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Kraus v. Alcatel-Lucent

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

July 25, 2019

ROBERT J. KRAUS, and MARGARET M. KRAUS
v.
ALCATEL-LUCENT, et al.

          OPINION

          JACOB P. HART UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         In this case, plaintiffs Robert and Margaret Kraus are suing various defendants, including Lockheed Martin Corporation, with regard to damages Robert Kraus suffered from exposure to asbestos, allegedly while serving in the United States Navy on the USS Cambria, or in two General Electric properties where he worked thereafter. Plaintiffs have filed a motion to compel discovery from Lockheed Martin, which was assigned to the undersigned by the Honorable Timothy J. Savage. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiffs' motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Applicable Legal Standards

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37, a party may move for an order compelling disclosure or discovery after conferring, or attempting to confer, with good faith with the opposing party in an attempt to obtain it without court action. F. R. Civ. Pr. 37(a)(1). Such a motion may be filed where a party fails to answer an interrogatory submitted under Rule 33, or fails to either produce documents or permit inspection, as requested under Rule 34. Id. at (a)(3)(B). Evasive or incomplete answers and responses are treated as a failure to answer or respond. Id. at (a)(4).

         A party may also seek sanctions from the court where the opposing party has not obeyed a discovery order. Fed. R. Civ. Pr. 37(b)(2)(A). These may include directing that the matters embraced in the order be taken as established for purposes of the action. Id. at 37(b)(2)(A)(i).

         II. Discussion

         A. Discovery Which is the Subject of this Motion

         In their six-page Memorandum in support of their Motion to Compel Discovery from Lockheed Martin, Plaintiffs neglect to identify the discovery requests to which they claim Lockheed Martin has not adequately responded. In their proposed Order, however, they propose that the Court direct Lockheed Martin “to provide full and complete answers that respond to the area of inquiry of its acquisition and product lines and premises ownership of the former GE Aerospace discovery and RCA products particularly the following interrogatories: 3, 4, 6, 12, 13, 19, 20, 22, 26, 27, 28, 33, 38, 42, 43, and 52; and Requests for Production Nos. 1-14.” (Emphasis supplied).

         The Court is not able to issue a ruling regarding interrogatories or document requests which have not been identified. Guessing what a moving party wants, and why it wants it, is not a prudent use of judicial resources. Lockheed Martin has referred the Court to Parks, LLC v. Tyson Foods, Inc., where the Honorable Joseph F. Leeson, Jr., wrote: “Necessarily … a party moving to compel another party to respond to a discovery request must direct the Court to the particular discovery request at issue and inform the Court of how the response received to that request - if any - is deficient.” Civ. A. No. 15-946, 2015 WL 5042918 at *7 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 26, 2015).

         It is not clear that Plaintiffs have met that standard regarding any of its discovery responses from Lockheed Martin.[1] In the interests of expediency, however, I will construe Plaintiffs as having challenged the responses to the interrogatories and document requests named in the Proposed Order, for the reasons set forth in their Memorandum.

         As to Lockheed Martin, in its response to Plaintiffs' Interrogatories, it included this as part of its “Preliminary Statement”:

Lockheed Martin is not now, nor has ever been, a miner, miller, importer, distributor, or marketer of raw asbestos fiber, a manufacturer of asbestos-containing thermal insulation products, a member of the asbestos industry as that term is commonly used, nor a member of the trade organizations of the asbestos industry. Lockheed Martin has manufactured whole-end product systems for the United States Navy, pursuant to comprehensive government contracts and according to detailed government-approved specifications: highly complex and sophisticated military aircraft, missiles, weapon system components, communications and electronic equipment, and certain nonmilitary government aerospace assets. Over the course of nearly a century of such activity, Lockheed Martin has assembled or incorporated, for each such end-item, between tens of thousands and millions of individual components and subsystems provided by, or at the direction of, the United States Government … into the end-items that Lockheed Martin has manufactured. An extremely small percentage of those individual components and subsystems have, at some points in time, contained asbestos.

         Lockheed Martin's Response to Plaintiffs' Interrogatories at 1-2.

