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LLC v. Automotive Technologies, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

July 15, 2016

FAMILY WIRELESS #1, LLC, et al.,
v.
AUTOMOTIVE TECHNOLOGIES, INC.

          RULING RE: MOTION TO COMPEL [DOC. #148]

          HON. SARAH A. L. MERRIAM UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This matter was referred to the undersigned by Chief Judge Janet C. Hall for a ruling on a motion to compel filed by defendant Automotive Technologies, Inc. (“defendant”). [Doc. #148]. Plaintiffs filed a memorandum in opposition on June 28, 2016. [Doc. #187]. Defendant moved for leave to file a reply on July 13, 2016, attaching a proposed memorandum and exhibits. [Doc. #205]. The undersigned granted that motion on July 14, 2016. [Doc. #210].

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs, Family Wireless #1, LLC, et al. (“plaintiffs”), are franchisees of defendant. They bring this action alleging breach of contract, misrepresentation, unjust enrichment, and unfair trade practices. [Doc. #114]. The parties have engaged in extensive discovery. Defendant now brings a motion to compel, asserting the following deficiencies in plaintiffs' responses to its discovery requests:

1. Defendant asserts that eight plaintiffs have failed to provide sufficient documentation of the net worth of their owners. [Doc. #148 at 5-7].
2. Defendant contends that the plaintiffs have improperly refused to search for text messages that might include material responsive to discovery requests. [Doc. #148 at 7-8].
3. Defendant questions plaintiffs' search methodology and oversight, and contends that the responses must be incomplete because several plaintiffs “did not produce any additional documents on May 20, 2016, ” and others produced very few. [Doc. 148 at 8-10].
4. Defendant contends that plaintiffs are required to conduct searches of all materials in the possession or control of all 85 people listed in the plaintiffs' initial disclosures as persons “who have 'discoverable information regarding the allegations in the Complaint.'” [Doc. #148 at 10-14].

         Defendant also seeks an award of attorneys' fees.

         Neither submission in connection with these disputes, unfortunately, complies with Local Rule 37(b), which requires, in relevant part:

Each memorandum shall contain a concise statement of the nature of the case and a specific verbatim listing of each of the items of discovery sought or opposed, and immediately following each specification shall set forth the reason why the item should be allowed or disallowed. ... Every memorandum shall include, as exhibits, copies of the discovery requests in dispute.

L. R. Civ. P. 37(b). The defendant does not provide specific citations to particular requests that it asserts were not satisfied. It does not appear that all potentially relevant requests were attached. Neither party sets forth “the reason why the item should be allowed or disallowed.” The parties' memoranda consist, instead, largely of complaints about opposing counsel's conduct. The Court will attempt to address the merits of the motion; however, rulings on these disputes are necessarily limited by the lack of specificity in the parties' filings.

         For the reasons set forth herein, the Court grants, in part, and denies, in part, the motion to compel, and denies the request for an award of attorneys' fees.

         II. MOTION TO COMPEL

         The Court first turns to the merits of the defendant's motion to compel additional disclosures by plaintiffs.

         Rule 26(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure sets forth the scope and limitations of permissible discovery:

Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case, considering the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties' relative access to relevant information, the parties' resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit. Information within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). The Rules also specifically limit discovery of electronically stored information in certain circumstances. On a motion to compel such discovery, the party from whom discovery is sought must show that the information is not reasonably accessible because of undue burden or cost. If that showing is made, the court may nonetheless order discovery from such sources if the requesting party shows good cause, considering the limitations of Rule 26(b)(2)(C).

         Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2)(B). As the Advisory Committee commented, “[u]nder this rule, a responding party should produce electronically stored information that is relevant, not privileged, and reasonably accessible[.]” See Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(2) advisory committee's note to 2006 amendment. The Court asks two central questions when evaluating a motion to compel discovery: “(1): Has the party resisting discovery shown that the information in question is not reasonably accessible because of undue cost?”; and “(2): Nonetheless, has the party requesting discovery shown good cause for that discovery?” Bagley v. Yale Univ., 307 F.R.D. 59, 65 (D. Conn. 2015) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted). As ...


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