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Clark Motor Company, Inc. v. Manufacturers and Traders Trust Co.

June 18, 2008

CLARK MOTOR COMPANY, INC. ROBERT W. CLARK, DAVID CLARK PLAINTIFFS,
v.
MANUFACTURERS AND TRADERS TRUST, CO., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: James F. McClure, Jr. United States District Judge

(Judge McClure)

MEMORANDUM

BACKGROUND

On May 10, 2007, plaintiffs, Clark Motor Company, Inc. ("Clark Motor"), Robert W. Clark, and David Clark, instituted this civil action against defendant, Manufacturers and Traders Trust Co. ("M&T"). In their complaint, plaintiffs seek recovery for breach of contract (Count I), negligent misrepresentation (Count II), negligence (Count III), breach of fiduciary duty (Count IV), and aiding and abetting breach of fiduciary duty (Count V). The parties are currently engaged in discovery.

On April 30, 2008, plaintiffs filed a "Motion to Compel More Complete Responses to Interrogatories and Production of Documents." (Rec. Doc. No. 47.) Defendant has filed an opposing brief (Rec. Doc. No. 50) and the time for filing a reply has since passed.

On June 16, 2008, defendant filed two notices to the court. The first certifies that defendant had responded to plaintiffs' fifth and sixth requests for the production of documents. (Rec. Doc. No. 55.) The second certifies that defendant has provided plaintiff with amended answers to plaintiff's first set of interrogatories and answers to second set of interrogatories. (Rec. Doc. No. 58.) Because it is hardly clear from these notices that plaintiffs' motion has been mooted and because plaintiff has not withdrawn the motion, we will rule on the motion as filed. For the following reasons, we will grant plaintiffs' motion to compel.

Furthermore, we note that defendant has filed a motion for summary judgment. (Rec. Doc. No. 56.) Because we are granting plaintiffs' motion, which will require defendant to provide plaintiff with additional discovery which may be pertinent to responding to defendant's motion, we will provide plaintiff with additional time to respond to defendant's motion for summary judgment.

DISCUSSION

Rule 26(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure sets the contours for discovery and provides that "[p]arties may obtain discovery of any matter, not privileged, that is relevant to any party's claim or defense." The rule further states that "[r]elevant information need not be admissible at the trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." It is well-settled that Rule 26 establishes a liberal discovery policy. Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 351 (1978); Hickman v. Taylor, 329 U.S. 495, 507-08 (1947); Great West Life Assurance Co. v. Levithan, 152 F.R.D. 494, 497 (E.D. Pa. 1994).

I. Interrogatories

In their motion, plaintiffs have moved for more complete responses to several of their interrogatories. First, they seek more complete responses to Interrogatory No. 7, which requests defendant to "describe its understanding of and compliance with the Office of the Comptroller's regulations regarding auditing of floor plan inventory, and provision of floor plan financing." (Rec. Doc. No. 47-2, at 8.) Defendant responded to this interrogatory with an objection and stated that there are no "regulations" and to the extent plaintiffs were referring to the Comptroller's handbook, this handbook was intended merely as a guide. (Rec. Doc. No. 47-9, at 21.) We find defendant's objection inappropriate. If defendant believes that there are no such "regulations," then that should be its response to "its understanding of and compliance" with these regulations. Defendant's objection clearly takes issue with the applicable standard of care for plaintiff's negligence claim, which is not an appropriate objection to an interrogatory. Objections to interrogatories may not be used as a vehicle for deciding the merits of a case. See United States v. 216 Bottles of Sudden Change, 36 F.R.D. 695, 700 (D.C.N.Y. 1965) Therefore, we will order defendant to provide a more complete answer to Interrogatory No. 7.

Second, plaintiffs seek to compel more complete answers to Interrogatories No. 10 and 11. Interrogatory No. 10 requests defendant to "identify the individual(s) authorized, permitted, or cleared by Clark Motor to use defendant's Dealer Access System, how such authorization, permission and or/clearance was provided, by whom it was provided, and whether there is a written record of such authorization, permission or clearance." (Rec. Doc. No. 47-6, at 7.) Interrogatory No. 11 requests defendant to "identify all individuals authorized, permitted, or cleared by Clark Motor to access banking services, request and/or obtain advances or financing on behalf of Clark Motor during the period of June 2003 through January 2007. For each such individual identified, please describe how such authorization was provided, by whom such authorization was provided, and whether there is a written record of such authorization." (Id.) Both of these interrogatories further request that defendant provide copies of any written record of such authorizations. (Id.)

Defendant responded to Interrogatory No. 10 that Sally Smith was designated as the person authorized to access the Dealer Access System and that she was provided a pin number by Clark Motor in order to access the system. (Rec. Doc. No. 47-9, at 29.) Furthermore, the response directs plaintiffs to records and documents previously produced by defendant. (Id.) Defendant responded to Interrogatory No. 11 that Robert and David Clark were authorized to access certain banking services and Sally Smith was authorized to request and obtain advances and again directs plaintiff to records and documents previously produced by defendant. (Id. at 30.)

We agree with plaintiffs that defendant has failed to provide a complete answer to both interrogatories. Defendant does not answer how authorization was provided and whether there are any written records of such authorization for either interrogatory. Furthermore, to the extent that defendant relies upon records and documents already produced by defendant, Rule 33(d)(1) requires that the responding party specify the records "in sufficient detail to enable the interrogating party to locate and identify them as readily as the responding party could." Defendant's answer does not ...


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