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Avanti Wind Systems, Inc. v. Shatell

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

February 20, 2015

AVANTI WIND SYSTEMS, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
ROBERT N. SHATELL and THE TEMPEST GROUP, INC., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

KIM R. GIBSON, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's motion to compel discovery (ECF No. 22). This Court held oral argument on the motion on January 8, 2015. Counsel for Defendants notified the Court that it would be filing a request for in camera review of certain documents. In light of Defendants' failure to do so, the Court now rules on the motion without regard for the request for in camera review. For the reasons that follow, the motion to compel discovery will be granted.

1. Introduction

The instant civil action was removed from the Court of Common Pleas of Cambria County, Pennsylvania to this Court. (ECF No. 1). The complaint alleges that Avanti Wind System's former employee, Robert N. Shattell, and his company, the Tempest Group, Inc., have engaged in misappropriation of trade secrets, unfair competition, unjust enrichment, interference with business relationship, and conversion. (ECF No. 1-2 at 10-16). The complaint also asks for injunctive relief. (Id. at 13).

Avanti filed the instant motion to compel discovery asking the Court to compel Defendants Robert N. Shattell and The Tempest Group, Inc. to respond to certain discovery requests and produce responsive documents. (ECF No. 22 at 1).

2. Background

Avanti argues that Defendants' discovery responses are littered with improper general objections, and that Defendants did not specify why or to what extent any of the discovery requests were objectionable. (ECF No. 22 at 2-3). Avanti further asserts that Defendants' confidentiality objections are meritless and waived, and that Tempest has failed to explain how the services that it markets and provides to its customers for various manufacturers could constitute confidential business information. (Id. at 4-5). Avanti notes that the confidentiality objections are without merit because the parties have agreed to and this Court has entered a Stipulation of Confidentiality and Protective Order (ECF No. 18), protecting the disclosure of this information. (Id. at 6).

Defendants respond that Avanti has filed this lawsuit in bad faith and for an improper purpose, and that it is using the discovery process to discover confidential information about Tempest's business plan. (ECF No. 24 at 3-4). They argue that a Stipulation of Confidentiality Order does not require a party to produce data that is otherwise not discoverable. (Id. at 9). Defendants also note that they have not produced documents because Tempest's contracts with its customers require Tempest to obtain the customer's permission before it discloses any information to a third party, and that it has not received such permission. (Id. at 12).

3. Discussion

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide the following regarding discovery:

Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense-including the existence, description, nature, custody, condition, and location of any documents or other tangible things and the identity and location of persons who know of any discoverable matter. 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). Plaintiff must be given an opportunity to obtain discovery of the information necessary to make his claim. The Defendants have not satisfied the Court that they should not be required to disclose the requested information in the present case. Counsel for Avanti notified the Court at oral argument that they had succeeded at narrowing the evidence requested of Defendants. The Court will grant the motion to compel to the extent that Avanti has succeeded at narrowing the issues.

a. The confidentiality objections

Defendants object that they should not be required to disclose the information requested by Avanti because the information constitutes confidential trade secrets. The Pennsylvania courts consider the following factors to ...


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