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Pipeline Productions, Inc. v. The Madison Companies, LLC

United States District Court, D. Kansas

March 14, 2019

PIPELINE PRODUCTIONS, INC., BACKWOOD ENTERPRISES, LLC, OK PRODUCTIONS, INC., and BRETT MOSIMAN, Plaintiffs,
v.
THE MADISON COMPANIES, LLC, and HORSEPOWER ENTERTAINMENT, LLC, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          K. GARY SEBELIUS, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter comes before the court upon the Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel Defendants to Respond to Plaintiffs' Second Set of Discovery Requests and Requests for Sanctions. (ECF No. 285.) For the following reasons, this motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         This action arises from a failed country music concert in Arkansas, the Thunder on the Mountain (“Thunder”) music festival. Plaintiffs allege that they entered into a joint venture with the defendants to own and produce the music festival. Plaintiffs contend that defendants reneged on the agreement, which forced plaintiffs to cancel the festival. Defendants assert counterclaims against plaintiffs, seeking declaratory judgments establishing the rights of the parties and recovery from the plaintiffs under the theories of breach of contract, promissory estoppel, and unjust enrichment.[1]

         Plaintiffs propounded their second set of interrogatories to defendants on August 6, 2018, [2] and their second request for production of documents to defendants on August 8, 2018.[3]Plaintiffs sought, among other things, information and documents related to the defendants' associated companies and investors, both in general and with specific focus on how those associated companies and investors discussed or viewed the Thunder project. The defendants objected to each of plaintiffs' interrogatories and document production requests because plaintiffs' requests were, among other objections, irrelevant and in violation of prior orders of this court.

         On October 11, 2018, Plaintiffs filed the instant motion to compel.[4] Defendants filed their response on October 25, 2018.[5] Shortly thereafter, this court issued a memorandum and order granting in part defendant's motion for a protective order preventing plaintiffs from discussing “related entities” or the “KAABOO”[6] entities during defendants' Fed.R.Civ.P. 30(b)(6) depositions.[7] Thereafter, On November 8, 2018, Plaintiffs filed their reply to defendants' response and removed or modified a number of their requests for discovery at issue in their motion to compel.[8]

         II.Discussion

         After the modifications of their discovery requests in their reply, plaintiffs seek an order from this compelling the defendants to produce documents responsive to requests 14, 20, 22, 23, and 25-27 of their second request for production of documents. Plaintiffs seek organizational charts from defendants, materials the defendants created for investors and KAABOO related to Thunder, and files related to the employment of anticipated witnesses disclosed by either party. In response to the document production requests, defendants objected, both in general and in specific objections, that a variety of principles of immunity privileged or otherwise protected the documents sought by plaintiffs, that the requests themselves were irrelevant to the plaintiffs' claims, redundant, unduly burdensome, ambiguous, overbroad, annoying, and harassing, and that the requests went outside the scope of discovery as determined by this court. Defendants general objections and the individual document production requests are discussed below.

         a. General Objections

         The court first turns to defendants' generic and boilerplate objections to plaintiffs' discovery requests. Defendants assert a variety of generic and specific objections and included a “general objections” section in their response to plaintiffs' document requests. In their motion to compel, plaintiffs argue that this court should disregard defendants' general objections as the District of Kansas consistently deems general objections to be overbroad, hypothetical, or otherwise insufficient. Defendants respond by arguing that, if they demonstrate the applicability of the general objections to the specific discovery requests, the district court must consider the objections.

         In the District of Kansas, “general objections are considered ‘overly broad and worthless unless the objections are substantiated with detailed explanations.'”[9] This court has consistently held that “a general objection that objects to a discovery request ‘to the extent' that it asks the responding party to provide documents or information protected by the attorney-client privilege or work product immunity is tantamount to asserting no objection at all.”[10] Furthermore, this court has held that boilerplate objections, without explanation or specific analysis, are insufficient to substantiate an objection, even when applied to individual discovery requests.[11]

         In this case, defendants began their initial response to plaintiffs' document production requests with a five-page section labeled “General Objections” in which the defendants list a vast variety of objections to all 33 of the plaintiffs' request.[12] Defendant likewise raised these boilerplate objections in response to the individual document production requests at issue in plaintiffs' motion.[13] Merely providing a comprehensive list of nearly every imaginable objection to a discovery request, in response to each discovery request, does not put the requesting party on notice of the actual nature of and reasons for the objections and is thus deficient. Therefore, following this district's precedent, theses general and boilerplate objections are overruled as unsupported. However, the defendants also raised specific objections in their response to the discovery requests and in response to plaintiffs' motion to compel. As such, the specific objections will be addressed next. As the parties addressed the individual requests in groups, the court shall do the same.

         b. Document Production Requests

         As a general matter, “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 . . . .”[14]When evaluating whether a discovery request is within the scope, this court must consider, among other things, “the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit.”[15] Furthermore, this court must limit discovery when the frequency or extent of that discovery is “unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or can be obtained from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive . . . .”[16] A party may request copies or access to inspect documents in the responding party's possession, custody, or control, provided that request is within the scope of discovery.[17] A responding party may object to any document production request, but such objections must be made with particularity.[18]

