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International Aerospace Group Corp. v. Evans Meridians Ltd.

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

May 10, 2017

INTERNATIONAL AEROSPACE GROUP CORP., Plaintiff,
v.
EVANS MERIDIANS LTD., Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff.

          ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO COMPEL

          EDWIN G. TORRES United States Magistrate Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on Evans Meridians Ltd.'s (“Defendant”) Motion to Compel (“Motion”) [D.E. 20] complete answers to interrogatories against International Aerospace Group Corp. (“Plaintiff”). Plaintiff responded to Defendant's Motion on May 2, 2017. [D.E. 22]. Therefore, this Motion is now ripe for disposition. After careful consideration of the Motion, response, and relevant authority, and for the reasons discussed below, Defendant's Motion is GRANTED in PART and DENIED in part.[1]

         I. BACKGROUND

         This lawsuit was originally filed on December 1, 2016 [D.E. 1] and arises from the parties' attempt to complete a transaction for the sale of seven large jet engines.[2]The authenticity and formation of the contracts is undisputed. The only genuine disputes involve the parties' performance under the contract and the damages resulting therefrom. Both Plaintiffs' Complaint and the Counterclaims asserted by Defendant focus on the liabilities and remedies available due to three of the engines not being delivered by Plaintiff (who still has possession of the engines) to Defendant. Plaintiff claims that Defendant owes a balance on the transaction [D.E. 1-1 at ¶¶12, 23], while Defendant asserts that it paid the balance in full. Defendant further claims that Plaintiff failed to deliver the three engines [D.E. 7 at ¶¶ 86, 94], and, after delivery was not accomplished within 45 days of the required date, Defendant cancelled the contracts and demanded a refund. [D.E. 7 at ¶¶ 68-71, 79-82, 87, 95]. As it relates to Plaintiff's claim against Defendant for breach of contract, Defendant contends that Plaintiff had a duty to mitigate damages once the contracts were purportedly breached, and that Plaintiff is responsible for any diminished value of the engines from the date it claims that the contracts were breached. [D.E. 7 at ¶¶ 48-49].

         On March 17, 2017, Defendant served Plaintiff its First Set of Interrogatories. After multiple extensions, and after the parties worked through disputes as to Plaintiff's initial responses, Plaintiff served its Amended Response to the First Set of Interrogatories on March 17, 2017. Because the Amended Response was allegedly deficient for several reasons, Defendant filed its Motion to Compel on April 19, 2017. [D.E. 20].

         II. APPLICABLE PRINCIPLES AND LAW

         Under the Federal Rules, a party may pose interrogatories related to any matter into which Rule 26(b) allows inquiry, Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(a)(2), request the production of any documents that fall within the scope of Rule 26(b), Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(a), and serve requests to admit certain matters within the scope of Rule 26(b)(1), Fed.R.Civ.P. 36(a)(1). Rule 26(b) also allows discovery “through increased reliance on the commonsense concept of proportionality.” In re: Takata Airbag Prod. Liab. Litig., 2016 WL 1460143, at *2 (S.D. Fla. Mar. 1, 2016) (quoting Chief Justice John Roberts, 2015 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary 6 (2015)). “Proportionality requires counsel and the court to consider whether relevant information is discoverable in view of the needs of the case.” Tiger v. Dynamic Sports Nutrition, LLC, 2016 WL 1408098, at *2 (M.D. Fla. Apr. 11, 2016). If the opposing party objects to interrogatories or requests, the requesting party may then file a motion to compel production pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 37, but only after its counsel, in good faith, confers with opposing counsel to resolve discovery disputes without court intervention. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(a)(1).

         The Federal Rules afford the Court broad authority to control the scope of discovery, Josendis v. Wall to Wall Residence Repairs, Inc., 662 F.3d 1292, 1307 (11th Cir. 2011), but ''strongly favor full discovery whenever possible.'' Farnsworth v. Procter & Gamble Co., 758 F.3d 1545, 1547 (11th Cir. 1985). Courts must consequently employ a liberal and broad scope of discovery in keeping with the spirit and purpose of these rules. See Rosenbaum v. Becker & Poliakoff, P.A., 708 F.Supp.2d 1304, 1306 (S.D. Fla. 2010) (collecting cases). The “overall purpose of discovery under the Federal Rules is to require the disclosure of all relevant information, so that the ultimate resolution of disputed issues in any civil action may be based on a full and accurate understanding of the true facts, and therefore embody a fair and just result.” State Nat'l Ins. Co. v. City of Destin, 2015 WL 11109379, at *1 (N.D. Fla. Sept. 1, 2015).

