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Gemini Insurance Co. v. Branch River Plastics Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maine

June 9, 2016

GEMINI INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
BRANCH RIVER PLASTICS, INC., et al., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER ON DISCOVERY DISPUTE

          JOHN H. RICH III UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         In this declaratory judgment action, on May 6, 2016, at the request of counsel for plaintiff Gemini Insurance Company (“Gemini”), I held a teleconference to resolve disputes over the adequacy of the responses of defendant Arundel Valley, LLC (“Arundel”) to Gemini’s requests for production of documents and contention interrogatories. See ECF No. 19 at 1. I determined that I required further information, including identification by paragraph number of responses remaining in dispute and written argument on the merits, with citation to authority. See id. at 1-2. I directed the parties to submit simultaneous letter briefs, and simultaneous responses, see id., which they have done. At issue are Arundel’s responses to requests for production of documents (“RFP”) Nos. 2-4 and interrogatories (“Interrog.”) Nos. 7-23. For the reasons that follow, and treating Gemini’s request as a motion to compel, I grant it in part, with respect to RFP Nos. 2-4 and Interrog. No. 23, and otherwise deny it.[1]

         As to RFP Nos. 2-4, Gemini’s motion is GRANTED on the basis that Arundel offers no response to Gemini’s argument that they are standard requests for documents that support Arundel’s affirmative defenses.

         As to Interrog. No. 23, Gemini’s motion is GRANTED on the basis that I overrule Arundel’s objections that the interrogatory constitutes a multipart question and that it seeks the discovery of counsel’s legal theories. The interrogatory, which asks Arundel to explain the defect in the product at issue and/or the reason why that product would not pass without objection in the trade, is not multipart. These are essentially synonymous concepts and, in any event, Arundel need address only one of them. Nor does the question seek to elicit counsel’s legal theories. Rather, it seeks to elicit facts underpinning the claim that the product was defective.

         Arundel is DIRECTED to provide documents responsive to RFP Nos. 2-4, and to answer Interrog. No. 23, no later than June 24, 2016.

         As to the remaining disputed discovery requests, Interrog. Nos. 7-22, the motion is DENIED for the reasons that follow.

         As to Interrog. Nos. 7 and 22, I SUSTAIN Arundel’s objection that they constitute multipart questions, in violation of this court’s scheduling order limiting the parties “to not more than 30 interrogatories per opposing side (subparts not permitted)[, ]” ECF No. 6 at 1 (emphasis added). In addition, I SUSTAIN Arundel’s objections that Interrog. No. 7 (i) seeks Arundel’s legal theories, in that it asks Arundel to explain why certain damages fall within the coverage grant of the Gemini policy and why exclusions identified by Gemini in its complaint do not apply to the damages recovered, [2] and (ii) is overbroad, in that its definition of “state the basis” essentially requires that Arundel state all facts supporting that contention.[3] See, e.g., Moses v. Halstead, 236 F.R.D. 667, 674 (D. Kan. 2006) (“[T]his court has made it clear that . . . ‘contention interrogatories’ are overly broad and unduly burdensome on their face if they seek ‘all facts’ supporting a claim or defense, such that the answering party is required to provide a narrative account of its case.”) (footnote omitted); see also, e.g., Rowland v. Paris Las Vegas, No. 13CV2630-GPC (DHB), 2015 WL 4742502, at *2 (S.D. Cal. Aug. 11, 2015) (“[C]ontention interrogatories should not require a party to provide the equivalent of a narrative account of its case, including every evidentiary fact, details of testimony supporting witnesses, and the contents of supporting documents.”) (citation and internal punctuation omitted).

         As to Interrog. Nos. 8-15 and 17-18, I SUSTAIN Arundel’s objections that these (i) constitute improper hypothetical questions in that they ask that Arundel state the basis for certain “claims” that Gemini infers Arundel makes from its denial of certain paragraphs of Gemini’s complaint and (ii) are overbroad, for the reasons discussed above in connection with Interrog. No. 7.

         As to Interrog. No. 16, Arundel has answered the interrogatory notwithstanding its objections, and Gemini has failed to articulate how its answer is defective.

         As to Interrog. Nos. 19 and 20, I SUSTAIN Arundel’s objection that they are overbroad, for the reasons discussed above in connection with Interrog. No. 7.

         As to Interrog. No. 21, I SUSTAIN Arundel’s objection that Gemini expressly seeks Arundel’s legal theories, asking that it explain every reason why it believes that coverage exists for some or all of the damages awarded to Arundel.

         I acknowledge that Gemini offers to rephrase certain interrogatories in such a manner as to overcome Arundel’s objections and/or indicates that it would not object were the court to do so. For two reasons, I decline either to afford Gemini that opportunity or to exercise discretion to “blue-pencil” its interrogatories.

         First, as Arundel points out, this is an action in which Gemini seeks a declaratory judgment that it has no duty to indemnify its insured, Branch River Plastics, Inc. (“Branch River”), for damages awarded to Arundel against Branch River in a state court action on Arundel’s claims that certain Branch River panels used in an Arundel construction project breached the implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose (the “Underlying Suit”). See Complaint for Declaratory Judgment (ECF No. 1) ¶¶ 6-26 & p. 11. The parties already possess the evidence - the “facts” - on which this action is based: materials from the Underlying Suit, including the trial transcript and exhibits, and the insurance policy at issue.

         As Arundel suggests, this tends to undermine Gemini’s argument that it requires answers to its multiple contention interrogatories. See, e.g., Kodak Graphic Commc’ns Can. Co. v. E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., No. 08-CV-6553T, 2012 WL 413994, at *5 (W.D.N.Y. Feb. 8, 2012) (“Where the requesting party already has all relevant, non-privileged evidence, its demand that the opposing party disclose its attorney’s selection and compilation of certain documents is often a thinly-veiled effort to ascertain how counsel intends to marshal[] the facts, documents and testimony in his possession, and to discover the inferences that counsel believes properly can be drawn from the evidence it has accumulated.”) (citation and internal punctuation ...


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