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Clinton Turner and Kimberley Turner v. Summit Treestands

December 5, 2011

CLINTON TURNER AND KIMBERLEY TURNER, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
SUMMIT TREESTANDS, LLC, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Byron G. Cudmore, U.S. Magistrate Judge:

E-FILED Monday, 05 December, 2011 11:06:54 AM Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD

OPINION

This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiffs Clinton and Kimberley Turner's Motion to Compel (d/e 26) (Motion). For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is ALLOWED in part.

BACKGROUND

The Turners allege that on September 21, 2009, Plaintiff Clinton Turner placed an order online for an "Osprey" model tree stand manufactured by Defendant Summit Treestands, LLC (Summit). The Osprey model was part of Summit's Raptor Series (RS) tree stands. The RS tree stands used a device referred to as the Talon hanging bracket. The Osprey tree stand was delivered to Turner on or about September 28, 2009. The stand is used in hunting deer. The stand is affixed to a tree and the hunter climbs onto the stand to hunt. Clinton Turner used the stand on November 13, 2009. While Clinton Turner was on the stand, the stand disengaged from its mounting bracket causing him to fall and suffer injuries. Complaint (d/e 1), ¶¶ 7-9. Clinton Turner brings claims for products liability, negligence, and breach of warranty of merchantability. Clinton's wife Kimberley brings companion claims for loss of consortium. See Complaint, Counts I-VI.

On June 23, 2011, the Turners served interrogatories and requests to produce documents on Summit. Summit responded on or about September 2, 2011. Summit objected to some interrogatories and requests to produce, but, in general, provided some answers and documents. The Turners ask the Court to overrule the objections and to order Summit to give more complete responses. Summit responds that its responses are complete. The parties have attempted to resolve this matter in good faith, but have been unsuccessful.

The Turners have brought this Motion to compel responses to the remaining disputed discovery requests. The Turners ask the Court to compel answers to Interrogatories Nos. 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 15, and 19, and responses to Requests to Produce Nos. 1, 14, 15, and 18. Plaintiffs' Reply to Defendant's Response to Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel (d/e 31) ¶¶ 1-2.

ANALYSIS

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) allows parties to obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, which is relevant to the claim or defense of any party. Relevant information need not be admissible at trial if the discovery appears to be reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. The rule gives the district courts broad discretion in matters relating to discovery. See Brown-Bey v. United States, 720 F.2d 467, 470-71 (7th Cir.1983); Eggleston v. Chicago Journeymen Plumbers' Local Union No.130, 657 F.2d 890, 902 (7th Cir. 1981); see also, Indianapolis Colts v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, 775 F.2d 177, 183 (7th Cir.1985) (on review, courts of appeal will only reverse a decision of a district court relating to discovery upon a clear showing of an abuse of discretion). "[I]f there is an objection the discovery goes beyond material relevant to the parties' claims or defenses, the Court would become involved to determine whether the discovery is relevant to the claims or defenses and, if not, whether good cause exists for authorizing it so long as it is relevant to the subject matter of the action. The good-cause standard warranting broader discovery is meant to be flexible." Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1) Advisory Committee Notes, 2000 Amendment.

The federal discovery rules are to be construed broadly and liberally. Herbert v. Lando, 441 U.S. 153, 177 (1979); Jefferys v. LRP Publications, Inc., 184 F.R.D. 262, 263 (E.D .Pa. 1999). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) provides that the "[p]arties may obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, that is relevant to the claim or defense of any party . . .," but "[f]or good cause, the court may order discovery of any matter relevant to the subject matter involved in the action." Id. The party opposing discovery has the burden of proving that the requested discovery should be disallowed. Etienne v. Wolverine Tube, Inc., 185 F.R.D. 653, 656 (D. Kan. 1999); Golden Valley Microwave Foods, Inc. v. Weaver Popcorn Co., 132 F.R.D. 204, 207 (N.D. Ind. 1990); Flag Fables, Inc. v. Jean Ann's Country Flags and Crafts, Inc., 730 F. Supp. 1165, 1186 (D. Mass. 1989).

District Courts have broad discretion in discovery matters. Packman v. Chicago Tribune Co., 267 F.3d 628, 646 (7th Cir., 2001). A party must be diligent in pursuing the perceived inadequacies in discovery and the trial court does not abuse its discretion if a party untimely seeks to compel inadequate discovery responses. Id. at 647. However, even an untimely filed motion to compel may still be allowed if the party demonstrates actual and substantial prejudice resulting from the denial of discovery. Id. Remember, we are talking discovery, not admissibility at trial.

In light of these principles, the Court will address each disputed discovery request. The discovery requests and responses quoted below were all taken from the Motion, Exhibit C, Defendant Summit Treestands, LLC's Answers to Plaintiffs' First Set of Interrogatories, and Exhibit D, Defendant Summit Treestands, LLC's Answers to Plaintiffs' First Request for Production of Documents.

I. Interrogatories

A. Interrogatory No. 2

Interrogatory no. 2 states: Please identify all persons who assisted in the design of the Raptor Series (RS) tree stands (including the Talon hanging bracket) marketed and sold by Summit Treestands, LLC.

Summit responded: Defendant objects to the overly broad and burdensome nature of the request. Without waiving the objection, the Raptor Series treestands, including the Talon Hanging Bracket was designed in group effort by Summit Treestands representatives, including Ron Woller.

The Turners ask the Court to compel the disclosure of all the individuals who participated in the design of these products. Summit responds that its answer is sufficient. The Court agrees with the Turners. Stating that the design was done in group effort is non-responsive. Summit makes no showing that disclosing the identity of these individuals would impose a burden. The Court overrules the objections and orders Summit to identify all persons, by name, who assisted in the design of the RS tree stands and the Talon hanging bracket as requested in the Interrogatory.

B. Interrogatory No. 4

Interrogatory No. 4 states:

Was the design of the Talon hanging basket changed prior to November 14, 2009 (the date of the incident in this case)? If so, please state the nature of each change made, the date of each change, the person requesting the change, the person making the change in the design, and identify all documents relating to each change.

Summit responded: Defendant objects on the basis that the Interrogatory requests information concerning a subsequent remedial measure. Without waiving objection, Summit Treestands representatives, including Ron Woller, were working on design changes for the Talon Hanging Bracket in late 2009. Without waiving objection, see the engineering design drawings for the 2009 Talon Hanging Bracket/Strap System and the 2010 Talon Hanging Bracket/Strap System. Bates Stamped pgs. 229-249, 279-282.

The Turners complain that Summit's objection is improper because the interrogatory asks for information about changes that occurred before the alleged incident from which the action arose. The Court agrees, and the objection is overruled. Summit is directed to answer the interrogatory. If the design changes reflected in the documents identified in the current answer are the only design changes that have been made, Summit is directed to say so explicitly.

C. Interrogatory No. 6

Interrogatory No. 6 states: Were the RS tree stands tested prior to being placed into production? If so, please state:

a.) the date of each test;

b.) a description of each test (including the protocol and results);

c.) the identity of the person(s) conducting the test(s);

d.) the location of the actual tree stand and/or ...


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