         However, while the scope of discovery is broad, it is not without limits. See Washington v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco, 959 F.2d 1566, 1570 (11th Cir. 1992); Rossbach v. Rundle, 128 F.Supp.2d 1348 (S.D. Fla. 2000) (citing Oppenheimer Fund v. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340 (1978)). To show that the requested discovery is otherwise objectionable, the onus is on the objecting party to demonstrate with specificity how the objected-to request is unreasonable or otherwise unduly burdensome. See Rossbach, 128 F.Supp.3d at 1354 (citing in part Panola Land Buyers Ass'n v. Shuman, 762 F.2d 1550, 1559 (11th Cir. 1985)).

         Boilerplate objections and generalized responses are improper. See Alhassid v. Bank of America, 2015 WL 1120273, at *2 (S.D. Fla. March 12, 2015). This District has frequently held that objections which fail to sufficiently specify the grounds on which they are based are improper and without merit. See, e.g., Taylor v. Bradshaw, 2014 WL 6459978 (S.D. Fla. Nov. 14, 2014); Abdin v. Am. Sec. Ins. Co., 2010 WL 1257702 (S.D. Fla. March 29, 2010). More specifically, objections simply stating that a request is ''overly broad, or unduly burdensome'' are meaningless and without merit. Abdin, 2010 WL 1257702 at *1 (quoting Guzman v. Irmadan, Inc., 249 F.R.D. 399, 400 (S.D. Fla. 2008)).

         In addition to the Federal Rules, Southern District Local Rule 26.1 controls the necessary procedure a party must follow when objecting to a request for production or asserting a claim of privilege. It requires that:

All motions related to discovery, including . . . motions to compel discovery . . . shall be filed within thirty (30) days of the occurrence of grounds for the motion. Failure to file a discovery motion within thirty (30) days, absent a showing of reasonable cause for a later filing, may constitute a waiver of the relief.

         S.D. Fla. L.R. 26.1(i)(1) (emphasis added). On its face, Rule 26.1(i) is therefore plainly discretionary. While the “occurrence” of grounds for a motion tends to be the moment at which responses are filed, this is not always necessarily the case. See, e.g., Socas v. Northwestern Mut. Life Ins., 2008 WL 619322 (S.D. Fla. March 4, 2008) (finding that the “occurrence” triggering the motion to compel was when the requesting party examined certain documents months after their initial requests had been answered); United States v. Polo Pointe Way, Delray Beach, Fl., 444 F.Supp.2d 1258, 1261 (S.D. Fla. 2006) (finding that the “occurrence” at issue was a deposition that took place after responses were filed).

         In pertinent part, the Local Rules also provide that where a claim of privilege is asserted, the objecting party must prepare “a privilege log with respect to all documents, electronically stored information, things and oral communications withheld on the basis of a claim of privilege or work product protection” except for “written and oral communications between a party and its counsel after commencement of the action and work product material created after commencement of the action.” S.D. Fla. L.R. 26.1(g)(3)(C) (emphasis added). Furthermore, “[w]here a claim of privilege is asserted in objecting to any . . . production demand . . . and an answer is not provided on the basis of such assertion . . . [t]he attorney asserting the privilege shall . . . identify the nature of the privilege . . . being claimed.” S.D. Fla. L.R. 26.1(g)(3)(B)(I).

         III. ANALYSIS

         Defendant's Motion seeks to compel Plaintiff to provide better responses to Defendant's first set of interrogatories. Plaintiff takes issue with Defendant's Motion because it purportedly seeks to impose obligations on Plaintiff that are outside the boundaries of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiff further contends that, had Defendant performed even a cursory review of the documents Plaintiff identified, then Defendant's Motion would not have been filed.

         The primary issue throughout many of the interrogatories at issue is that Plaintiff relies on Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 33(d) as an exception to the completeness requirement in responding to Defendant's interrogatories.[3] Rule 33(d) was first enacted in 1970 with the purpose to shift the time and cost burden of perusing documents from the producing party to the party seeking the information. See Minter v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 286 F.R.D. 273, 277 (D. Md. 2012) (“The Rule serves to put the burden of extracting and collating the information on the party ...


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