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Swift Beef Co. v. Alex Lee, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Kansas

October 31, 2018

SWIFT BEEF COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
ALEX LEE, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER ON MOTION TO QUASH THIRD-PARTY SUBPOENA

          KENNETH G. GALE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Now before the Court is the “Motion to Quash Subpoenas” filed by non-party Vantage Foods NC LP (“Vantage”). (Doc. 1.) Also pending is the “Motion to Compel Compliance with Subpoena” filed by Plaintiff Swift Beef Company (“Swift”). (Doc. 8.) Having reviewed the submissions of the parties, the Court is prepared to rule.

         FACTS

         This case results from a third-party subpoena served on Vantage in a contract dispute pending in the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina (“underlying lawsuit”). The underlying lawsuit results from “positive statements” by Defendant Alex Lee “that it will not substantially perform its obligations under two agreements with Swift Beef - a Lease Agreement and a Purchase Agreement (collectively, ‘Agreements') - that involve a meat further processing and packaging plant located in Lenoir, North Carolina (‘Lenoir Plant').” (Doc. 9, at 1.) Alex Lee's counterclaims include two for breach of contract “contending that it may immediately terminate the Agreements because Swift Beef purportedly failed to ‘use commercially reasonable efforts to produce' meat products ‘efficiently and at competitive cost.'” (Id., at 1-2.)

         Vantage previously operated the Lenoir plant that is currently owned by Defendant and the subject of the underlying lawsuit. Vantage has no contractual or business relationships with either of the parties in the underlying lawsuit. Vantage also has no ongoing business operations, no revenue, no employees, and exists essentially as a defunct entity. Its only office is in Wichita, Kansas.

         Swift served a subpoena on Vantage on May 29, 2018. Vantage contends that this initial subpoena was “procedurally defective and substantively flawed.” (Doc. 2, at 2.) Swift served a second subpoena on June 12, 2018, “[i]n an effort to resolve Vantage Foods' objection to the first subpoena on the grounds that it was defective by requiring production in Raleigh, North Carolina instead of Wichita, Kansas . . . .” (Doc. 9, at 9.)

         Vantage concedes that the “procedural defects were corrected by Swift's issuance of [the] modified subpoena . . . .” (Doc. 2, at 2.) Even so, Vantage argues that both subpoenas “should be quashed in their entirety and Vantage Foods should not be required to produce any of the items Swift requests.” (Doc. 2, at 2.) Based on the arguments contained in Swifts response to Vantage's motion to quash as well as Swift's own motion to compel, the Court finds any issues regarding the initial subpoena are now moot and will focus only on the modified subpoena of June 12, 2018.

         According to Vantage, the subpoena consists of “twenty-five sweeping requests for documents covering almost every conceivable aspect of Vantage Food's obsolete business relationship with Alex Lee and Alex Lee's subsidiaries.” (Id., at 3.) Vantage has summarized the categories of requested documents as follows:

• All agreements and contracts between Vantage Foods and Alex Lee and its related entities, Merchants Distributors and Lowes Foods;
• Internal and external communications regarding Vantage Foods ceasing operations of the Lenoir Plant;
• Documents and communications around termination of contracts and agreements between Vantage Foods and Alex Lee;
• Documents showing volume of production by Vantage Foods while it operated the Lenoir Plant;
• All documents related to complaints by Alex Lee and its related entities to Vantage Foods during their relationship;
• Communications between Vantage Foods and Alex Lee concerning the Initial Subpoena;
• Vantage Foods' labor costs associated with its operation of Alex Lee's Lenoir Plant;
• Drawings and photos of Vantage Foods' operation of the Lenoir Plant; and
• Documents tracking, analyzing or assessing the accuracy of Alex Lee's forecasting of meat products to be shipped by Vantage Foods from the Lenoir Plant to Alex Lee and its related entities.

(Id., at 3-4.)

         Concurrently with the filing of its response (Doc. 10) to Vantage's “Motion to Quash Subpoenas, ” Swift filed its “Motion to Compel Compliance with Subpoena Directed to Non-Party.” (Doc. 8.) The arguments raised by Swift in support of its motion to compel mirror ...


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