United States District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania
For Joe Pete Wells, Plaintiff: Erin Ann Brennan, LEAD ATTORNEY, Oliver, Price & Rhoads, Clarks Summit, PA; Mark E. Kearney, Lexington, KY.
For Les Krutoff, Plaintiff: Mark E. Kearney, LEAD ATTORNEY, Lexington, KY.
For JPC Equestrian Inc., Varun Sgarna, Defendants: Elizabeth A. Maguschak, Jerome P DeSanto, McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC, Harrisburg, PA.
Martin C. Carlson,
United States Magistrate Judge.
In this action, Joe Pete Wells and Les Krustoff have brought claims against JPC Equestrian, Inc. and its President and Chief Executive Officer, Varun Sharma, alleging breach of contract and tortious interference with contract. The plaintiffs allege that they had contracts with JPC to market and sell equine-related products for the company in respective four-state sales territories. The plaintiffs claim that JPC breached the terms of their sales representation agreements in a variety of ways, and that Sharma directly interfered with the plaintiffs' contracts by engaging in his own sales of goods to retail customers in the plaintiffs' sales territories without paying the plaintiffs' commissions.
Earlier this year, the Court considered and disposed of the defendants' motion to dismiss the plaintiffs' complaint. The Court granted the motion with respect to the plaintiffs' age discrimination claims set forth in Count II of the complaint, but in all other respects the motion was denied. (Doc. 20.) Now pending in the case are several interrelated motions: the plaintiffs' motion to compel discovery (Doc. 26.); defendant Varun Sharma's motion to quash a subpoena that had been served upon him seeking information from JPC's Indian operations, or for a protective order from other discovery requests seeking similar information (Doc. 28.); and finally the parties' respective motions for summary judgment on all or some of the claims in this action (Docs. 34, 38.). In this memorandum, we take up the pending motions that seek to compel the production of documents and answers to interrogatories, and Varun Sharma's competing motion seeking to prevent the plaintiffs from seeking some of that discovery through a subpoena that has been served upon him or through related document requests.
The procedural history of this litigation, which has been halting at times, is familiar to the parties and does not warrant extended discussion here. The discovery period has now closed and the defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment on the plaintiffs' claims, and the plaintiffs have filed a motion for partial summary judgment. (Docs. 34, 38.) Those motions are pending, and further litigation in this matter has been stayed pending the Court's resolution of the motions.
This matter now comes before the Court on the plaintiff's motion to compel the defendants to produce email, invoices and certain sales information, and Varun Sharma's individual tax returns, all of which the plaintiffs claim the defendants have failed to provide despite the plaintiffs' repeated requests. (Doc. 26.) In response, the defendants have represented that they have produced all responsive emails requested by the plaintiffs and that there are no further responsive emails to produce. In addition, the defendants have agreed to provide the plaintiffs with sales information regarding their alleged sales territories that is effectively responsive to their discovery inquiries within 15 days of the date of this order, and they have requested that the Court either deny the plaintiff's request for Sharma's income tax statements or defer a decision until after first ruling on the defendants' pending motion for summary judgment. In addition, the defendants argue that they should not be required to comply with subpoenas and interrogatories seeking information regarding sales made by JPC-India on the grounds that this discovery relates solely to the plaintiffs' tortious interference claim, which the defendants insist is time-barred and, therefore any discovery relating to this claim would be fruitless while also being burdensome.
For the reasons discussed briefly below, the plaintiff's motion will be granted in part and denied in part.
Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, parties are permitted to engage in a broad range of discovery as part of the litigation process. Rule 26(b)(1) of those Rules provides as follows:
Unless otherwise limited by court order, the scope of discovery is as follows: Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged 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 the trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). " [T]herefore, all relevant material is discoverable unless an applicable evidentiary privilege is asserted. The presumption that such matter is discoverable, however, is defeasible. Rule 26(c) grants federal judges the discretion to issue protective orders that impose restrictions on the extent and manner of discovery [in some instances]." Pearson v. Miller, 211 F.3d 57, 65 (3d Cir. 2000). In addition to certain ...