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EC Source Services v. Burndy LLC

United States District Court, D. Utah

July 30, 2018

EC SOURCE SERVICES, Plaintiff,
v.
BURNDY LLC, Defendant.

          District Judge Jill Parrish Magistrate

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S SHORT FORM DISCOVERY MOTION

          Brooke C. Wells United States Magistrate Judge

         Before the court is Plaintiff, EC Source Services, Motion for Short Form Discovery regarding Interrogatory Response and Document Request.[1] The court heard argument concerning Plaintiff's motion on July 27, 2018. Clint Hansen appeared for Plaintiff and Phillip Ferguson and Scot Boyd appeared for Defendant. Having considered the parties' memoranda, relevant case law and having heard oral argument the court will grant Plaintiff's motion.

         BACKGROUND

         This lawsuit centers on the installation and failure of splices used to connect electrical cables on PacifiCorp's Sigurd-Red Butte 345 kV Transmission Line Project.[2] Defendant manufactured the splices and Plaintiff claims the connectors failed due to an apparent design flaw. In contrast, Defendant claims there were problems with the installation that led to the failures.

         The current dispute centers on Plaintiff's Fourth Set of Discovery Requests, which were served on April 19, 2018. Plaintiff also seeks reasonable expenses. The specific requests at issue are Interrogatories 13, 14 and 15, and Document Requests 56-62. Defendant did not provide responses or objections to the requests by the applicable deadline. When asked about this failure during oral argument, counsel alleged the discovery requests are sufficiently similar to prior requests, that a timely response was not necessary. Further, Plaintiff was given an opportunity to ask Defendant's 30(b)(6) witness the Interrogatories during a deposition, so any prejudice by not timely answering the discovery requests is minimal.

         DISCUSSION

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure govern discovery in federal civil actions. Federal district courts have broad discretion over discovery.[3] Rule 26 provides that 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.[4]

         Information within the scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence at trial to be discoverable.[5] Under Rule 26(c), a court on its own, or via motion, may limit discovery.[6] Such limitations help prevent discovery that is unreasonably cumulative or duplicative and encourages parties to obtain discovery from convenient less burdensome inexpensive sources.[7]

         I. Interrogatories

         The Interrogatories at issue in the current motion are contention interrogatories and are fairly similar in their nature. Interrogatory No. 13 states: “Please describe in detail all facts and legal authority supporting your thirteenth affirmative defense.”[8] Interrogatory No. 14 provides: “Please describe in detail all facts and legal authority supporting your sixteenth affirmative defense.”[9] And Interrogatory No. 15 states: “Please describe in detail all facts and legal authority supporting your seventeenth affirmative defense.”[10]

         In resisting responding to the Interrogatories Defendant relies on an unpublished decision from this district, P.J. Ex. Rel. Jensen v. Utah.[11] Defendant argues it does not need to answer these Interrogatories because they seek information protected by work-product privileges. In Jensen, Judge Warner determined that the interrogatories, as written, violated work-product protection, and re-wrote them to focus on those facts, documents, and data the plaintiffs intended to use at trial relating to their contentions.[12] In contrast, Plaintiff argues contention interrogatories are not viewed as violating the work-product privilege by the majority of courts that have addressed this issue.[13] Thus, they should be answered. The court agrees with Plaintiff to the extent that contention interrogatories are permissible under the Federal Rules and allowed by courts. Indeed, the “general view is that contention interrogatories are a perfectly permissible form of discovery, to which a response ordinarily would be required.”[14] Jensen does not stand for the proposition that all contention interrogatories are forbidden or implicate work-product issues. Rather, they need to be examined by a court and then modified if necessary. Such an approach has been used in this Circuit.[15] And, cases in this district have approved their use and ordered them answered.[16]

         In responding to Defendants argument that the Interrogatories violate the work-product doctrine, Plaintiff agrees with the type of modification used by Judge Warner stating that it “would be an acceptable solution.”[17] Therefore, given Plaintiff's agreement, the general acceptance of contention interrogatories in this Circuit and without finding these particular contention interrogatories violate ...


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