United States District Court, E.D. California
GARY M. GRANGER; ELENA GRANGER, Plaintiffs,
LOWE'S HOME CENTERS, LLC; SAMSUNG ELECTRONICS AMERICA, INC., Defendants.
ORDER ON DEFENDANT LOWE'S HOME CENTERS, LLC, MOTIONS FOR PROTECTIVE ORDER PRECLUDING DEPOSITIONS OF ITS CORPORATE EMPLOYEES, DISCLOSURE OF SETTLEMENT COMMUNICATIONS, AND DISCLOSURE OF CONFIDENTIAL POLICIES, PROCEDURES, AND TRADE SECRETS (Docs. 42, 43, 44)
SHEILA K. OBERTO, Magistrate Judge.
On March 5, 2015, Defendant Lowe's Home Centers, LLC ("Lowe's") filed the three motions for protective order presently before the court. ( See Docs. 42; 43; 44.) Defendant Lowe's seeks (1) a protective order precluding disclosure of confidential policies, procedures, and trade secrets, (2) a protective order precluding disclosure of settlement communications, and (3) a protective order precluding depositions of its corporate employees. (Docs. 42; 43; 44.) Defendant Samsung Electronics America, Inc. ("Samsung") initially filed statements of non-opposition and has since joined in Defendant Lowe's motions for protective order. ( See Docs. 45; 46; 47; 56; 57; 58.) Plaintiffs Gary and Elena Granger (collectively "Plaintiffs") oppose all three motions for protective order. ( See Docs. 48; 49; 50.) The motions were submitted upon the record without oral argument pursuant to Local Rule 230(g). On review of the motions and the documents filed in support and opposition, and good cause appearing therefor, Defendants Lowe's motions are denied without prejudice.
II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND
This case arises from alleged incidents involving Samsung and Whirlpool washing machines on January 12 and March 21, 2013, at Plaintiffs' residence in Sonora, California. Plaintiffs allege they incurred economic and non-economic damages as a result of these incidents, including loss of personal property, loss of real property, and bodily injuries. ( See Doc. 11 (Second Amended Complaint, hereinafter "SAC").) Plaintiffs purchased a Samsung washer and dryer from the Lowe's store in Sonora, California, in March 2012. (SAC, ¶6.) Plaintiffs purchased an extended warranty on the appliances and contracted for Lowe's to install the washer and dryer in their home. (SAC, ¶6.) On or about January 12, 2013, the washing machine flooded Plaintiffs' home, Plaintiffs notified Defendant Lowe's, and a Lowe's representative informed Plaintiffs a service representative would be sent to their home on January 15, 2013. (SAC, ¶7.) When no representative came to their home, Plaintiffs contacted Lowe's and the service call was re-scheduled for January 18, 2013. (SAC, ¶7.) When no representative came to their home for the re-scheduled appointment, Plaintiffs contacted Lowe's and were referred to Samsung to get an assessment of the property damage claim. (SAC, ¶8.) On all three occasions, Lowe's repeatedly instructed Plaintiffs to take no remedial action in the house until Samsung could inspect the damage. (SAC, ¶7-8.)
On January 19, 2013, Plaintiffs contacted Lowe's and were informed that no record existed of appointments and were instructed to call again the following Monday. (SAC, ¶9.) On January 21, 2013, Plaintiffs again contacted Lowe's, and a service call was scheduled for January 28, 2013. (SAC, ¶9.) Plaintiffs then contacted Samsung's corporate office and were again instructed to take no remedial action in the house until Samsung could inspect the damage. (SAC, ¶10.)
On March 21, 2013, Samsung's managing agent sent a Chubb Insurance investigator and Titan Environmental Solutions environmental investigator to Plaintiffs' home to test and report findings. (SAC, ¶11.) Plaintiffs requested and were promised a copy of the environmental investigator's report. (SAC, ¶11.) Subsequently, Samsung's managing agent repeatedly refused to communicate with Plaintiffs regarding the results of the testing and failed to provide Plaintiffs with a copy of the environmental investigator's report despite repeated requests. (SAC, ¶12.) Eventually, in August of 2013, Plaintiffs learned that as a result of the flooding substantial quantities of toxic mold had been found throughout Plaintiffs' house. (SAC, ¶12.)
On March 21, 2013, a Lowe's representative agreed to provide Plaintiffs with a "loaner" washing machine, which was delivered and installed by Lowe's at Plaintiffs' home. (SAC, ¶13.) The loaner washing machine was not properly installed, and the first time Plaintiffs attempted to use it, their home was again flooded. (SAC, ¶13.)
In May of 2013, Plaintiff Gary Granger had abdominal surgery and, lacking the information contained in the environmental investigator's report regarding the presence of toxic mold in his home as a result of the flooding, he returned home to recover from the surgery. (SAC, ¶15.) Plaintiffs allege that inhaling the toxic mold in their home caused Plaintiff Gary Granger to suffer incessant coughing and sneezing, ultimately rupturing his wound and requiring emergency surgery. (SAC, ¶15.) Once Plaintiffs were aware of the toxic mold problems in their house, they moved out of the home into a travel trailer delivered to their property by Lowe's. (SAC, ¶17.) Plaintiff Gary Granger began exhibiting further medical issues after moving into the trailer, and it was discovered that the trailer had mold issues as well. (SAC, ¶18.) In early September 2013, a second travel trailer was provided to Plaintiffs. (SAC, ¶18.) In addition to causing ongoing medical problems for both Plaintiffs due to exposure to the toxic mold in their home and in the first travel trailer and the ongoing costs to their property and medical bills, Plaintiffs allege their dog died from a mold-related illness. (SAC, ¶19.)
III. LEGAL STANDARDS
The scope of discovery under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b) is broad: "Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense." Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). "Relevant information need not be admissible at trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." Id. Relevance "has been construed broadly 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, 67 S.Ct. 385, 91 L.Ed. 451 (1947)).
However, under Rule 26(c)(1), the court may, for good cause, issue an order to protect a party from "annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue expense or burden, including... that a trade secret or other confidential research, development, or commercial information not be revealed or be revealed only in a designated way" Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c). Under Rule 26(c), "the party asserting good cause bears the burden, for each particular document it seeks to protect, of showing that specific prejudice or harm will result if no protective order is granted." Foltz v. State Farm Mut. Aut. Ins. Co., 331 F.3d 1122, 1130 (9th Cir. 2003). "Where a business is the party seeking protection, it will have to show that disclosure would cause significant harm to its competitive and financial position. That showing requires specific demonstrations of fact, supported where possible by affidavits and concrete examples, rather than broad, conclusory allegations of harm." Contratto v. Ethicon, Inc., 227 F.R.D. 304, 307 (N.D. Cal. 2005) (citation omitted); see also Beckman Indus., Inc. v. Int'l Ins. Co., 966 F.2d 470, 476 (9th Cir. 1992) (citation omitted). The court is vested with broad discretion to permit or deny discovery. Hallett v. Morgan, 296 F.3d 732, 751 (9th Cir. 2002).
A. PROCEDURAL ...