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Evenflo Co., Inc. v. Hantec Agents Limited

June 5, 2006

EVENFLO COMPANY, INC., PLAINTIFF,
v.
HANTEC AGENTS LIMITED, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Thomas M. Rose

ENTRY AND ORDER GRANTING EVENFLO'S MOTION TO COMPEL (Doc. #14); SANCTIONING HANTEC AND FINDING EVENFLO'S AMENDED MOTION TO FILE AN AMENDED COMPLAINT (Doc. #18) MOOT

This dispute arises from a business relationship between Plaintiff and Counterclaim Defendant Evenflo Company, Inc. ("Evenflo") and Defendant and Counterclaimant Hantec Agents Limited ("Hantec"). Evenflo brought a Complaint against Hantec alleging two breaches of contract, fraud and/or fraudulent inducement and conversion. (Doc. #1, Ex. A.) Evenflo's Complaint was originally brought in the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, Ohio and was subsequently removed to this Court by Hantec based upon this Court having diversity jurisdiction. Hantec then filed its Counterclaim alleging six breaches of contract, unjust enrichment, breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing, account stated - invoices for goods and account stated - invoices for expenses. (Doc. #4.)

Now before the Court is Evenflo's Motion To Compel certain discovery responses. (Doc. #14.) Soon after the Motion To Compel was filed, the Court entered a Show Cause Order requiring Hantec to either provide the requested discovery or show cause as to why the discovery should not be provided. (Doc. #15.) Hantec then filed a Memorandum opposing Evenflo's Motion To Compel (doc. #19) to which Evenflo replied (doc. #21.) Evenflo's Motion To Compel is, therefore, ripe for decision.

Evenflo seeks an order compelling Hantec to provide substantive responses to Interrogatory No. 25 of the First Set of Interrogatories of Plaintiff Evenflo Company, Inc. Directed To Defendant Hantec Agents Limited, and Requests 13 and 14 of the First Set of Requests For Production of Documents of Plaintiff Evenflo Company, Inc. Directed To Defendant Hantec Agents Limited. Evenflo believes that Hantec's responses to these discovery requests were not meaningful in that Hantec did not disclose the full extent of the ownership and other business relationships that Hantec has with various entities. Evenflo argues that it needs this information so as to determine who, if anyone, should be added as party defendants.

Hantec responds that the Motion To Compel is unnecessary because Evenflo must be satisfied with the discovery responses since it has already sought to amend its complaint to add certain parties. Hantec also argues that it fully responded to the discovery requests as evidenced by the Affidavits of Hua Tu and Gillian Overland that are attached to its Response. Hua Tu is purported to be the President of Hantec and Gillian Overland is an attorney in the firm that represents Hantec in this matter.

DISCOVERY STANDARDS

"The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide for broad, liberal discovery of any information which may be relevant to a suit" and are construed to obtain the "just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action." Powerhouse Marks, L.L.C. v. Chi Hsin Impex, Inc., 2006 WL 83477 at *1 (E.D.Mich. Jan. 12, 2006). Discovery may be obtained "regarding any matter, not privileged , that is relevant to the claim or defense of any party." Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). Further, relevant information need not be admissible so long as it "appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." Id.

Regarding disclosures, the determination of relevance is within the court's sound discretion. Powerhouse, 2006 WL 83477 (citing Watson v. Lowcountry Red Cross, 974 F.2d 482 (4th Cir. 1992). Also, relevance should be "broadly and liberally" construed when applying the discovery rules. Id. (citing Herbert v. Lando, 441 U.S. 153 (1979)).

Rule 37 provides for an order compelling discovery if a party fails to provide complete disclosure or if the disclosure provided is evasive. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37. Rule 37 also governs sanctions for a party's failure to make or cooperate in the discovery process. Specifically, Rule 37(d) provides that a court may sanction a party when that party's evasive or incomplete answers to proper interrogatories impede discovery. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(3) and 37(d); see Jackson by Jackson v. Nissan Motor Corp. in USA, 888 F.2d 1391 (6th Cir. 1989). The sanctions may be imposed even in the absence of an order compelling discovery. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(d). Also, "[a] district court has the inherent power to sanction a party when that party exhibits bad faith, including the party's refusal to comply with the court's orders." Youn v. Track, Inc., 324 F.3d 409, 420 (6th Cir. 2003)(citing Chambers v. NASCO, Inc., 501 U.S. 32, 43-50 (1991)). The analysis now turns to the specific discovery requests raised by Evenflo.

INTERROGATORY NO. 25

Interrogatory No. 25 reads,

Describe your business structure and your relationship to any parent, subsidiary, and/or sibling corporation, partner, affiliate, d/b/a, and/or joint venture, including, but not limited to, entities using the names Cable Tech, Tcable Co., or Kunshan E-Tech Industrial Co. Ltd.

Hantec's Answer was:

Defendant objects to this interrogatory on the grounds that it seeks proprietary and/or confidential information, it is vague, ambiguous, overbroad and seeks information which is not relevant, nor reasonably ...


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