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Klopman-Baerselman v. Air & Liquid Systems Corp.

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

November 5, 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 PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SANCTIONS AGAINST O'REILLY AUTOMOTIVE STORES, INC.

          ROBERT J. BRYAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for Sanctions Against O'Reilly Automotive Stores, Inc. (“O'Reilly”; elsewhere referred to as “CSK”). Dkt. 407. 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. Oral argument is unnecessary to decide the motion.

         For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion for sanctions should be granted, in part, and denied, in part.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY & BACKGROUND

         1. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff filed the instant motion requesting sanctions against O'Reilly for (1) failing to provide requested written discovery information and (2) sending a corporate representative that was unprepared for a FRCP 30(b)(6) deposition. Dkt. 407. O'Reilly filed a response in opposition to Plaintiff's Motion for Sanctions. Dkt. 430. Plaintiff filed a reply in support of its motion for sanctions. Dkt. 461.

         2. BACKGROUND

         a. Written Discovery Requests and Responses

         The instant motion relates, in part, to a prior discovery dispute on which the Court has already ruled (Dkt. 210; “Order”). In the Order, the Court ruled that “at least four, and possibly many more, of O'Reilly's responses do not sufficiently answer Plaintiff's interrogatories and requests for production.” Dkt. 210. The Court further observed that many of O'Reilly's responses claiming to lack requested information were “incredible and hard to believe.” Dkt. 210, at 5. One of the requests for admission (“RFA”) at issue was RFA 10, which stated, “Please admit YOU sold Bendix brakes.” Dkt. 408, at 113. O'Reilly's objection and response provided, in part, “O'Reilly … did not acquire CSK Auto Corporation until July 11, 2008. Accordingly, CSK does not have historical information regarding product sales before that time and is unable to admit or deny this request.” Dkt. 408, at 113. In its order, the Court discussed only four individual responses' inadequacies (Interrogatories 1-2 and RFAs 46 and 50) and did not specifically discuss other possibly insufficient responses. Dkt. 210. The Court cautioned O'Reilly to provide all information requested within the scope of FRCP 26 and ordered O'Reilly to file adequate answers to Plaintiff's written discovery requests by May 13, 2019. Dkt. 210, at 10. It appears that O'Reilly served supplemental responses only as to the four insufficient responses specifically discussed by the Court. Dkt. 408, at 103.

         On September 11, 2019, Plaintiff deposed O'Reilly's corporate representative, James F. Murray (“Mr. Murray”). Dkt. 408, at 56. Mr. Murray provided testimony regarding, among other things, Bendix brakes sales during the mid-1980s. Dkt. 408, at 70-71. Mr. Murray testified that Bendix brakes were a stocked product sold by Shucks or CSK during approximately the mid-1980s and that Bendix brakes were a high-end line of brakes sold during that time. Dkt. 408, at 70-71. When Mr. Murray was asked whether “what you'd told us about Bendix is vastly different than what the company said in written responses,' he responded, “It looks like it, sure.” Dkt. 408, at 75.

         Plaintiff alleges that another example of O'Reilly's failure to disclose can be found in connection with RFA 90, which asks, “Please admit YOU sold Fel Pro gaskets.” Dkt. 408, at 136. O'Reilly's response referred Plaintiff to its answer concerning Bendix brakes stating that it was unable to admit or deny the request. Dkt. 408, at 113, 136. Plaintiff argues that O'Reilly's purported inability to admit or deny the request was belied by the deposition of Mr. Murray, who testified, in part, “We still [sell Fel Pro gaskets], to this day.” Dkt. 408, at 65. Dkt. 407, at 7-8.

         Plaintiff contends that Mr. Murray's deposition and other evidence exposed that O'Reilly failed to sufficiently respond to several discovery matters, including requests related to O'Reilly and Bendix brakes (Interrogatories 3, 8 and RFAs 10-22, 112-116), Fel Pro gaskets (Interrogatories 3, 10 and RFAs 90-95), Partex brakes (Interrogatories 3, 9 and RFAs 30-36), Raybestos brakes (Interrogatories 3, 14-16 and RFAs 37-43), EIS brakes (RFAs 44-50), and Wagner brakes (RFAs 58-64). Dkt. 407, at 7-10.

         O'Reilly writes in its oppositional response, “In that deposition, Mr. Murray provided testimony that included information that would be pertinent to some of plaintiff's discovery requests.[]As a result, defendant submitted amended discovery answers on September 23, 2019.” Dkt. 430, at 2. Dkt. 430-1 (providing O'Reilly's Second Amended Answers, filed after the deposition of Mr. Murray). O'Reilly contends that, “[g]iven the broad extent of the discovery sought by plaintiff, parties should be encouraged to provide supplemental discovery responses as information comes to light, not sanctioned.” Dkt. 430, at 3. As to RFA 10, O'Reilly amended its answer to provide, in part, “CSK admits that, upon information and belief, as supported by certain deposition testimony, Schuck's may have sold Bendix brakes for some period of time that cannot presently be identified.” Dkt. 430-1, at 42. As to RFA 90, O'Reilly amended its answer to provide, in part, “CSK admits that, upon information and belief, as supported by certain deposition testimony, Schuck's may have sold Fel Pro gaskets for some period of time that cannot presently be identified.” Dkt. 430-1, at 66.

         Plaintiff argues that O'Reilly's amendments came only “after it got caught perpetrating a fraud on the Court” and that “Defendant has had at its disposal answers to much of the discovery it had previously declined to answer.” Dkt. 461, at 1-2.

         b. Corporate Representative Preparation

         Plaintiff contends that Mr. Murray was unprepared to testify at deposition. Dkt. 407, at 10. O'Reilly argues that Mr. Murray testified to the best of his ability and that “[O'Reilly] is not aware of a company representative who would be more familiar than Mr. Murray with historical sales information regarding CSK Auto in the State of Washington.” Dkt. 430, at 2.

         c. Plaintiff's Request for Sanctions

         Plaintiff requests sanctions as follows:

(1) deeming the brakes, clutches, and gaskets purchased by Rudie Klopman-Baerselman from Schuck's to be ...

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