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Pollock v. Energy Corporation

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

February 11, 2014

DAVID F. POLLOCK, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
ENERGY CORPORATION OF AMERICA, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF COURT

ROBERT C. MITCHELL, Magistrate Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Presently before the Court is plaintiffs' motion to compel certain discovery requests of defendant. [ECF No. 148]. For the following reasons, plaintiffs' motion is granted in part and denied in part as set forth below.[1]

Because the facts are well known by the parties, the Court will recount only necessary facts for the purposes of determining this motion. Plaintiffs are lessors of certain oil and gas leases with defendant, Energy Corporation of America ("ECA"). Plaintiffs claim that ECA underpaid their natural gas royalties by improperly deducting post-production costs (namely, interstate pipeline charges and marketing fees) that occurred after the first sale of gas. The Court certified the following class:

All lessors on an oil and gas lease with Energy Corporation of America or Eastern American Energy Corporation that conveys oil and gas rights to real property in Pennsylvania and:
(1) the lessee deducted charges for interstate pipeline services between November 22, 2006 and March 26, 2012 (subclass one); and/or
(2) the lessee deducted marketing fees from royalties between November 22, 2006 and March 26, 2012 (subclass two).

See Order of 9/30/2013 [ECF No. 145].

Plaintiffs initiated class discovery shortly after the class was certified, and served upon defendant nine interrogatories and seven requests for production of documents. Defendant responded, and shortly thereafter, plaintiffs informed defendant that the responses were insufficient, to which defendant maintained that its responses were proper. This motion followed.

II. DISCUSSION

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1), a party may

obtain discovery regarding any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense.... For good cause, the court may order discovery of any matter relevant to the subject matter involved in the action. Relevant information need not be admissible at trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). A party may serve interrogatories relating to matters within the scope of Rule 26(b), and the responding party "must furnish the information available to the party." See Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(a); Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(b)(1)(B). If the party receives responses to interrogatories it believes are incomplete, inadequate or evasive, a party may request the court to compel additional disclosure or discovery. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(4).

The complaint and the claims therein define the scope of discovery, McClendon v. Pearson, 2011 WL 2014816, at *2 (W.D.Pa. May 23, 2011), and the district court has "broad discretion to manage discovery." Sempier v. Johnson & Higgins, 45 F.3d 724, 734 (3d Cir. 1995). It is "well recognized that the Federal Rules permit broad and liberal discovery." Rhoads v. Young Women's Christian Ass'n of Greater Pittsburgh, 2009 WL 3319820, at *4 (W.D.Pa. Oct. 14, 2009) (citing Pacitti v. Macy's, 193 F.3d 766, 777 (3d Cir. 1999)). This broad scope "is necessary given the very nature of litigation where determinations of relevance for discovery purposes are made well in advance of trial. Those facts which, at the progression of discovery, are not to be considered in determining the ultimate issues may be eliminated in due course." In re Gateway Engineers, Inc., 2009 WL 3296625, at *3 (W.D.Pa. Oct. 9, 2009) (citations omitted). Although the scope of discovery is liberal, it is not limitless. Bayer AG v. Betachem, Inc., 173 F.3d 188, 191 (3d Cir. 1999). At the discovery stage, the discovery requested may be wide-ranging because under Rule 26(b)(1), "relevance is a broader inquiry at the discovery stage than at the trial stage." In re Gateway Engineers, Inc., 2009 WL 3296625, at *2. Under ...


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