         In a motion to compel, the moving party need only file the motion and draw the court's attention to the relief sought.[19] However, discovery requests must, at a minimum, seek facially relevant discovery before a court will order compliance.[20] If a request seeks documents or information that is not facially relevant, the party seeking discovery has the burden to show the relevancy of the requested discovery.[21] If a request seeks facially relevant discovery, the burden then shifts to the defendant to reassert and support any objections initially asserted in response to the plaintiff's discovery request.[22]

         i. Requests 14, 22, and 23-Investor Communications

         Following the plaintiffs' modifications in their reply brief, the plaintiffs, in production requests 14, 22, and 23, are now seeking communications between the plaintiffs and investors that refer to plaintiffs, plaintiffs' music festivals, or Thunder specifically, and any marketing materials produced by defendants for KAABOO that refer or relate to plaintiffs or plaintiffs' music festivals.[23] The defendants first argue that the discovery requests go beyond the scope of permissible discovery and attempt to circumvent prior orders of this court. Defendants further argue that the sought material is irrelevant to plaintiffs' claims. Finally, defendants argue that they have already produced the responsive material sought by plaintiffs.

         Two of these three discovery requests seek information that does not appear relevant on its face. In requests 22 and 23 plaintiffs seek, limited to the documents relevant to plaintiffs or Thunder, communications with KAABOO's potential investors and marketing materials defendants produced for KAABOO. As this court has noted in prior orders, KAABOO is a separate entity with separate music festival interests. On the face of the requests, it is not clear how communications with potential KAABOO investors or marketing produced for KAABOO, even limited to communications relevant to plaintiffs or Thunder, would bear on plaintiffs' claims.

         In their opening brief, plaintiffs only argue that defendants produced “investment opportunity packets” and may have delivered these to unspecified investors. Neither the plaintiffs' brief nor its reply specify if or how KAABOO relates to these investment packets. Plaintiffs offer no explanation about how the KAABOO interactions are relevant to their claims, and instead, plaintiffs merely assert that if such interactions exist they would “directly contradict Defendants' claim that they had little involvement in Thunder.” Such an assertion is insufficient to demonstrate the relevance of the requested documents to plaintiffs' claims. Therefore, the defendants' relevance objections are sustained, and plaintiffs' motion to compel is denied as to requests 22 and 23.

         Request No. 14 seeks facially relevant documents. This request seeks defendants' communications with its investors about whether to enter into an agreement for Thunder. Among the issues raised in this case is whether the parties entered into a contract or other form of business arrangement and how the parties understood the nature of that relationship. Documents related to defendants' conversations with its investors related to the plaintiffs or Thunder, should they exist, could potentially be relevant to revealing defendants' understanding of the nature of its relationship with the plaintiffs.

         In their response brief, defendants contend that this discovery request goes beyond the scope of discovery as limited by prior orders. The court disagrees. Defendants cite the court's June 20, 2018 order granting in part and denying in part plaintiffs' motion to compel discovery. Specifically, defendants cite to the court's determination that an interrogatory seeking the identity of all of defendants' investors over the last ten years was not facially relevant and that the plaintiffs, at the time, had failed to demonstrate how “investors' knowledge and complaints about similar transactions” could ever be relevant. Request 14, however, is substantially narrower than the discovery request at issue in the June 20 order.[24] The court could not see then, and the plaintiffs failed to articulate at the time, the relevance of such a seemingly disconnected discovery request. Request 14, in contrast, is focused on defendants' communications about plaintiffs with their investors. While defendants argue that this is a “backdoor” attempt to receive the names of the investors, the court did not take issue with the identity of the investors themselves for discovery purposes. The court took issue with a revealing such information for a seemingly irrelevant purpose. This narrower construction helps establish the relevance of the discovery request, and addresses the court's prior dissatisfaction. Thus, request 14 does not violate the court's prior order.[25]

         Defendants objected to plaintiffs' request 14 on multiple grounds, including that the request was overbroad. In their initial motion, plaintiffs note that they are seeking defendants' communication with their investors after learning that defendants had created some investment proposal documents, though the parties disagree about the ultimate audience for these documents. Defendants assert that they have already provided the investment proposal documents and imply that any additional discovery would be cumulative or duplicative. However, defendants' brief is unclear whether they are maintaining the objection on overbroad grounds or instead asserting some other objection. Regardless, the court construes the defendants' argument as an overbroad objection.

         Defendants arguments against production are not persuasive. Defendants must state “with specificity the grounds for objecting to the request, including the reasons.”[26] Here, defendants have failed to articulate why their production of the investment documents would be overbroad or beyond the scope of discovery. Defendants argue that they have already provided the plaintiffs with the investment documents described in plaintiff's brief, but the defendants fail to articulate why this production sufficiently responds to plaintiffs' production request. The document production request seeks all communications between defendants and their investors regarding entering ...


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