's (“Decedent”) home conducted by GPC, which GPC claims is protected work-product. Dkt. 237, at 15; see generally Dkt. 147 (granting, in part, GPC's motion to compel a site inspection of Decedent's home).

         GPC argues that it has provided sufficient answers to Plaintiff's discovery requests. Dkt. 249. Additionally, GPC moves for “a protective order against any further discovery by plaintiff against GPC in this case, and … sanctions against plaintiff[.]” Dkt. 249, at 24. Plaintiff also requests sanctions against GPC. Dkt. 237, at 15.

         The Court initially ruled on the instant motion in Dkt. 264 (“Order”). In the Order, Court inadvertently referenced GPC's March 2019 discovery responses (Dkt. 238-3) instead of the April 2019 supplemental discovery responses (Dkts. 250-3 and 250-3). GPC moved for reconsideration (Dkt. 265), the Court ordered Plaintiff to respond (Dkt. 274), Plaintiff responded (Dkt. 289), and GPC replied (Dkt. 311). The Court vacated the Order, necessitating this replacement order to resolve the pending discovery motions.

         Below, the Court first discusses Plaintiff's Motion to Compel. Second, the Court discusses GPC's cross-motion for a protective order. Finally, the Court discusses sanctions.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO COMPEL

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide, in part:

On notice to other parties and all affected persons, a party may move for an order compelling disclosure or discovery. The motion must include a certification that the movant has in good faith conferred or attempted to confer with the person or party failing to make disclosure or discovery in an effort to obtain it without court action.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(a)(1).

(A) To Compel Disclosure. If a party fails to make a disclosure required by Rule 26(a), any other party may move to compel disclosure and for appropriate sanctions.
(B) To Compel a Discovery Response. A Party seeking discovery may move for an order compelling an answer, designation, production, or inspection.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(a)(3)(A)-(B).

         Plaintiff certifies that it has made good faith efforts to confer and settle the many discovery disputes at issue. See Dkt. 237, at 7-10; see also Dkt. 249, at 2.

         The instant motions demonstrate an overreliance on the Court in this discovery process, which the Court should not countenance. The Court does not discuss in detail each of the numerous alleged insufficiencies; rather, the Court discusses the alleged insufficiencies as categorized above in § I.

         1. GPC's preliminary statement and general objections create unclear and evasive responses

         Plaintiff argues that Plaintiff's General Objections (Dkts. 238-3, at 2-3; and 238-3, at 59- 63) are blanket objections not permitted because they create unclear and evasive responses in violation of FRCP 33 and 34. GPC responded that it “agreed to withdraw its preliminary statement and general objections, well before plaintiff filed this motion.” Dkt. 249, at 7.

         The Court concludes that GPC has withdrawn its Preliminary Statement and General Objections. Therefore, the Court should deny as moot Plaintiff's Motion to Compel as to GPC's general objections.

         2. Evasive, incomplete answers to interrogatories (Interrogatories 1, 3-11, and 13-14, and 16-17)

         Some of GPC's answers appear insufficient. For example, Interrogatory No. 10 asks: “During what time period (start date and end date) did EIS supply friction and lining material to Genuine Parts Company?” Dkt. 250-2, at 7. GPC responds, in part, “upon information and belief, after a reasonable search, GPC is unaware of ‘EIS' supplying friction material to its Rayloc Division.” Dkt. 250-2, at 7. It unclear to the Court why GPC limited its answer to GPC's Rayloc Division when the question was directed to GPC broadly.

         Therefore, it appears that GPC should provide amended, non-evasive, complete answers to at least some of these interrogatories. Although the Court is aware that GPC may not have records or information necessary to ...


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