United States District Court, S.D. California
ORDER OVERRULING ORI'S OBJECTION TO MAGISTRATE
JUDGE'S MAY 12, 2016 ORDER [ECF NO. 264]
Cynthia Bashant United States District Judge.
before the Court is Plaintiff Obesity Research Institute,
LLC's (“ORI”) meritless objection to the
magistrate judge's May 12, 2016 Order. The objection
specifically addresses Defendant Fiber Research
International, LLC's (“FRI”) First Amended
Request for Admission (“RFA”) No. 19, which was
worded as follows:
Admit that YOUR ADVERTISING CLAIMS OF CLINICAL PROOF OF
WEIGHT/FAT LOSS for Lipozene during the STATUTORY PERIOD were
intended to influence consumers to purchase Lipozene.
Decl. Ex. 1, ECF No. 210-3.) ORI responded to RFA No. 19 with
ORI is unable to admit or deny the request as phrased because
it is misleading to separate out a single statement from a
larger or overall advertisement, or indeed from an overall
advertising campaign. ORI admits that advertising by
definition, including its own advertising, is intended to
Decl. Ex. 2, ECF No. 210-4.) The magistrate judge determined
that ORI failed to answer the question posed, explaining that
“[t]he question was whether the advertising was
intended to ‘influence' customers, not
‘inform.'” (May 12, 2016 Order 4:14-21.) He
ultimately concluded that the answer is evasive and
insufficient under Rule 36(a)(4), and deemed the request
following reasons, the Court OVERRULES ORI's objection in
may object to a non-dispositive pretrial order of a
magistrate judge within fourteen days after service of the
order. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(a). The magistrate
judge's order will be upheld unless it is “clearly
erroneous or contrary to law.” Id; 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1)(A). The “clearly erroneous”
standard applies to factual findings and discretionary
decisions made in connection with non-dispositive pretrial
discovery matters. F.D.I.C. v. Fid & Deposit Co. of
Md, 196 F.R.D. 375, 378 (S.D. Cal. 2000); Joiner v.
Hercules, Inc., 169 F.R.D. 695, 697 (S.D. Ga. 1996)
(reviewing magistrate judge's order addressing
attorney-client issues in discovery for clear error). Review
under this standard is “significantly deferential,
requiring a definite and firm conviction that a mistake has
been committed.” Concrete Pipe & Prods. of
Cal., Inc. v. Constr. Laborers Pension Tr. of S. Cal.,
508 U.S. 602, 623 (1993) (internal quotation marks omitted).
other hand, the “contrary to law” standard
permits independent review of purely legal determinations by
a magistrate judge. See, e.g., Haines v. Liggett Grp.,
Inc., 975 F.2d 81, 91 (3d Cir. 1992) (“[T]he
phrase ‘contrary to law' indicates plenary review
as to matters of law”); Gandee v. Glaser, 785
F.Supp. 684, 686 (S.D. Ohio 1992), affd, 19 F.3d
1432 (6th Cir. 1994); 12 Charles A. Wright,, Federal
Practice and Procedure § 3069 (2d ed, 2010 update).
“Thus, [the district court] must exercise its
independent judgment with respect to a magistrate judge's
legal conclusions.” Gandee, 785 F.Supp. at
686. “A decision is contrary to law if it fails to
apply or misapplies relevant statutes, case law, or rules of
procedure.” United States v. Cathcart, No. C
07-4762 PJH, 2009 WL 1764642, at *2 (N.D. Cal. June 18,
presents three general arguments in support of its objection:
(1) RFA No. 19 “impermissibly” seeks a legal
conclusion under the contrary-to-law standard; (2) ORI's
response is “literally compliant”; and (3)
ordering a further response was the appropriate remedy and
not deeming the request admitted. The latter two arguments
are brought under the clearly-erroneous standard. These
arguments all lack merit.
No. 19 Does Not Seek a Legal Conclusion.
arguing RFA No. 19 seeks a legal conclusion, ORI explains
that the request “attempt[s] to improperly use RFA No.
19 to establish an element of its [Section 43(a)] claim
[under the Lanham Act]-proving materiality by proxy.”
(ORI's Objection 5:24-7:14.) As ORI points out, one of
the elements of a Section 43(a) claim for false advertising
is that “the deception is material, in that it is
likely to ...