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In re Lithium Ion Batteries Antitrust Litigation

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

May 21, 2013

IN RE: LITHIUM ION BATTERIES ANTITRUST LITIGATION THIS DOCUMENT RELATES TO: ALL CASES MDL No. 2420

ORDER RE: PRODUCTION OF INFORMATION PRODUCED TO GRAND JURY

YVONNE GONZALEZ ROGERS, District Judge.

This multi-district civil antitrust litigation regarding lithium ion batteries involves over 70 complaints. The Justice Department has opened an investigation by serving grand jury subpoenas on the Defendants named in these complaints. During the April 3, 2013 Case Management Conference, Plaintiffs requested the production of grand jury documents before being required to file consolidated amended complaints. The Defendants who were served with the grand jury subpoenas objected to producing these documents before Plaintiffs filed consolidated amended complaints and before the Court ruled upon potential motions to dismiss.

Through discovery, the Plaintiffs seek enough facts to survive the inevitable motion to dismiss, while the Defendants wish to subject any complaints to a Twombly/Iqbal pleading challenge before having to provide discovery. No consolidated complaints are on file, nor are motions to dismiss pending. The issue before the Court is simply the timing of discovery.

The Court has considered the parties' arguments with respect to Plaintiffs' requests that Defendants produce the documents in this case that have already been produced to the Department of Justice or any Grand Jury. For the reasons set forth more fully below, the Court will allow discovery of the documents that have already been produced to the Department of Justice or any Grand Jury as to Defendants Maxell Corporation of America; Samsung SDI America, Inc. and Samsung SDI Co., Ltd.; and Defendants LG Chem, Ltd. and LG Chem America, Inc. because the benefits of disclosure of this information outweigh any burdens of production. Otherwise, discovery is STAYED.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs seek production in this case of the documents that Defendants have already produced to the Department of Justice and/or a Grand Jury. The Court requested the Plaintiffs to file their Requests for Production and the Defendants to file their objections, which they submitted. Plaintiffs' specific Request for Production seeks: "All documents that YOU produced to the United States Department of Justice and/or any grand jury in response to or in connection with any investigation relating to Lithium-Ion Rechargeable Batteries and/or Lithium-Ion Rechargeable Battery Products." (Dkt. No. 152 at 3.)

All Defendants object to producing discovery without the protections and procedures afforded by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Defendants argue that discovery at this stage amounts to a pre-complaint fishing expedition, and according to several of the Defendants, it would be unduly burdensome to produce these documents.

II. LEGAL FRAMEWORK

The discovery provisions of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure are designed to allow litigants to gather the facts and information necessary to prepare their case before trial as well as to make an informed decision about settlement. U.S. v. Procter & Gamble Co., 356 U.S. 677, 682 (1958) ("They together with pretrial procedures make a trial less a game of blind man's buff and more a fair contest with the basic issues and facts disclosed to the fullest practicable extent") (citing Hickman v. Taylor, 329 U.S. 495, 501 (1947)). Discovery under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure are "accorded a broad and liberal treatment.'" Calpine Corp. v. Ace Am. Ins. Co., 05-CV-00984 SI, 2007 WL 3010570 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 12, 2007) (quoting Hickman, supra, 329 U.S. at 507. Rule 26 provides that the scope of civil discovery includes "any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense." Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b); Hickman, supra, 329 U.S. at 507 ("No longer can the time-honored cry of fishing expedition' serve to preclude a party from inquiring into the facts underlying his opponent's case.").

The Court also must balance the need for discovery against the burden imposed on the party ordered to produce the documents. Herbert v. Lando, 441 U.S. 153, 177 (1979) ("the discovery provisions, like all of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, are subject to the injunction of Rule 1 that they be construed to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action.'"). Under Rule 26(c), the Court may, on a showing of good cause, enter an order to stay discovery in order to "protect a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense." Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c).

III. ANALYSIS

A. RELEVANCE

The Defendants in this case argue that discovery is premature as there is no operative complaint from which to gauge the relevance of a discovery request and also argue that Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not countenance pre-complaint discovery. With more than 70 complaints on file, the Court is not convinced that there are no pleadings from which to measure the relevance of the requested discovery or that the Plaintiffs are seeking pre-complaint discovery. With respect to the complaints on file, several of the Defendants create artificial "contradictions" in these pleadings to argue the discovery requests vague. Based upon certain nonuniformity to the complaints- e.g., varying class periods, different battery ...


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