United States District Court, D. Kansas
LARRY A. LAWSON, Plaintiff,
SPIRIT AEROSYSTEMS, INC., Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
D. MITCHELL U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
matter comes before the court on plaintiff Larry A.
Lawson's Motion to Compel (ECF No. 56). The court held a
hearing on the motion on April 23, 2019. As detailed on the
record at that hearing, Mr. Lawson's motion is granted in
part and denied in part. This memorandum and order is
intended to memorialize the court's rulings.
case arises out of Defendant Spirit AeroSystems, Inc.'s
(“Spirit”) alleged breach of a retirement
agreement with Mr. Lawson, Spirit's former CEO. Mr.
Lawson alleges that, after he retired from Spirit, he became
a consultant for an investment firm that planned to install
him as CEO of Arconic, Inc. (“Arconic”), an
aircraft component manufacturer. Mr. Lawson alleges that,
when Spirit learned of this plan, it improperly withheld his
retirement benefits because Spirit claimed that he violated
the non-compete provision in his retirement agreement. That
provision prohibited Mr. Lawson from becoming involved in any
business “that is engaged, in whole or in part, in the
Business, or any business that is competitive with the
Business or any portion thereof” for two years after
his employment with Spirit was terminated. The provision that
defines “Business” reads as follows:
We are engaged in the manufacture, fabrication, maintenance,
repair, overhaul, and modification of aerostructures and
aircraft components, and market and sell our products and
services to customers throughout the world (together with any
other businesses in which Spirit may in the future engage, by
acquisition or otherwise, the “Business”).
Lawson now seeks the court's intervention regarding
discovery related to the “Business” of Spirit and
Arconic. Specifically, Mr. Lawson asks the court to compel
Spirit to produce (1) its contracts with Boeing and Airbus;
(2) its antitrust filings relating to its planned acquisition
of Asco Industries; (3) documents related to the aspects of
Spirit's business that Spirit alleges overlap with
Arconic's business; and (4) documents related to
Spirit's relationship with Arconic.
Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) governs the scope of
discovery and allows parties to “obtain discovery
regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any
party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of
the case.” Relevance is “construed broadly to
encompass any matter that bears on, or that reasonably could
lead to other matter that could bear on, any issue that is or
may be in the case.” Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v.
Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 351 (1978). To determine whether
discovery sought is proportional to the needs of the case,
the court considers “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.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). “Information within this scope
of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be
party resisting discovery “has the burden to establish
. . . that the requested discovery (1) does not come within
the scope of relevance as defined under Fed.R.Civ.P.
26(b)(1), or (2) is of such marginal relevance that the
potential harm occasioned by discovery would outweigh the
ordinary presumption in favor of broad disclosure.”
Gen. Elec. Capital Corp. v. Lear Corp., 215 F.R.D.
637, 640 (D. Kan. 2003). Courts in this District do not favor
“conclusory or boilerplate objections that discovery
requests are irrelevant, immaterial, unduly burdensome, or
overly broad.” Sonnino v. Univ. of Kan. Hosp.
Auth., 221 F.R.D. 661, 670 (D. Kan. 2004). A party
objecting to discovery “must specifically show in its
response to the motion to compel, despite the broad and
liberal construction afforded by the federal discovery rules,
how each request for production or interrogatory is
objectionable.” Id. at 670-71.
Plaintiff's Discovery Requests
court now addresses the categories of documents Mr. Lawson
seeks, which are encompassed in Request for Production Nos.
19-21, 25-30, 32, 34-38, and 40. At the hearing, Mr. Lawson
clarified that he is not seeking to compel the full scope of
documents sought in these RFPs, but rather only the smaller
subset of documents that are the subject of his motion to
compel. The court will therefore focus its discussion only on
the smaller subset of documents at issue.
Boeing and Airbus Contracts
Lawson asks the court to compel Spirit to produce contracts
between Spirit and its largest customers (RFP Nos. 20-21). As
further detailed on the record at the hearing on April 23,
the court grants Mr. Lawson's motion with respect to the
portions of these contracts (or amendments, addenda,
exhibits, schedules, data compilations, or lists) that relate