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Resolute Forest Products, Inc. v. Greenpeace International

United States District Court, N.D. California

July 10, 2019

RESOLUTE FOREST PRODUCTS, INC., et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
GREENPEACE INTERNATIONAL, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER REGARDING DISCOVERY LETTER NOS. 1 AND 2 RE: DKT. NO. 267, 268

          KANDIS A. WESTMORE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiffs Resolute Forest Products, Inc., Resolute FP US, Inc., Resolute FP Augusta, LLC, Fibrek General Partnership, Fibrek U.S., Inc., Fibrek International, Inc., and Resolute FP Canada, Inc. (collectively, “Resolute”) filed the instant complaint against Defendants Greenpeace International, Greenpeace, Inc., Greenpeace Fund, Inc., Daniel Brindis, Amy Moas, Matthrew Daggert, and Rolf Skar (collectively, “Greenpeace Defendants”), as well as ForestEthics and Todd Paglia. (First Amended Compl. (“FAC”) at 1, Dkt. No. 185.) Plaintiffs brought claims for: (1) racketeering in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(c), (2) racketeering in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(a), (3) conspiracy in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d), (4) defamation, (5) trade libel, (6) tortious interference with prospective business relations, (7) tortious interference with contractual relations, (8) common law civil conspiracy, and (9) unfair business practices in violation of the Unfair Competition Law (“UCL”).

         On June 6, 2019, Plaintiffs and the Greenpeace Defendants filed Discovery Letter No. 1 concerning Plaintiffs' First Set of Requests for Production of Documents (“RFPs”) and First Set of Interrogatories. (Discovery Letter No. 1, Dkt. No. 267.) The discovery letter did not include the RFPs and Interrogatories at issue; therefore, the Court is unable to provide rulings on specific discovery requests. Instead, the Court will provide “guidance concerning the scope of discovery in this proceeding, ” as requested by the parties. (Discovery Letter No. 1 at ii.)

         On July 9, 2019, Plaintiffs and Greenpeace Defendants filed Discovery Letter No. 2 concerning the timing of Greenpeace Defendants' response to the RFPs and Interrogatories, in light of the pending dispute. (Discovery Letter No. 2, Dkt. No. 268.)[1]

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs are corporate entities in the forest products industry, harvesting wood for the manufacture and sale of paper products. (FAC ¶¶ 24-30.) Greenpeace Defendants are non-profit environmental advocacy organizations and several of their employees. (FAC ¶¶ 31-33, 36-39.) Plaintiffs allege that Defendants worked with other environmental organizations, including non-party Greenpeace Canada, to carry out a campaign called “Resolute: Forest Destroyer, ” targeting Plaintiff with misrepresentations regarding their sustainability practices in Canada. (FAC ¶¶ 5-7.)

         On January 22, 2019, the presiding judge granted in part and denied in part Defendants' motions to dismiss and strike. (Ord., Dkt. No. 246.) There, the presiding judge considered Plaintiffs' claims as it related to four primary sets of allegations. (Id. at 4-7.)

         The first set of allegations concern the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement (“CBFA”). Under this agreement, Plaintiffs and other forest companies would harvest in agreed-upon areas. (FAC ¶¶ 69-70.) In exchange, environmental groups such as Greenpeace Canada would not publicly campaign against the signatory companies. Plaintiffs allege, however, that in September 2012, Defendant Paglia and other non-parties accused Plaintiffs of logging in areas protected by the CBFA. (FAC ¶ 224.) In December 2012, Greenpeace Canada issued a report about Plaintiffs' purported failure to comply with the CBFA. (FAC ¶ 225.) Plaintiffs then sent a letter to the CBFA signatories, explaining why photographs and videos in the Greenpeace Canada report were misleading. (FAC ¶¶ 106-07.) In March 2013, Greenpeace Canada issued a notice of correction, stating that it had incorrectly stated that Plaintiffs had breached the CBFA. (FAC ¶ 115.) Plaintiffs do not allege any further specific misrepresentations regarding their compliance with he CBFA. (See Ord. at 4-5.)

         The second set of allegations relate to an alleged “operational memorandum, ” memorializing an agreement between Defendants and other environmental organizations to target Plaintiffs. (FAC ¶ 76.)

         The third set of allegations concern claims that Plaintiffs were logging in the Montagnes Blanches. In 2010, Greenpeace Canada issued a report that Plaintiffs were operating in the Montagnes Blanches. (FAC ¶ 212.) In May 31, 2016, Quebec's Minister of Forests, Wildlife, and Parks issued a statement that the map used in the report was misleading. (FAC ¶ 217.) Defendants Greenpeace USA and Greenpeace International, however, continued to feature the report on their websites. (FAC ¶ 218.) In December 2016, Defendant Moas wrote a letter to Plaintiffs' customers, claiming that Plaintiffs were operating in the Montagnes Blanches. (FAC ¶ 304.) In January 2017, Plaintiffs sent Defendants a cease and desist letter. (FAC ¶ 306.) In May 2017, Defendant Greenpeace, Inc. responded by publishing a report titled “Clearcutting Free Speech, ” which accused Plaintiffs of trying to silence Greenpeace and again stating that Plaintiffs were logging in the Montagnes Blanches. (FAC ¶¶ 308-09.) Defendants Moas, Skar, and Brindis then distributed the Clearcutting report at the 2017 Book Exposition. (FAC ¶ 311.)

         The final set of allegations relate to Greenpeace Defendants' alleged mischaracterization of why Plaintiffs had lost four Forest Stewardship Council (“FSC”) certifications. (FAC ¶¶ 186-188.)

         The presiding judge first considered Plaintiffs' defamation claim. (Ord. at 8-20.) As an initial matter, the presiding judge found that the statute of limitations was one year; because Plaintiffs “filed [their] complaint on May 31, 2016, . . . all defamation claims must be based on statements made on or after May 31, 2015, and all other state law claims must be based on conduct on or after May 31, 2014.” (Id. at 10-11.) The presiding judge also dismissed Defendant Greenpeace Fund, explaining that Plaintiffs had not alleged that Defendant Greenpeace Fund had published any defamatory statements, nor that it had editorial oversight over the other Greenpeace Defendants. (Id. at 14-15.)

         The presiding judge then concluded that Plaintiffs only had a defamation claim based on the Montagnes Blanches statements, specifically Defendant Moas's December 2016 letter and the May 2017 Clearcutting report. (Ord. at 17-19.) Both statements were made after the Quebec Minister's statement regarding the inaccuracy of the map relied upon by Defendants. (Id.) As to the other allegations, the presiding judge found that the operational memorandum “add[ed] nothing to the Court's actual malice analysis, ” the CBFA statements were published outside of the statute of limitations by non-parties, and the FSC certification statements were “neither materially false nor provably false.” (Id. at 16-17, 19-20.)

         With respect to the remaining causes of action, the presiding judge “dismisse[d] all claims except for [Plaintiffs'] claim for defamation based on the Montagnes Blanches statements, and the corresponding UCL claim, against defendants Greenpeace, Inc., Greenpeace International, ...


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