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Eternity Mart, Inc. v. Nature's Sources, LLC

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

November 15, 2019

ETERNITY MART, INC. d/b/a/ GREAT DEALS OF TEXAS, Plaintiff,
v.
NATURE'S SOURCES, LLC, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          SUNIL R. HARJANI MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Nature's Sources, LLC, has filed a motion to compel [29] certain responses to its discovery requests. Specifically, Nature's Sources requests that the Court enter an order compelling Eternity Mart to, within 14 days, respond fully with respect to Request for Production Nos. 1, 2, 12, 13, 16, 17, 28, and Interrogatory Nos. 10, 11, and 13. Doc. [29] at 13. Nature's Sources further requests that the Court order that Eternity Mart provide an affidavit confirming that no additional records or information are being withheld based on objections to various discovery requests. Id. Finally, Nature's Sources requests that it be awarded its reasonable attorneys' fees and costs associated with the motion to compel. Id. In connection with the motion to compel, Nature's Sources moved for leave to file two exhibits to its motion, F and G, under seal. Doc. [28].

         The question raised in this motion is whether a party may conceive of theories for its defenses, with no discernable basis in fact, and then seek discovery on that matter through document requests and interrogatories that are significantly burdensome.

         For the reasons stated below, Nature's Sources, LLC's Motion to Compel [29] is granted in part and denied in part. Nature's Sources, LLC's Motion for Leave to File Exhibits to Motion to Compel under Seal [28] is denied.

         Background

         Eternity Mart is a reseller of natural, organic, and specialty products that does business through a variety of online sites and channels, including Amazon. Doc. [1] at 3. Eternity Mart, doing business as Great Deals of Texas via Amazon, marketed certain products of Nature's Sources. Id. That marketing was facilitated through Eternity Mart's distribution relationship with KeHE, Distributors, LLC, an authorized distributor of Nature's Sources. Id. On February 6, 2019, Amazon emailed Eternity Mart to report that Amazon had received a complaint that Eternity Mart was infringing on Nature's Sources' trademark rights. Id. at 4. On February 27, 2019, Amazon notified Eternity Mart that its account was temporarily deactivated because of Nature's Sources' reports that Eternity Mart was counterfeiting Nature's Sources' goods. Id. at 5. Despite Eternity Mart's efforts to prove that its Nature's Sources goods were authentic, Eternity Mart was not reinstated as a seller on Amazon until March 21, 2019. Id.at 7.

         On April 10, 2019, Eternity Mart initiated the instant action against Nature's Sources, alleging counts of intentional interference with business relationships and defamation per se. Doc. [1].

         Discussion

         I. Nature's Sources' Motion to Compel Eternity Mart

         Nature's Sources contends that several of Eternity Mart's discovery responses are deficient and moves this Court to compel Eternity Mart to respond completely and fully to Requests for Production 1, 2, 12, 13, 16, 17, and 28, as well as Interrogatories 10, 11, and 13. Doc. [29] at 13. These discovery requests generally seek information on two topics. First, there are several discovery requests that seek information about complaints that Amazon received from other companies regarding Eternity Mart and other Amazon notices, warnings, suspensions, and reinstatements. Second, various discovery requests concern Eternity Mart's tax returns, bank records, and other financial information. Nature's Sources also moves to compel Eternity Mart to respond fully and completely to Request for Production No. 1, arguing that Eternity Mart has failed to produce complete emails and that Eternity Mart has produced email attachments in such a way that Nature's Sources cannot discern which email an attachment belongs to. Id. at 12.

         In ruling on a motion to compel, the discovery standard set forth in Rule 26(b) applies. Rule 26(b)(1) allows “discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). The party requesting discovery bears the initial burden of establishing its relevancy. See, e.g., Rennie v. Dalton, 3 F.3d 1100, 1110 (7th Cir. 1993) (finding court did not abuse its discretion in denying motion to compel discovery for lack of a persuasive showing on relevance); Bell v. Pension Comm. of ATH Holding Co., LLC, 330 F.R.D. 517, 525 (S.D. Ind. June 14, 2018); West v. Miller, No. 05-cv-4977, 2006 WL 2349988 at *2 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 11, 2008). “If the discovery appears relevant, the party objecting to the discovery request bears the burden of showing why that request is improper.” Trading Technologies Intern., Inc. v. eSpeed, Inc., No. 04 C 5312, 2005 WL 1300778, at *1 (N.D.Ill. Apr.28, 2005) (citing Rubin v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 349 F.Supp.2d 1108, 1111 (N.D. Ill. 2004)).

         Magistrate judges have “extremely broad discretion in controlling discovery” when matters are referred to them for discovery supervision. Jones v. City of Elkhart, 737 F.3d 1107, 1115 (7th Cir. 2013).

         A. Discovery Requests about Third Party Complaints to Amazon and Other Notices, Warnings, Suspensions and Reinstatements by Amazon

         Requests for Production 12, 13, 16, 17 and Interrogatories 10 and 11 concern complaints that Amazon received about Eternity Mart from companies other than Nature's Sources and other Amazon notices, warnings, suspensions, and reinstatements. For instance, Request for Production No. 12 asks Eternity Mart to “[p]roduce all documents related to any intellectual property and/or IP complaint against Plaintiff submitted to Amazon by any entity other than Defendant.” Doc. [29] at 5. Another representative example of this group of discovery requests is Interrogatory No. 11, which requests Eternity Mart to “[s]tate the facts related to, identify all documents related to, and identify all persons with knowledge of all suspensions and/or deactivations of Plaintiff's Amazon product listings and/or account . . . .” Id. at 8. The requests for production seek records from January 1, 2014 to the present, which Nature's Sources states is “roughly five calendar years prior to the events giving rise to Eternity Mart's Complaint.” Id. at 7. The timeframe for Interrogatories 10 and 11 is January 1, 2017 to present. Id.at 8.

         Nature's Sources argues that these discovery requests are relevant to causation and damages. According to Nature's Sources, Eternity Mart's responses to Nature's Sources' discovery requests about other companies' IP complaints “could very well show that Plaintiff's business was suspended because of [the] other 200-plus IP violations it committed while selling products on Amazon.” Doc. [29] at 6. As for the discovery requests surrounding other notices, warnings, suspensions, and reinstatements by Amazon, Nature's Sources similarly surmises, “Perhaps during one of Plaintiff's prior suspensions . . . Amazon warned that any further misconduct would result in a mandatory 25 day storefront ...


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