United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
R. HARJANI, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Derrell Fulton has moved to quash a subpoena issued by
Defendant City of Chicago to Momentum Funding, LLC . The
question presented in this motion is whether litigation
funding documents that were provided by Plaintiff to Momentum
in order to obtain third-party funding for the litigation are
relevant under Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1), and whether they are
protected by the attorney work product doctrine. For the
reasons stated below, the Court grants the motion to quash.
Derrell Fulton has filed a complaint alleging that he was
wrongfully arrested and convicted of a sexual assault and
murder that he did not commit. This lawsuit alleges that the
defendants coerced his false confession and fabricated
evidence that caused Plaintiff's arrest, conviction, and
23 years of incarceration. Defendants have denied the
allegations of the complaint.
discovery, Defendant City of Chicago has served a subpoena
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 45 on Momentum
Funding, LLC for documents relating to the obtention of
litigation funding by Plaintiff. The subpoena seeks
communications with Plaintiff and his attorneys, summaries
and assessments of the case, applications for funding, and
all funding agreements and statements of the terms of
funding. Plaintiff has moved to quash the subpoena. At the
outset, Plaintiff has argued it has standing to bring the
motion to quash, and defendant has not challenged the
standing issue in its response brief. The Court finds that
Plaintiff has standing because it has a legitimate interest
in the information as it details private financial
information related to funding of the fees and costs
associated with this litigation, and disclosure of the
documents also impacts the production of attorney work
product material. See Allstate Ins. Co. v. Electrolux
Home Prod., Inc., No. 16-CV-4161, 2017 WL 5478297, at *3
(N.D. Ill. Nov. 15, 2017). Turning to the substance of
Plaintiff's motion to quash, Plaintiff argues that the
subpoenaed documents are irrelevant under Rule 26(b)(1) and
also seek information protected by the attorney work product
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs the issuance
and quashing of subpoenas. Under Rule 45(a), a party may
issue a subpoena commanding a person to produce designated
documents at a specified time and place. Fed.R.Civ.P.
45(a)(1)(A)(iii). The scope of information discoverable by
subpoena is “as broad as what is otherwise permitted
under Rule 26(b)(1).” In re Kleimar N.V v. Benxi
Iron & Steel Am., Ltd., No. 17-CV-01287, 2017 WL
3386115, at *7 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 7, 2017) (citation omitted). A
proper subpoena may therefore call for “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).
timely motion, Rule 45(d) mandates that the court quash or
modify a subpoena if the subpoena “subjects a person to
undue burden” or “requires disclosure of
privileged or other protected matter, if no exception or
waiver applies.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 45(d)(3)(A)(iii-iv). Rule
45(d) likewise permits a court to quash or modify a subpoena
that requires “disclosing a trade secret or other
confidential research, development, or commercial information
. . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 45(d)(3)(B)(i).
up to the moving party to establish the impropriety of the
subpoena, CSC Holdings, Inc. v. Redisi, 309 F.3d
988, 993 (7th Cir. 2002. Finally, magistrate judges
“enjoy extremely broad discretion in controlling
discovery.” Jones v. City of Elkhart, 737 F.3d
1107, 1115 (7th Cir. 2013).
requested documents can generally be divided into two
categories: (1) the litigation funding documents, which
include the terms of the deal and the funding agreements; and
(2) the non-funding documents, which include the
communications and information provided to Momentum leading
up to the securing of funding.
Litigation Funding Agreement Documents
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). Evidence is relevant if it has any
tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would
be without the evidence. Fed.R.Evid. 401. However, relevant
information need not be admissible at the trial if the
discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the
discovery of admissible evidence. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). As a
general matter, courts across the country that have addressed
the issue have held that litigation funding information is
generally irrelevant to proving the claims and defenses in a
case. In re Valsartan N. Nitrosodimethylamine,
19-2875, 2019 WL 4485702 at *3 (D.N.J. Sept. 18, 2019);
Benitez v. Lopez, 17-CV-3827-SJ-SJB, 2019 WL
1578167, at *1 (E.D.N.Y. March 14, 2019); Miller UK Ltd.
v. Caterpillar, Inc., 17 F.Supp.3d 711, 742 (N.D. Ill.
2014); Kaplan v. S.A.C. Capital Advisors, L.P.,
S.A.C., No. 12-CV-9350 (VM)(KNF), 2015 WL 5730101, at *5
(S.D.N.Y. Sept. 10, 2015), aff'd, 141 F.Supp.3d
246 (S.D.N.Y. 2015); Space Data Corp. v. Google LLC,
Case No. 16-cv-03260 BLF, 2018 WL 3054797, at *1 (N.D. Cal.
June 11, 2018); MLC Intellectual Property LLC v. Micron
Technology, Inc., Case No. 14-cv-3657-SI, 2019 WL
118595, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Jan. 7, 2019); Yousefi v. Delta
Electric Motors, Inc., No. 13-CV-1632 RSL, 2015 WL
11217257, at *2 (W.D. Wash. May 11, 2015).
discovery issues are generally case-specific and deserve
individual consideration that require courts to balance the
concerns of relevancy and proportionality. Defendant has
proffered a number of bases for the alleged relevancy of the