United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ex rel. MICHAEL KRESS
MASONRY SOLUTIONS INTERNATIONAL, INC. Section
ORDER AND REASONS
DANIEL E. KNOWLES, III, District Judge.
Before the Court is a Motion to Review the Magistrate Judge's decision of December 4, 2014, filed by Defendant Masonry Solutions International, Inc. ("Masonry Solutions"). (R. Doc. 39). Having reviewed the pleadings, memoranda, and relevant law, the Court DENIES the motion for the following reasons.
On September 26, 2012, Plaintiff Michael Kress filed a Complaint against Masonry Solutions seeking recovery on behalf of the United States from alleged false claims made by Masonry Solutions in violation of the False Claims Act ("FCA"), 31 U.S.C. §§ 3729 et seq. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Masonry Solutions, as employed by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, labeled materials purchased from a country not exempted by the Buy American Act as originating from an exempt country and over-billed the Government for such materials. ( See Complaint, ¶¶12-28, R. Doc. 1).
On November 22, 2014, Plaintiff filed a motion to compel full discovery responses pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 26. (R. Doc. 29). On December 4, 2014, the Magistrate Judge granted in part and denied in part the motion, and provided that, by December 19, 2014, Masonry Solutions provide responses to specific interrogatories propounded by the Plaintiff. ( See R. Doc. 37). Specifically, the Magistrate Judge ordered Masonry Solutions to provide responses to interrogatories and requests for production, summarized as follows: (i) information regarding the country of origin of the materials at issue; (ii) the quantity of materials at issue; (iii) the work performed by Masonry Solutions as subcontractor; (iv) evidence of compliance with Buy American Act; (v) the country of origin for steel materials; and (vi) certain invoices limited to two separate projects. Id. at 3-4.
Masonry Solutions did not comply with this order and instead filed the instant motion to review the Magistrate Judge's order on December 9, 2014, alleging that, by complying with the Magistrate Judge's Order and disclosing the information requested in the interrogatories, Masonry Solutions would effectively allow the Plaintiff "to acquire knowledge which Masonry Solutions maintains he does not possess." (R. Doc. 39). Specifically, Masonry Solutions asserts that because the Plaintiff alleges Masonry Solutions has violated the Fair Claims Act ("FCA") by devising a scheme to defraud the Government, "the plaintiff is required to be the original source of such knowledge, and is required to plead such allegations with particularity pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(b)." (R. Doc. 39, 1).
On July 15, 2014, Masonry Solutions filed a Motion for Protective Order seeking to avoid participating in discovery. On July 22, 2014, Relator propounded his first set of discovery requests. Relator's deposition was scheduled to take place on September 15, 2014. On August 20, 2014, Masonry Solutions provided responses to requests for admissions. Because Masonry Solutions did not respond to the remaining responses by September 2, 2014, Relator scheduled a discovery conference for September 8, 2014. Masonry Solutions argued that it did not have to provide certain responses until after the Relator was deposed. On September 8, 2014, Relator's deposition was cancelled to allow Masonry Solutions additional time to prepare discovery. On November 11, 2014, Masonry Solutions provided responses, although Masonry Solutions objected to a number of discovery requests.
On November 22, 2014, Relator filed a Motion to Compel full discovery responses under Rule 26. On December 4, 2014, the Magistrate Judge granted in part and denied in part that motion, and provided that, by December 19, 2014, Masonry Solution provide responses to specific inquiries.
A Magistrate Judge's ruling on a non-dispositive motion may be appealed to the district court under Rule 72(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Magistrate Judge is given broad discretion in ruling on non-dispositive pretrial motions, such as motions to compel. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A); Castillo v. Frank, 70 F.3d 382, 385 (5th Cir.1995); Merritt v. Int'l Bhd. of Boilermakers, 649 F.2d 1013, 1018 (5th Cir.1981).
A district court may only reverse a Magistrate Judge's ruling where the court finds the ruling to be "clearly erroneous or contrary to law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a); Castillo, 70 F.3d at 385. "This highly deferential standard requires the court to affirm the decision of the Magistrate Judge unless on the entire evidence [the court] is left with a definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed.'" Benoit v. Nintendo of American, 2001 WL 1524510, *1 (E.D.La.2001) (citing United States v. United States Gypsum Co., 333 U.S. 364, 68 S.Ct. 525, 92 L.Ed. 746 (1948)).
As stated above, in this case the Magistrate Judge granted in part and denied in part the Plaintiff's Motion to Compel. Motions to compel discovery responses are governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37. The Rule provides that "[i]f a party fails to make a disclosure required by Rule 26(a), any other party may move to compel disclosure and for appropriate sanctions." Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(2). Rule 26(a) provides:
(A) In General. Except as exempted by Rule 26(a)(1)(B) or as otherwise stipulated or ordered by the court, a party must, without awaiting a discovery request, provide to the other parties: [...]
(ii) a copy-or a description by category and location-of all documents, electronically stored information, and tangible things that the disclosing party has in its possession, custody, or control and may use to support its claims or ...