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Whitesell Corp. v. Electrolux Home Products, Inc.

United States District Court, Southern District of Georgia, Augusta Division

December 29, 2014

WHITESELL CORPORATION, Plaintiff,
v.
ELECTROLUX HOME PRODUCTS, INC., HUSQVARNA, A.B., and HUSQVARNA OUTDOOR PRODUCTS, INC., Defendants.

ORDER

Honorable J. Randal Hall, United States District Judge Southern District of Georgia

On February 5, 2013, discovery in this long-pending case was reopened following an extensive stay of discovery. Through arduous negotiations between the parties, and at the behest and oversight of the Court, a Joint Discovery Plan was entered upon the record of this case to govern the discovery process. (Doc. No. 490.) At present, a Revised Joint Discovery Plan (hereinafter "JDP"), approved on December 3, 2013, governs on-going discovery.[1] (Doc. No. 545.) Presently before the Court is Defendants' joint motion to compel responses to their written discovery requests. Plaintiff Whitesell Corporation ("Whitesell") has responded, and Defendants have filed a reply.

I. Procedural Background

The JDP contemplates that the parties would complete the First Stage of Discovery - the identification of the Parts in Suit - by February 1, 2014. The Second Stage of Discovery, in which the parties would conduct written discovery, was to conclude on September 1, 2014. The Third Stage of Discovery, which is the completion of all fact discovery to include depositions and any additional written discovery, is presently set to conclude on February 28, 2015.

One month prior to the completion of the Second Stage, on August 1, 2014, Defendants sent to Whitesell joint interrogatories and requests to produce. Whitesell lodged an objection to these discovery requests, primarily arguing that it could not timely respond because Defendants had belatedly provided supplemental purchase and usage data on July 31 and August 7, 2014, well after the First Stage was to be complete.[2] (Defs.' Mot. to Compel, Ex. C.) In Whitesell's estimation, the parties remained in Stage One because Defendants' belated production belied the notion that the parties had completely identified the Parts in Suit. (Id.) Whitesell suggested that it be given time to analyze the new data before having to respond to any discovery requests. (Id.) Additionally, Whitesell complained that some of Defendants' discovery requests were not appropriate in Stage Two of Discovery.[3] (Id.)

Rather than file a motion to compel, Defendants agreed to discuss the matter in a teleconference on September 18, 2014.[4]Both during this teleconference call and in a letter sent prior thereto, Defendants took the position that the supplemental production was irrelevant to the majority of their discovery requests, referring to the newly disclosed data as insubstantial. (Id. at 3-4 & Ex. F.) At the conclusion of the phone call, Whitesell agreed to provide a list of discovery requests to which it believed it could substantively respond. (Id. at 4.)

On September 25, 2014, Whitesell sent an email to Defendants identifying by number the interrogatories and the requests to produce to which it was "prepared to begin responding."[5] (Id.., Ex. G.) And, rather than provide responses to those requests numerically listed, Whitesell stated that it would provide either objections or "an estimate (on a request-by-request basis) of the date by which [it could], provide the information" requested. {Id.) With respect to the requests not identified in its numerical lists, Whitesell stated that it had to review the supplemental data prior to even providing a date upon which it could respond to the requests. (Id.) At the time Whitesell sent this e-mail, it had been in possession of the newly disclosed supplemental data for eight weeks.

Defendants responded by letter dated October 3, 2014, that Whitesell's proposed approach to responding to their; discovery requests was unacceptable. (Id., Ex. H.) Defendants demanded that Whitesell respond to the numerically listed requests by October 17, 2014, particularly since Whitesell had implied that those requests were not affected by the supplemental production, and that Whitesell respond to the remaining requests by November 7, 2014. (Id.)

On October 10, 2014, Whitesell announced that it could not comply with Defendants' requested response dates. (Id., Ex. I.) Instead, Whitesell stated that on October 17, 2014, it would provide written substantive objections and responses; however, the responses Whitesell planned to provide to the discovery requests would not be substantive but would "instead state the manner in which Whitesell intends to collect the information necessary." (Id.) Then, on November 10, 2014, Whitesell would begin providing substantive responses on a rolling basis. Whitesell did not provide an end date for the rolling out of discovery responses. (Id.)

In the meantime, Whitesell sent a letter request to Defendants on October 6, 2014, invoking Section III.E. of the JDP, which provides as follows:

The Parties acknowledge that for certain parts, including but not limited to the Non-Transition Parts in Suit, the Padilla Parts, and the parts affected by the Court's June 24, 2013 Order, Plaintiff has preserved the right to request purchase and usage data for time periods before January 1, 2004, or after November 1, 2008. The parties shall confer within 60 days of the completion of Stage One, defined as the production of all purchase data and usage data described in Stage One, regarding the parts and time periods for which additional purchase and usage data is sought.

(Doc. No. 542, JDP, Section III.E.) In keeping with this provision, Whitesell submitted a spreadsheet listing 196 parts for which it requested purchase and usage data for the period January 1, 2001 to December 31, 2013. (PL's Resp. to Mot. to Compel, Ex. B.) This request of October 6, 2014, was made within 60 days of Defendants' last production of data on August 7, 2014. On October 30, 2014, Whitesell sent a clarification letter explaining how it derived the list of parts and the time period reguested. (Id., Ex. C.) On November 10, 2014, Defendants responded that they were "currently analyzing the criteria" and would respond as soon as possible. (Id., Ex. D.) Thus, in the relevant time period, there exists this Section III.E. supplemental data request from Whitesell to Defendants in addition to the subject written discovery requests served by Defendants upon Whitesell on August 1, 2014.[6]

As promised, Whitesell provided written responses to Defendants' interrogatories and reguests to produce on October 17, 2014. (Defs.' Mot. to Compel, Exs. J & K.) With respect to the interrogatories Whitesell had previously identified as being prepared to answer, there were very few substantive responses; instead, Whitesell claimed "it is currently undertaking an analysis to determine" the appropriate responses and it would provide a response upon completion of the analysis. (Id.) Again, Whitesell provided no projected date upon which its analysis and substantive responses would be completed. In response to the remaining interrogatories and requests to produce, Whitesell claimed that it cannot answer until it receives additional discovery from Defendants and third party suppliers - discovery requests Whitesell planned to serve on November 10, 2014. Additionally, Whitesell claimed that it needed to review the data it had requested on October 6, 2014, before it could respond to several of the requests. Finally, Whitesell interposed substantive objections to some of the requests.

On October 24, 2014, Defendants sent a letter lodging their objections to Whitesell's efforts to respond to discovery. (Id., Ex. L.) Specifically, Defendants complained that the JDP did not contemplate that discovery would be tolled while the Section III.E. supplemental data request was fulfilled and then analyzed. Defendants also contended that the Section III.E. supplemental data request was untimely and should have been made months earlier because the August 7, 2014 production had very little to do with the list of parts provided by Whitesell in its Section III.E. request. (Id. ("Simply put, Whitesell's request for additional data has no bearing on its ...


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