The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Nita L. Stormes U.S. Magistrate Judge United States District Court
ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO QUASH SUBPOENA [Doc. No. 1.]
Defendants have filed a motion to quash a subpoena served on third party San Diego Natural History Museum, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 45. Having considered the matter, and based on the following, the Court DENIES the motion to quash.
This action is an ancillary discovery proceeding related to an underlying lawsuit pending in the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division, Case No. 8:10-cv-01688-EAK-AEP. Defendants are in the business of arranging exhibits of plastinated human bodies, known as "Body Worlds," that has been presented at museums around the country, including the San Diego Natural History Museum ("the Museum"). (Motion to Quash, Mem. of P & A ("Mot.") at 1.) Plaintiffs are the suppliers to non-party Premier Exhibitions, Inc., which also exhibits plastinated bodies throughout the country. (Id.) In the underlying case, Plaintiffs assert claims of defamation and tortious interference against Defendants based on a television news report, ABC's 20/20 program called "The Business of Bodies," about where and how the human body specimens were obtained. (Id.; Opposition ("Opp.") at 1.)
Plaintiffs allege Defendants publicly stated the following: "(1) the bodies for the 'Bodies ... the Exhibition' were purchased on China's 'black market,' and were bodies of tortured, abused and executed Chinese prisoners; (2) dealers made "body runs" to the 'black market' and purchased bodies of executed prisoners for $200--300; (3) the bodies were located in a rundown warehouse in northern China; (4) von Hagens stated it was quite normal that executed prisoners were used for anatomical purposes in China; (5) the bodies were obtained illegally; and (6) the bodies which were either obtained from the 'black market' or otherwise illegally obtained were used in the 'Bodies ... the Exhibition.'" [M.D. Fla., Case No. 8:10cv1688-EAK-AEP, Order Denying Summary Judgment, Doc. No. 94 at 3.] Further, Plaintiffs allege Defendants tortiously interfered with five of their contracts with venues and museums in Europe. [M.D. Fla., Case No. 8:10cv1688-EAK-AEP, Second Amended Complaint, Doc. No. 48 ¶ 127.]
On October 12, 2011, Plaintiffs served 22 separate subpoena requests on museums and science centers throughout the United States, including the San Diego Natural History Museum. (Mot., Exh. A.) Responses were expected by November 11, 2011. Id. The subpoena requests sought business and financial documents. (Mot. at 1.) On November 2, 2011, Defendants moved to quash the subpoena on the grounds of relevance, overbreadth, and confidentiality. [Doc. No.1.] The Court set a briefing schedule on the motion and stayed compliance with the subpoenas until an order was issued resolving the matter. [Doc. No. 4.]
On November 10, 2011, Defendants filed a notice stating they had filed a motion for a protective order in the underlying case in Florida. [Doc. No. 6.] The Florida Court issued a preliminary order postponing compliance with the subpoenas until it could decide the motion. [Id. at Exh. A.] The Florida court also set a hearing on the motion for a protective order for November 16, 2011.
On November 18, 2011, Plaintiffs filed their Opposition to the motion to quash in this Court. [Doc. No 7.] On November 28, 2011, Defendants filed a Reply wherein they modified their original motion to quash in light of the Florida court's partial grant of their motion for a protective order which was issued on November 23, 2011. (Reply at 1.) The Florida court granted Defendants' motion with regard to "Communication Requests" and "Financial Requests" but denied the motion as it pertained to the "Provenance Requests." (Reply, Exh. A at 11.) On December 2, 2012, Plaintiffs filed a supplemental brief addressing Defendants' modified motion to quash in light of the Florida court's decision. The issue before this Court is whether the Provenance Requests should be quashed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 45.
(a) Effect of Florida Court's Ruling
The Florida court granted Defendants' motion for a protective order relating to the Communications and Financial Requests contained in the subpoena directed at the Museum. Defendants therefore state this court need not address these documents in its consideration of the present motion to quash. Accordingly, the Court GRANTS the motion to quash with regard to the Financial and Communication Requests, consistent with the Florida court ruling.
(b) The Provenance Requests
The Provenance Requests*fn1 seek information about the source of ...