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LLC v. Great Lakes Brewing Co.

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

June 7, 2017

SOUTHERN GLAZER'S DISTRIBUTORS OF OHIO, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
THE GREAT LAKES BREWING CO., Defendants.

          Judge Michael H. Watson

          OPINION AND ORDER

          ELIZABETH A. PRESTON DEAVERS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs Motion to Compel Answers to Interrogatories and Responses to Document Requests (ECF No. 73), Defendants' Memorandum in Opposition to Plaintiffs Motion to Compel (ECF No. 80), and Plaintiffs Reply in Support of their Motion to Compel. (ECF No. 81.) For the reasons that follow, Plaintiffs Motion is GRANTED. (ECF No. 73.)

         I. BACKGROUND

         This is an action for relief pursuant to franchise agreements between Plaintiff, Southern Glazer's Distributors of Ohio, LLC ("Southern Glazer's"), and Defendant, The Great Lakes Brewing Company ("Great Lakes"), as well as Southern Glazer's and Defendant Boston Brewing Company, Inc. ("Boston Brewing"). The Court has previously included a detailed recitation of the facts in a prior Opinion and Order granting Defendants' Motion to Compel (ECF No. 62 at 1-7) and will therefore only discuss the facts most relevant to the instant motion.

         Defendants assert six counterclaims against Plaintiff, several of which are based, at least in part, on Defendants' assertion that Plaintiff breached the change in ownership/control provisions (and/or related consent language) in the controlling franchise agreements. (See Defs.' Answer at 32-38, ECF No. 21 ("Glazer's Ohio breached Section 9(a) of the Franchise Agreement by failing to seek and obtain Great Lakes' consent to the change of ownership and/or control that occurred via the Southern/Glazer's merger.").) Plaintiff included in its second set of discovery requests two interrogatories seeking information about Defendants' normal practice in relation to the change in ownership/control provisions. (PL's Mot. Compel at 5, ECF No. 73.) Plaintiff contends that the interrogatories were based on the Defendants' counterclaims and 30(b)(6) witnesses who testified that the "change-in-ownership/control provisions are an 'essential term' in all their contracts." (Id.) Defendants objected to Plaintiffs interrogatories as "irrelevant to any issue in the case." (Defs.' Opp. at 3, ECF No. 80.)

         Now, Plaintiff requests a Court Order compelling Defendants to respond to the following two interrogatories:

Interrogatory 8. Describe each and every circumstance in the past five years in which [Defendant] Lakes received notice of a potential change in the ownership and/or control of a distributor, and/or a potential assignment of a distribution agreement, within the meaning of [the change-in-control provision] of the [] Distribution Agreement (or a similarly-worded agreement). Your description should include, but is not limited to, the date of the notice, the identity of the distributor, the events that constituted a potential change in the ownership and/or control of the distributor, and/or a potential assignment of the distribution agreement, and whether [Defendant] consented to the change in the ownership and/or control of the distributor and/or the assignment of the distribution agreement.
Interrogatory 9. For each circumstance identified in response to Interrogatory No. 8, describe the information, documents, and process that [Defendant] used to decide whether to grant or withhold its consent, including all persons involved in the decision.

(Pis.'Mot. Compel at 5.)

         II. LAW AND ANALYSIS

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37 permits a party to file a motion for an order compelling discovery if another party fails to respond to discovery requests, provided that the motion to compel includes a certification that the movant has, in good faith, conferred or attempted to confer with the party failing to respond to the requests. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(1). The Court is satisfied that this prerequisite to filing a discovery motion has been satisfied.

         Determining the scope of discovery is within the Court's discretion. Bush v. Dictaphone Corp., 161 F.3d 363, 367 (6th Cir. 1998). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1), which sets forth the permissible scope of discovery, provides as follows:

(1) Scope in General. Unless otherwise limited by court order, the scope of discovery is as follows: 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 ...

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