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Kimberly-Clark Worldwide, Inc. v. First Quality Baby Products

November 3, 2010

KIMBERLY-CLARK WORLDWIDE, INC., PLAINTIFF
v.
FIRST QUALITY BABY PRODUCTS, LLC, FIRST QUALITY PRODUCTS, INC., FIRST QUALITY RETAIL SERVICES, LLC, FIRST QUALITY HYGIENIC, INC., DEFENDANTS AND COUNTERCLAIM PLAINTIFFS
v.
KIMBERLY-CLARK CORPORATION, KIMBERLY-CLARK WORLDWIDE, INC., KIMBERLY-CLARK GLOBAL SALES, LLC,: COUNTERCLAIM DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Carlson

MEMORANDUM

I. Introduction

Presently before the court is First Quality's motion to compel discovery pursuant to Rule 37 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure seeking production of all test data on which Kimberly-Clark ("KC") relies to support its claims of patent infringement, and all documents that support or refute said test data. In support of its motion, First Quality argues that the testing data and related documents are not protected by the attorney-client privilege nor as attorney work product. In addition, even if a privilege applies, First Quality contends that KC waived any privilege by disclosing and relying on the information in its infringement contentions. Finally, claiming a substantial need for the materials, First Quality argues that attorney work product immunity should not apply. After review of the parties' submissions, we will deny the motion.

II. Discussion

Rule 26(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that any party may "obtain discovery regarding any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense." It is well settled that Rule 26 establishes a liberal discovery policy. Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 351, 98 S.Ct. 2380 (1978).As a result of this liberal discovery policy, the burden of demonstrating the existence of a privilege and that it has not been waived rests on the party asserting the privilege. In re Grand Jury (OO-2H), 211 F.Supp.2d 555, 557 (M.D. Pa. 2001)(Judge Rambo). Likewise, the party claiming work product immunity bears the burden of showing that "the materials in question 'were prepared in the course of preparation for possible litigation.'" Holmes v. Pension Plan of Bethlehem Steel Corp., 213 F.3d 124, 138 (3d Cir. 2000). Here, in both instances, the burden rests on KC.

Communications are protected under the attorney-client privilege when "(1) the legal advice of any kind is sought (2) from a professional legal advisor in his capacity as such, (3) the communications relating to that purpose, (4) made in confidence, (5) by the client, (6) are at his insistence permanently protected (7) from disclosure by himself or by the legal advisor, (8) except the protection may be waived." In re Impounded, 241 F.3d 308, 316 n.6 (3d Cir. 2001).

The work product doctrine, in turn, is governed by Rule 26(b)(3) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides that:

(A) Documents and Tangible Things. Ordinarily, a party may not discover documents and tangible things that are prepared in anticipation of litigation or for trial by or for another party or its representative (including the other party's attorney, consultant, surety, indemnitor, insurer, or agent). But, subject to Rule 26(b)(4), those materials may be discovered if:

(i) they are otherwise discoverable under Rule 26(b)(1); and (ii) the party shows that it has substantial need for the materials to prepare its case and cannot, without undue hardship, obtain their substantial equivalent by other means.

(B)Protection Against Disclosure. If the court orders discovery of those materials, it must protect against disclosure of the mental impressions, conclusions, opinions, or legal theories of a party's attorney or other representative concerning the litigation.

Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(3). Generally, "voluntary disclosure to one's adversary of documents protected by the work-product privilege waives the privilege." Montgomery County v. MicroVote Corp., 175 F.3d 296, 304 (3d Cir. 1999)(citing Westinghouse v. Republic of the Philippines, 951 F.2d 1414, 1424 (3d Cir. 1991)).

The test for determining whether a document was prepared in anticipation of litigation is "where in light of the nature of the document and the factual situation in the particular case, the document can fairly be said to have been prepared or obtained because of the prospect of litigation." Martin v. Bally's Park Place Hotel & Casino, 983 F.2d 1252, 1258 (3d Cir. 1993). Courts generally divide this test into two prongs: the documents were prepared (1) at a time when litigation was reasonably foreseeable; and (2) primarily for the purpose of litigation. See United States v. Rockwell International, 897 F.2d 1255, 1266 (3d Cir. 1990); see also Muse-Freeman v. Bhatti, No. 07-3638, 2008 WL 2165147, at *1 (D.N.J. May 21, 2008). However, the Third Circuit makes clear that the materials must be prepared in anticipation of litigation, and not in the ordinary course of business. Id. Otherwise, the privilege does not apply. Id.

Here, the testing data and related documents in question are not protected by the attorney-client privilege. As we previously indicated, KC carries the burden of showing the materials are covered by the privilege. In this instance, KC fails to sufficiently demonstrate that the testing materials in question were confidential communications between attorney and client.

Nevertheless, the materials in question are protected as attorney work product prepared in anticipation of litigation. In support of its position, KC offers the declaration of H. Michael Kubicki, counsel for KC since 2001. In his declaration, Mr. Kubicki states, under penalty of perjury, that the materials at issue were made in anticipation of litigation between KC and First Quality. In addition, the submitted privilege logs show that testing data was prepared during a time when litigation was contemplated. (See doc. 298.) In fact, First Quality filed its original declaratory judgment action a mere eight months after KC received its first product analysis results. See First Quality Baby Prods., LLC v. Kimberly-Clark Worldwide, Inc., No. 09-0354, 2009 WL 1675088 (M.D. Pa. June 15, ...


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