United States District Court, E.D. California
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO COMPEL THE
PRODUCTION OF DOCUMENTS AND FURTHER RESPONSES TO
INTERROGATORIES BY DEFENDANT NITESH GUPTA (DOC. 47)
Jennifer L. Thurston UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Pipe & Supply, Inc. asserts Cornerstone Valve and Nitesh
Gupta, the owner and president of Cornerstone, are liable for
deceit and concealment, and for breaching a purchase order.
(Doc. 23) Plaintiff seeks to compel discovery related to
Gupta’s financial status. (Doc. 47) Because the
financial information is relevant to Plaintiff’s claim
for punitive damages, as discussed below, Plaintiff’s
motion to compel is GRANTED.
operative pleading claims that the defendants fraudulently
induced the plaintiff into entering into a contract through
deceit and concealment. (Doc. 23 at 4-7) The plaintiff seeks
punitive damages on this claim. Id. at 6, 7.
Defendants have resisted discovery into their financial
statuses because, they claim, punitive damages are not
awardable in this action. In this motion, the plaintiff seeks
to compel responses to discovery into this topic.
Scope of Discovery and Requests
scope and limitations of discovery are set forth by the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Evidence. Rule 26(b)
Unless otherwise limited by court order, parties may obtain
discovery regarding any nonprivileged manner that is relevant
to any party’s claim or defense - including the
existence, description, nature, custody, condition, and
location of any documents or other tangible things. . . For
good cause, the court may order discovery of any matter
relevant to the subject matter involved in the accident.
Relevant information need not be admissible at the trial if
the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the
discovery of admissible evidence.
evidence is defined as “evidence having any tendency to
make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the
determination of the action more probable or less probable
than it would be without the evidence.” Fed.R.Evid.
401. Further, relevancy is interpreted “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, 427 U.S. 340, 351 (1978).
may propound interrogatories relating to any matter that may
be inquired to under Rule 26(b). Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(a). A
responding party is obligated to respond to the fullest
extent possible, and any objections must be stated with
specificity. Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(b)(3)-(4). In general, a
responding party is not required “to conduct extensive
research in order to answer an interrogatory, but a
reasonable effort to respond must be made.” Haney
v. Saldana, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 93447, at *9 (E.D.
Cal. Aug. 24, 2010) (citing L.H. v. Schwarzenegger,
2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 73753 (E.D. Cal. Sep. 21, 2007)).
Further, the responding party must supplement a response he
later obtains the information sought or discovers the
previous response requires correction. Fed.R.Civ.P.
Requests for Production of Documents
may request documents “in the responding party’s
possession, custody, or control.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
34(a)(1). Similarly, a party may serve a request “to
permit entry onto designated land or other property possessed
or controlled by the responding party, so that the requesting
party may inspect, measure, survey, photograph, test, or
sample the property . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(a)(2). A
request is adequate if it describes items with
“reasonable particularity;” specifies a
reasonable time, place, and manner for the inspection; and
specifies the form or forms in which electronic information
can be produced. Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(b). Thus, a request is
sufficiently clear if it “places the party upon
‘reasonable notice of what is called for and what is
not.’” Kidwiler v. Progressive Paloverde Ins.
Co., 192 F.R.D. 193, 202 (N.D. W.Va. 2000) (quoting
Parsons v. Jefferson-Pilot Corp., 141 F.R.D. 408,
412 (M.D. N.C. 1992)); see also Schwarzer, Tashima
& Wagstaffe, California Practice Guide: Federal Civil
Procedure Before Trial (Rev. #1 2011) Discovery, para.
11:1886 (“the apparent test is whether a respondent of
average intelligence would know what items to
responding party must respond in writing and is obliged to
produce all specified relevant and non-privileged documents,
tangible things, or electronically stored information in its
“possession, custody, or control” on the date
specified. Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(a). Actual possession, custody or
control is not required. “A party may be ordered to
produce a document in the possession of a non-party entity if
that party has a legal right to obtain the document or has
control over the entity who is in possession of the
document.” Soto v. City of Concord, 162 F.R.D.
603, 620 (N.D. Cal. 1995). Such documents include documents
under the control of the party’s attorney. Meeks v.
Parson, 2009 WL 3303718 (E.D. Cal. Sept. 18, 2009)
(involving a subpoena to the CDCR); Axler v. Scientific
Ecology Group, Inc., 196 F.R.D. 210, 212 (D. Mass. 2000)
(a “party must produce otherwise discoverable documents
that are in his attorneys’ possession, custody or
control”). In the alternative, a party may state an
objection to a request, including the reasons. Fed.R.Civ.P.
party “fails to respond that inspection will be
permitted - or fails to permit inspection - as requested
under Rule 34, ” the propounding party may make a
motion to compel production of the documents. Fed.R.Civ.P.
37(a)(3)(B)(iv). Further, “an evasive or incomplete
disclosure, answer, or response must be treated as a failure
to disclose, answer or respond.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(4).
A moving party has the burden of demonstrating “actual
and substantial prejudice” from the denial of
discovery. Hallet v. Morgan, 296 F.3d 732, 751 (9th
Discussion and Analysis
action, the disputed discovery requests related to Nitesh
Gupta’s financial information. Specifically, in its
Request for Production No. 1, Plaintiff requested Gupta
produce “[a]ll documents sufficient to show [his] net
worth, ” including:
a. bank statements, money market statements, bond accounts,
and other investment accounts as of July 31, 2015, ...