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Cars R US Sales and Rentals, Inc. v. Ford Motor Co.

July 26, 2010

CARS R US SALES AND RENTALS, INC. ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
FORD MOTOR CO., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge P. Michael Mahoney

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

I. Introduction

Before the court are Plaintiffs' motion for relief under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(f) ("Pls.' Rule 56(f) Mot.") and Plaintiffs' motion for sanctions ("Pls.' Rule 37 Mot."). Defendant has also filed a motion to strike the affidavit of Beth I. Anderson. Anderson's affidavit is attached to Plaintiffs' reply brief in support of their motion for Rule 56(f) relief.

II. Background

This case arises from a fire that allegedly occurred on February 24, 2005 in a 1997 Ford Escort owned by Linda Farther. (Compl. ¶¶ 8, 10.) At the time of the fire, the car was parked inside a building owned by Plaintiffs. (Id. ¶ 10.) Plaintiffs allege that the fire occurred because Defendant negligently designed, manufactured, and sold the car. (Id. ¶ 11.) Plaintiffs brought this diversity action against Defendant on December 12, 2008, alleging that the fire caused damage to Plaintiffs' real, personal, and business property. (Id. ¶ 12.)

On February 13, 2009, this court entered a case management order that provided the following: initial disclosures were due on March 31, 2009, fact discovery would be closed by November 30, 2009, dispositive motions were due by January 15, 2010, Plaintiffs' expert disclosures under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a)(2) were due by December 31, 2009, Plaintiffs' expert was to be deposed by January 31, 2010, Defendant's expert disclosure was due by February 28, 2010, and Defendant's expert was to be deposed by March 31, 2010. (Crt. Doc. 14.)

Following the entry of the case management order, the parties engaged in discovery. Around March 31, 2009, Defendant provided its Rule 26(a)(1) initial disclosures. (Pls.' Rule 56(f) Mot. 2.) On or about April 17, 2009, Defendant provided its answers to Plaintiffs' interrogatories and requests for production. (Pls.' 56(f) Mot. Ex. C.) The discovery requests, and Defendant's respective answers, relevant to this opinion are as follows:

Interrogatory 5: State the following: (a) The name, address, and position in the company of the individual responsible for the design of the 1997 Ford Escort LX, specifically with regard to the placement and location of the integrated air bag module ("IABM") and/or air bag control module ("ACM").

Defendant's response to Interrogatory 5: There is no one person most knowledgeable with respect to the design of the 1997 Ford Escort. Complete information regarding this area of inquiry could require input from numerous sources. Ford will exercise its right to choose appropriate corporate representative(s) in response to proper deposition notices that designate specific areas of inquiry.... Ford refers Plaintiff[s] to the engineering drawings and specifications that Ford has agreed to produce with its Initial Disclosures. These drawings and specifications will reflect the system's design, and will identify system components with any suppliers or sub-suppliers, as well as identify the release engineer. Interrogatory 10: Provide the name, address, and employer of each fact and opinion witness who Ford expects to testify at trial.

Defendant's response to Interrogatory 10: Ford has not yet determined whom it will call as witnesses at trial of this matter. Further answering, Ford will comply with an applicable scheduling order calling for the identification of witnesses. Document Request (h): Any and all any [sic] documentation, including e-mails, electronic documentation and meta data relating to the design and manufacture of the 1997 model Ford Escort LX, specifically with regard to the design and manufacture of the [IABM] and [ACM] of the subject vehicle. Including:

1. The brand name, manufacturer, and model number of the subject IABM and ACM.

2. The brand name, manufacturer, and model number of the subject IABM and ACM.*fn1

3. Any changes in the design or manufacture of the Ford Escort LX from the 1997 model in Ford Escort LX's produced between 1998-2001, specifically, also, with regard to the IABM and ACM.

4. Any documents regarding testing of the 1997 model Ford Escort LX vehicle, including, but not limited to, crash testing, power flow testing, or any other testing performed on the subject model vehicle.

5. Any documents regarding product research and development concerning the Ford Escort LX vehicle, model years 1995-97, also specifically with regard to the IABM and ACM.

Defendant's response to Request (h): Ford refers Plaintiff[s] to the engineering drawings and specifications that Ford has agreed to produce with its Initial Disclosures. These drawings and specifications will reflect the system's design, and will identify system components with any suppliers or sub-suppliers, as well as identify the release engineer. Such documents will also identify any testing required by Ford for the system components. Additional component inspection(s) and/or testing may be conducted by the Ford direct supplier. Changes to the design of the components depicted in the drawings will be noted in the change blocks for these drawings. If, after review of the change blocks, Plaintiff[s] specif[y] particular changes for which he desires information, Ford will search for and produce, if available, the corresponding change notice.

Document Request (l): Complete, unedited and unabridged copies of any notices regarding the 1997 model Ford Escort LX vehicle, including but not limited to recall notices regarding IABM and/or ACM, including those stored electronically. Defendant's response to Request (l): Ford will produce a list of recalls. Plaintiffs are free to choose from the list those recalls of which it would like copies, and Ford will produce the requested items. This information is also available online at Document Request (o): Any and all recall notices, warnings or service bulletins with regard to the cause of the subject fire as stated in the complaint in the subject 1997 Ford Escort LX or the same cause of fire of any other Ford vehicle between 2000 and 2006, whether documents or stored electronically.

Defendant's response to Request (o): Ford will produce a list of recalls and technical service bulletins ("TSBs"). Plaintiffs are free to choose from the list those recalls and/or TSBs of which it would like copies, and Ford will produce the requested items. This information is also available online at www.nhtsa.gov. (Id.) Apparently, after responding to Plaintiffs' requests for production, Defendant did not produce some documents referred ...


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