         Lockheed Martin is aware that Plaintiffs seek evidence about that “extremely small percentage” of their products. Yet, some of its discovery responses are so elusive as to not provide even the basic information contained in this paragraph, in the form of a discovery response under oath which would be of use in litigation. This is inconsistent with its obligation under Rule 37(a)(4) to respond completely and without evasion to Plaintiffs' discovery requests, so that it can be determined whether there is a case to be made against it or not.

         B. Interrogatories As To Which Answers Were Provided

         I have excluded from Lockheed Martin's responses the approximately five pages of objections and commentary which precede each of them, except where specifically noted.

         Interrogatory No. 3: Please state whether or not you are a corporation. If so, state: (a) your correct corporate name; (b) the state of incorporation; (c) the date of your incorporation; (d) the address of your principal place of business; (e) the addresses of any other places of business; (f) whether or not you have ever held a certificate of authority to do business in this state; (g) whether or not you have a registered agent for the purpose of accepting service in this state, and if so, the name and present address of that agent; (h) state your corporate purpose; (i) state whether or not you have or have had subsidiary or predecessor corporation(s) and/or corporations whose liabilities for asbestos you have assumed hereafter predecessor [sic?] if so: (1) the name of each subsidiary and/or predecessor; (2) its date(s) of incorporation, if a corporation of each such corporation (sic?); (3) state(s) of incorporation of each such corporation; (4) the corporate purpose of such corporation.

         Response: (a) Lockheed Martin Corporation; (b) Maryland; (c) August 29, 1994; (d) 6801 Rockledge Drive, Bethesda MD 20817; (f) Yes; (g) Yes; (h) See Corporate Charter of Lockheed Martin Corporation, https://www.lockheedmartin.com/en-us/who-we/are/leadership-governance/board-of-directors/corporate-charter.html.

         Lockheed Martin ignored subsection (e) of this interrogatory, and did not provide the identity of its registered agent for accepting service in Maryland. It will be directed to respond to these subsections. It seems likely, however, that Plaintiffs are most interested in obtaining the response to subsection (i).

         Lockheed Martin alludes in its four pages of objections to subsidiary or predecessor corporations which could not have been responsible for Kraus's injuries, because they (a) did not exist, or had not incorporated until after Kraus was last aboard the USS Cambria; (b) they did not have any connection to shipboard electronic equipment; (c) they did not supply equipment to the U.S. Navy; (d) they did not have any connection to the items aboard the USS Cambria contemporaneously with Kraus; or (e) did not have any connection with asbestos-containing products until after Kraus had ceased to serve on the USS Cambria.

         Lockheed Martin will be directed to answer subsection (i) of this interrogatory, identifying any subsidiary or predecessor which does not fall in any of the categories listed above. If no such subsidiaries or predecessors exist, Lockheed Martin should so state in its answer.

         Interrogatory No. 6: Did you sell raw asbestos or finished asbestos products to the Navy for the Cambria or to the GE plants on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia or Valley Forge during or immediately prior to the periods of employment of plaintiff in the Navy or at GE or asbestos containing parts for RCA televisions? If yes, identify (a) dates of sales; (b) amounts of sales; (c) names of finished asbestos containing products sold; (d) amount of raw asbestos sold; Invoice records can be attached to answer this interrogatory.

         Response: No.

         As described above, Lockheed Martin has represented that it sold products, including to the Navy, which contained “individual components and subsystems” which contained asbestos. Therefore, an unequivocal negative response is incomplete. Lockheed Martin will be directed to give a complete answer to this interrogatory. If Lockheed Martin does not know some of the requested information, it should so state in its interrogatory answer.

         Interrogatory No. 12: Were you ever advised by any member of the medical profession or other profession such as industrial hygienists occupational hazard professionals or other persons to utilize hazard labels on your products and to give clear and explicit warnings concerning the possibility of cancer, and/or mesothelioma and/or serious illness and diseases but not limited to asbestos [sic “asbestosis”?] to those who might use, handle, or be exposed to your asbestos products after they have left your control? Identify this individual or individuals or company, set forth the date of this advice, and attach copies of this advice if written.

         Response: No.

         Lockheed Martin's response must be construed as an unequivocal negative, since any qualification should have been set forth clearly in the response. Plaintiffs have not come forward ...


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