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Joyce M. Rankine, An Individual; and v. Roller Bearing Company of America

April 5, 2013

JOYCE M. RANKINE, AN INDIVIDUAL; AND
LAWRENCE S. STANTON, AN INDIVIDUAL,
PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ROLLER BEARING COMPANY OF AMERICA, INC., ET AL. DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Barbara L. Major United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO COMPEL FURTHER RESPONSES TO INTERROGATORIES Nos. 3, 4, 6 and 9 [ECF No. 57]

On March 13, 2013, Plaintiffs filed a motion to compel further discovery responses from Defendants. ECF No. 57 ("MTC"). Plaintiffs also request that the Court award attorney fees for the cost of bringing this motion. Id. Defendants filed an opposition on March 22, 2013. ECF No. 58 ("Opp."). Plaintiffs filed a reply and an unopposed ex parte application to file documents under seal on March 27, 2013, and the Court took the matter under submission pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7.1(d)(1). ECF Nos. 59 and 60. For the reasons set forth below, the Court DENIES Plaintiffs' motion to compel and request to recover fees and costs.

FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Baxter Rankine and Plaintiff Lawrence Stanton were the sole owners and shareholders of All Power Manufacturing, Inc. ("APM"), a manufacturer of aerospace bushings. On September 12, 2006, they sold all of their outstanding shares of APM to Defendant Roller Bearing Company of America, Inc. ("RBC"). ECF No. 58 at 3-4. As part of a Stock Purchase Agreement in connection with the sale, RBC executed two promissory notes - one in favor of Baxter Rankine, and one in favor of Lawrence Stanton. Id. Both notes were payable in full on September 12, 2007. Id. Shortly after the promissory notes were executed, Baxter Rankine died, and his wife, Plaintiff Joyce Rankine, became the successor-in-interest to his right to payment under his note. ECF No. 1-1 at 4, Exh. A.

Defendant did not fulfill the payments due under either note by September 12, 2007. Instead, two days before the notes became due, Defendant exercised its right of set-off, claiming that it became exposed to Mexican income taxes. Id. at 5. Plaintiffs disputed that any taxes were owed. On August 11, 2009, the parties executed amendments to both notes - extending the date for payment to June 30, 2012, and limiting Defendant's right of set-off. Id. Plaintiffs allege that Defendant did not make any payments due under either note. Id.

On July 20, 2012, Plaintiffs filed a complaint in state court against RBC and unnamed Defendants. On August 22, 2012, Defendant RBC removed the lawsuit to this Court. ECF No. 1. Plaintiffs' complaint alleges two causes of action for breach of contract relating to Defendant's failure to fulfill its obligations under both promissory notes. Id.

On September 4, 2012, Defendant RBC filed an answer denying the allegations. ECF No. 4. RBC also filed a counterclaim asserting nine causes of action against Plaintiffs, which are the subject of the instant discovery dispute. ECF Nos. 4 and 5. Specifically, RBC alleges that prior to the execution of the Stock Purchase Agreement, key APM employees misappropriated and divulged to third parties APM's trade secret information, and then formed a competing business which later became known as Caliber Aero, LLC. ECF No. 5. RBC further alleges that Plaintiffs failed to provide RBC with all of the intellectual property assets necessary to operate APM. Id.

On November 28, 2012, Plaintiffs propounded a first set of special interrogatories on RBC "to determine what facts exist, if any, to support RBC's counterclaims." ECF No. 57 at 7. RBC served its initial responses on January 11, 2013. Plaintiffs complained that RBC's responses were "unverified and, with one exception, consist entirely of objections." Id. at 8. After numerous meet and confer efforts, RBC served two sets of supplemental responses on Plaintiffs. Id.

On March 11, 2013, counsel for both sides contacted the Court's clerk to discuss the instant discovery dispute which was not resolved by RBC's supplemental responses. ECF No. 55. In regard to the dispute, the Court found it appropriate to set a briefing schedule. Id. In accordance with the briefing schedule, on March 13, 2013, Plaintiffs filed a discovery motion seeking a determination of the sufficiency of RBC's responses to Plaintiffs' first set of Special Interrogatories Nos. 3 through 9, and the recovery of the costs and fees incurred by Plaintiffs in bringing this motion. ECF No. 57. On March 21, 2013, RBC served a third set of supplemental responses to Special Interrogatories Nos. 3 through 9 on Plaintiffs; and on March 22, 2013, RBC filed a timely opposition to Plaintiffs' discovery motion. ECF No. 58-1, Decl. Annie Ventocilla. In its opposition, RBC argues that in light of its third set of supplemental responses, Plaintiffs' discovery motion is moot. ECF No. 58. Plaintiffs filed a reply on March 27, 2013, and contend that its motion is still necessary with respect to Special Interrogatories Nos. 3, 4, 6, and 9. ECF No. 60.

LEGAL STANDARD

The scope of discovery is defined by Rule 26(b), which permits litigants to obtain discovery regarding "any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense . . . ." Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). In the discovery context, relevant information includes any information "reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence," and need not be admissible at trial. Id. Therefore, "[t]he scope of discovery under the Federal Rules is extremely broad," and "[a] relevant matter is 'any matter that bears on, or that reasonably could lead to other matters that could bear on, any issue that is or may be in the case.'" Soto v. City of Concord, 162 F.R.D. 603, 610 (N.D. Cal. 1995) (quoting Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 351 (1978)). Trial courts enjoy broad discretion to determine relevancy for discovery purposes, see Hallett v. Morgan, 296 F.3d 732, 751 (9th Cir. 2002), and to limit discovery to prevent its abuse, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2) (instructing that courts may limit discovery where it is "unreasonably cumulative or duplicative," "obtain[able] from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive," or where its burden or expense "outweighs its likely benefit").

A party may serve interrogatories that relate to any matter within the scope of Rule 26(b). Fed. R. Civ. P. 33(a). "The grounds for objecting to an interrogatory must be stated with specificity," and any interrogatory not objected to must be answered fully in writing under oath. Fed. R. Civ. P. 33(b). The party answering the interrogatories "must furnish the information available to the party." Fed. R. Civ. P. 33(b)(1)(B).

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37, "a party may move for an order compelling disclosure or discovery." Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(a)(1). The party seeking to compel discovery has the burden of establishing that its request satisfies the relevance requirement of Rule 26. Soto, 162 F.R.D. at 610. Thereafter, the party opposing discovery has the burden of showing that the discovery should be prohibited, and the burden of "clarifying, explaining, and supporting its objections." DIRECTV, ...


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