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Pershing Pacific West, LLC, A Delaware Limited Liability Company v. Marinemax

March 11, 2013

PERSHING PACIFIC WEST, LLC, A DELAWARE LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANY PLAINTIFF,
v.
MARINEMAX, INC., A DELAWARE CORPORATION;
MTU DETROIT DIESEL, INC. D/B/A DETROIT DIESEL CORPORATION, A DELAWARE CORPORATION;
MTU FRIEDRICHSHAFEN GMBH, A FOREIGN CORPORATION; FERRETTI GROUP, USA, INC., A FLORIDA CORPORATION AND DOES 1 THROUGH 30, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: David H. Bartick United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER REGARDING JOINT MOTION FOR DETERMINATION OF DISCOVERY DISPUTE [ECF No. 95]

On January 17, 2013, the Plaintiff and Defendants MTU Detroit Diesel Corporation and MTU Friedrichshafen GmbH, filed a joint Motion for Determination of Discovery Dispute Regarding Responses to Requests for Production of Documents. (ECF No. 95.) After reviewing the Joint Motion and supporting exhibits, the Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Plaintiff's request to compel Defendants to respond to Plaintiff's document requests.

I. BACKGROUND

This action arises from Plaintiff Pershing Pacific West, LLC's*fn1 purchase of a 72-foot motor yacht manufactured by Pershing S.p.A, an Italian corporation wholly owned by the Ferretti Group, for $5,000,000. Plaintiff alleges the yacht was in defective condition at the time of the sale and seeks rescission and/or to recover damages based upon the purchase. Plaintiff has brought claims against MarineMax as the seller, Ferretti Group USA ("Ferretti") as manufacturer of the yacht, and MTU Detroit Diesel ("MTUDD") and MTU Friedrichshafen GmbH ("MTUFN") (collectively, "MTU") as manufacturer and warrantor of the yacht's engines. On February 7, 2013, Plaintiff filed a Second Amended Complaint, asserting the following claims: (1) Revocation of Acceptance against MarineMax; (2) Rescission against MarineMax; (3) Breach of Implied Warranty of Merchantability against MTU; (4) Breach of Implied Warranty of Merchantability against Ferretti; (5) Negligence against MTU and Ferretti; and (6) Breach of Express Warranty against MTU. (ECF No. 98.)

Plaintiff alleges the engines and fuel delivery system for the yacht are defective. Plaintiff further alleges that MTU was aware of the problems by virtue of similar problems reported on similar vessels with MTU's same engines and fuel delivery systems. Plaintiff states the MTU Defendants neglected and failed to properly and timely repair Plaintiff's yacht and failed to advise Plaintiff of the systemic nature of the problems. MTU counters that Plaintiff's allegations are meritless and/or grossly exaggerated. MTU contends Plaintiff's warranty issues were addressed properly and timely.

Plaintiff propounded Requests for Production of Documents to all Defendants, including MTUDD and MTUFN. Among the Requests, Plaintiff seeks documents relating to other vessels with similar engines and fuel delivery systems as used in Plaintiff's yacht. MTUDD objected on relevance grounds. MTUFN also objected on grounds that the Court does not have jurisdiction over it, that German law does not permit the discovery sought, and that any discovery must comply with the Hague Convention.

II. DISCUSSION

The threshold requirement for discoverability under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is whether the information sought is "relevant to any party's claim or defense." Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). In addition, "[f]or good cause, the court may order discovery of any matter relevant to the subject matter involved in the action. Relevant information need not be admissible at the trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." Id. The relevance standard is thus commonly recognized as one that is necessarily broad in scope in order "to encompass 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." Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 351 (1978) (citing Hickman v. Taylor, 329 U.S. 495, 501 (1947)). However broadly defined, relevancy is not without "ultimate and necessary boundaries." Hickman, 329 U.S. at 507. Accordingly, district courts have broad discretion to determine relevancy for discovery purposes. See Hallett v. Morgan, 296 F.3d 732, 751 (9th Cir. 2002).

District courts also have broad discretion to limit discovery. For example, a court may limit the scope of any discovery method if it determines that "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." Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2)(C)(I).

A. MTUDD's Responses to Plaintiff's Requests for Production

1. Requests Relating to Other Similar Boats and Engines

Plaintiff propounded several Requests for Production seeking documents relating to other vessels and engines that are similar to the subject vessel. Plaintiff claims documents relating to other vessels are relevant because at least four or five other Pershing 72 yachts have had similar issues with the fuel delivery system, and Plaintiff has recently received documents from other defendants that indicate the MTU Defendants were aware of the problems and failed to respond properly. MTUDD served objections-only responses to these requests. MTUDD contends that it did not manufacture, sell, or warrant the engines. MTUDD also argues that mechanical problems and warranty claims related to other engines are not relevant to the warranty claims at issue in this litigation. MTUDD further argues that even if the Court finds some of the information Plaintiff seeks is relevant, the Court should limit the scope of production.

