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Hoffman v. Champion Power Equipment, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

June 12, 2017

JAMES HOFFMAN and CHERYL HOFFMAN, h/w, Plaintiffs,
v.
CHAMPION POWER EQUIPMENT, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER

          MATTHEW W. BRANN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         BACKGROUND:

         1. Plaintiffs James and Cheryl Hoffman, husband and wife, filed this products liability action when one of Defendant's generators allegedly malfunctioned and caused a substantial house fire.

         2. One potential defense advanced by Champion is that the subject generator, due to its manufacture and sales dates, did not belong to a known recall of defective generators.

         3. Shortly after I issued an Order narrowing the scope of the Defendant's Rule 30(b)(6) deposition, Plaintiffs cancelled that deposition and returned to the Court on the day before it was scheduled to request supplemental interrogatory responses.

         LAW:

         4. “It is well established that the scope and conduct of discovery are within the sound discretion of the trial court . . . and that after final judgment of the district court . . . our review is confined to determining if that discretion has been abused.” Marroquin-Manriquez v. I.N.S., 699 F.2d 129, 134 (3d Cir. 1983) (Aldisert, J.). “To find such abuse it is usually necessary to conclude that there has been an interference with a substantial right . . . or that the discovery ruling is seen to be a gross abuse of discretion resulting in fundamental unfairness in the trial of the case.” Id. Thus, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has forewarned litigants that it “will not interfere with a trial court's control of its docket except upon the clearest showing that the procedures have resulted in actual and substantial prejudice to the complaining litigant.” In re Fine Paper Antitrust Litig., 685 F.2d 810, 817-18 (3d Cir. 1982) (Aldisert, J.).

         5. “Discovery need not be perfect, but discovery must be fair.” Boeynaems v. LA Fitness Int'l, LLC, 285 F.R.D. 331, 333 (E.D. Pa. 2012) (Baylson, J.). “The responses sought must comport with the traditional notions of relevancy and must not impose an undue burden on the responding party.” Hicks v. Arthur, 159 F.R.D. 468, 470 (E.D. Pa. 1995). “[T]he scope of [ ] discovery is not without limits.” Kresefky v. Panasonic Commc'ns & Sys. Co., 169 F.R.D. 54, 64 (D.N.J. 1996). As such, “[d]iscovery should be tailored to the issues involved in the particular case.” Id.

         6. As amended Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) states:

Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case, considering the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties' relative access to relevant information, the parties' resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit. Information within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.

         7. “To determine the scope of discoverable information under Rule 26(b)(1), the Court looks initially to the pleadings.” Trask v. Olin Corp., 298 F.R.D. 244, 263 (W.D. Pa. 2014) (Fischer, J.). In ascertaining which materials are discoverable and which are not, a district court must further distinguish between requests that “appear[ ] reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence, ” Bell v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 270 F.R.D. 186, 191 (D.N.J. 2010), and demands that are “overly broad and unduly burdensome.” Miller v. Hygrade Food Products Corp., 89 F.Supp.2d 643, 657 (E.D. Pa. 2000).

         8. “[T]he discovery rules are meant to be construed quite liberally so as to permit the discovery of any information which is relevant and is reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.” Fid. Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n v. Felicetti, 148 F.R.D. 532, 534 (E.D. Pa. 1993). “As an initial matter, therefore, all relevant material is discoverable unless an applicable evidentiary privilege is asserted. The presumption that such matter is discoverable, however, is defeasible.” Pearson v. Miller, 211 F.3d 57, 65 (3d Cir. 2000).

         9. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(a)(3)(B) states that “[a] party seeking discovery may move for an order compelling an answer, designation, production, or inspection.” “In order to succeed on a motion to compel discovery, a party must first prove that it sought discovery from its opponent.” Petrucelli v. Bohringer & Ratzinger, 46 F.3d 1298, 1310 (3d Cir. 1995) (Cowen, J.) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(1)). In addition, “[t]he party seeking the discovery has the burden of clearly showing the relevancy of the information sought.” Caver v. City of Trenton, 192 F.R.D. 154, 159 (D.N.J. 2000).

         10. Rule 37(a)(1) requires that a party moving to compel discovery “include a certification that the movant has in good faith conferred or attempted to confer with the person or party failing to make disclosure or ...


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