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GCIU-Employer Retirement Fund v. Coleridge Fine Arts

United States District Court, D. Kansas

July 31, 2018



          Gerald L. Rushfelt U.S. Magistrate Judge

         Before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel Responses to Plaintiffs' First Set of Interrogatories and First Requests for Production of Documents to Defendants (ECF 72). Defendants oppose the motion (ECF 74). For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants the motion in part and denies it in part.

         I. Relevant Procedural History

         Plaintiffs (“the Fund”) bring this action against Defendants Coleridge Fine Arts (“Coleridge”) and Jelniki Limited (“Jelniki”). Defendants are both companies in Ireland. Plaintiffs seek to collect withdrawal liability payments against them, pursuant to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq. and the Multiemployer Pension Plan Amendments Act of 1980 (“MPPAA”). Plaintiffs allege Defendants acquired a Kansas corporation, Greystone Graphics, Inc. (“Greystone”). Plaintiffs further allege Greystone withdrew from the Fund in 2011, thus subjecting it to withdrawal liability under 29 U.S.C. § 1381. Plaintiffs contend Defendants are liable for the withdrawal liability payments, because Greystone was their subsidiary. Thus, Plaintiffs argue Defendants are also subject to this Court's jurisdiction because Defendants own Greystone. Defendants deny they are subject to this Court's jurisdiction. They contend they never had direct control of the daily affairs of Greystone, did not conduct business on its behalf, had no authority to make business decisions related to Greystone, and therefore lack sufficient minimum contacts in Kansas to subject them to jurisdiction.

         This Court earlier dismissed this case, concluding it did not have personal jurisdiction over Coleridge and Jelniki (ECF 52). Upon appeal the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the case for “jurisdictional discovery of material relating to the question of whether Coleridge or Jelniki, either directly or through their owners, directors, or agents, were involved in the day-to-day management of Greystone.” (ECF 59 at 12). The parties have engaged in discovery regarding this issue. Plaintiffs' motion asks the Court to compel further responses to Interrogatory Nos. 23, 24, and 25, and to Request for Production Nos. 3, 4, 5, 4 (sic), 8 (sic, ). 9 (sic), 11 (sic), and 12 (sic).

         II. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) sets out the general scope of discovery. It states:

Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case, considering the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties' relative access to relevant information, the parties' resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit. Information within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.

         Considerations of both relevance and proportionality now govern the scope of discovery.[1]

         Relevant information is “any matter that bears on, or that reasonably could lead to other matter that could bear on” any party's claim or defense.[2] The 2015 amendment to Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1) omits the requirement that information must be “reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence, ” a provision that was often misused to define the scope of discovery and had the potential to “swallow any other limitation.”[3]

         “When the discovery sought appears relevant, the party resisting discovery has the burden to establish the lack of relevancy by demonstrating that the requested discovery (1) does not come within the scope of relevancy as defined under Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1), or (2) is of such marginal relevancy that the potential harm occasioned by discovery would outweigh the ordinary presumption in favor of broad disclosure.”[4] When the discovery sought is “overly broad on its face or when relevancy is not readily apparent, the party seeking the discovery has the burden to show the relevancy of the request.”[5] A request is overly broad on its face “if it is couched in such broad language as to make arduous the task of deciding which of numerous documents may conceivably fall within its scope.”[6] Relevancy is determined on a case-by-case basis.[7]

         III. Analysis

         Defendants assert that they provided supplemental responses to Interrogatory No. 23 three days before Plaintiffs filed their motion.[8] Plaintiffs do not address the supplemental response to Interrogatory No. 23, and the Court therefore assumes it is sufficient. Accordingly, it denies as moot the motion to compel further response to Interrogatory 23.

         Defendants responded to Request for Production Nos. 3, 4, 5, No. 4 (sic), No. 8 (sic), and No. 9 (sic), by stating they do not have any responsive documents and will supplement as necessary.[9] The Court “cannot compel a party to produce documents that do not exist or that are not in that party's possession, custody, or control.”[10] Plaintiffs in their motion do not challenge this response. They do not allege and have not provided any information that would challenge the accuracy of the statements that Defendants do not have responsive documents.[11] To avoid confusion, however, the Court directs Defendants to amend their responses to delete the objections and instead simply state that they do not have custody, control or possession of the requested documents. The motion to compel as to Requests for Production Nos. 3, 4, 5, No. 4(sic), No. 8 (sic), and No. 9 (sic) is otherwise denied.

         The remaining discovery requests at issue are Interrogatory Nos. 24 and 25 and Request for Production No. 11 (sic) and No. 12 (sic). Defendants assert various objections to each of them. The Court considers the objections and whether the requests comply with the directions set forth by the Tenth Circuit, and if so, whether the answers to them are responsive.

         A. Interrogatory No. 24 and Request for ...

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