The Court notes that although MTUDD apparently did not manufacture or sell the engines, it did process warranty claims. The Court finds that information regarding other vessels that experienced similar engine and/or fuel delivery system malfunctions is relevant for discovery purposes. Defendant argues the information is not relevant to the warranty claims. However, Plaintiff has also brought a negligence claim against both MTU Defendants. If another customer experienced engine or fuel delivery system issues with a similar 12V2000M93 engine, that would be relevant to whether Defendants knew of a systemic defect in the engines. In addition, information regarding the warranty work completed on similar vessels with similar issues may be relevant to whether Defendants exercised reasonable care in correcting the issues with the subject vessel. Moreover, although Defendants dispute whether Plaintiff actually experienced mechanical problems, at this juncture in the litigation, Plaintiff is entitled to receive discovery based on the claims alleged in the Second Amended Complaint. Therefore, the Court finds the information sought by Plaintiff is relevant. However, upon reviewing the document requests, the Court agrees with MTUDD that several of the requests are overbroad. Therefore, the Court finds the scope of certain requests should be limited to documents relating to other vessels with similar engine and/or fuel delivery system issues as the subject vessel that arose while the other vessels were under warranty.

MTUDD also objects to several requests on grounds that the requests call for proprietary trade secrets, and indicates that if the Court compels production, the Court should enter a protective order. The Court declines to issue a protective order at this time. However, the Court will entertain a joint motion for a protective order if the parties determine such an order is necessary. The parties are directed to Judge Bartick's chambers rules*fn2 regarding protective orders for more information on the Court's requirements for all protective orders. In addition, MTUDD objects to some of the requests on the grounds of attorney-client privilege and attorney work product doctrine. To the extent MTUDD withholds any documents as privileged, it is advised that in accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(5), parties withholding documents as privileged should identify and describe the documents in sufficient detail to enable the demanding party to assess the applicability of the privilege or protection. Therefore, for any document withheld as privileged, MTUDD shall provide Plaintiff with an appropriate privilege log.

Accordingly, Plaintiff's request to compel responses to its Requests for Production is GRANTED in part, and DENIED in part as follows:

a. The Court GRANTS Plaintiffs' Request for Production Nos. 25-26, 29, 30, 32, 34, 36, 38, 40, 42, 46, 48, 50, 52, 54, 56, 58. However, the scope of production is limited to documents that pertain to other vessels with similar engine and/or fuel delivery system problems as the subject vessel that arose while the other vessels were under warranty.

b. The Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Request for Production No. 64. c. The Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Request for Production Nos. 65-66. However, the scope of production is limited to documents that relate to the sale or servicing of MTUFN-related products and parts associated with the engines and/or the fuel delivery system that are similar to the engines and fuel delivery system in the subject vessel.

d. The Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Request for Production No. 67. However, the scope of production is limited to documents pertaining to distributor agreements relating to engines and/or the fuel delivery system that are similar to those in the subject vessel.

e. The Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Request for Production Nos. 69 and 71-73.

f. The Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Request for Production Nos. 74-77. However, the scope of production is limited to documents that pertain to other vessels and/or owners that had warranty claims, or reported problems with the engines and/or fuel delivery systems within the warranty period, that are similar to Plaintiff's claims.

g. The Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Request for Production Nos. 80, 81. However, the scope of production is limited to documents that pertain to warranty claims that are similar to Plaintiff's claims or the engine and/or fuel delivery system problems experienced on the subject vessel.

h. The Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Request for Production Nos. 84, 85. However, the scope of production is limited to documents that pertain to problems, errors, defects, or malfunctions that are similar to Plaintiff's claims or the engine and/or fuel delivery system issues experienced on the subject vessel.

i. The Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Request for Production Nos. 86-89. j. The Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Request for Production Nos. 90, 91. However, the scope of production is limited to documents that pertain to problems, errors, defects, or malfunctions that are similar to Plaintiff's claims or the engine and/or fuel delivery system issues experienced on the subject vessel.

k. The Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Request for Production Nos. 94, 95. However, the scope of production is limited to documents that pertain to proposed or attempted repairs for any problems, errors, defects, or malfunctions that are similar to Plaintiff's claims or the engine and/or fuel delivery system problems experienced on ...


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