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Payne v. Forest River, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

April 22, 2015

WENDELL PAYNE, CHRIS RIDDLE, AND XCURSION MARKETING GROUP, L.L.C
v.
FOREST RIVER, INC

ORDER

RICHARD L. BOURGEOIS, Jr., Magistrate Judge.

Before the court is Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel (R. Doc. 48) filed on March 6, 2015. (R. Doc. 48). Defendant Forest River, Inc. ("Forest River") has filed an Opposition under seal. (R. Doc. 52). Plaintiffs have filed a Reply under seal. (R. Doc. 53). For the following reasons, Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.[1]

I. Background

The parties to this action dispute the ownership of the design and specifications of certain pontoon boats and whether they entered into a joint venture regarding the production and sale of those pontoon boats. In their Petition, Plaintiffs allege that in January 2011 they perfected the design of the "Xcursion" series pontoon boats, which they allege is "unique in the pontoon boating market because of [Plaintiffs'] invention and innovation, including higher end finishes for the product as well as a more functional and customer-friendly design." (R. Doc. 1-1, "Petition, " ¶¶ 2-3). Plaintiffs allege that they then entered into a joint venture agreement with Forest River by which "Forest River would acquire the rights to Xcursion and [Plaintiffs] would market Xcursion and, in exchange, Forest River would pay [Plaintiffs] 4% of the gross sales of Xcursion." (Petition, ¶ 4). Plaintiffs further allege that in May 2011, Forest River began manufacturing the Xcursion series pontoon boats using Plaintiffs' "designs, specifications, and plans for the Xcursion concept." (Petition, ¶ 5). Plaintiffs allege that after a series of attempted modifications to their joint venture agreement, Forest River breached the agreement by ceasing to pay Plaintiffs in August of 2012. (Petition, ¶¶ 7-11).

Forest River denies that a joint venture agreement exists between the parties. (R. Doc. 14 at 4). If, however, the Court determines that a joint venture between the parties does exist, Forest River seeks to recover net losses for the manufacture and sale of Xcursion series pontoon boats. (R. Doc. 14 at 4-5). In addition to the Xcursion line of pontoon boats, Forest River markets and sells a South Bay and Berkshire line of pontoon boats.

The instant discovery dispute concerns three requests for production propounded by Plaintiffs. The first two requests for production at issue-Plaintiffs' First Set of Discovery Requests Nos. 2 and 3-respectively seek the production of certain "purchase programs" and "commitment sheets" regarding all three pontoon boat lines produced by Forest River (Xcursion, South Bay, and Berkshire) for the years 2011 through 2014. The third request for production at issue-Plaintiffs' Second Set of Discovery Requests No. 1-seeks the production of financial statements, sales projections, profit and loss statements, and income statements regarding the Xcursion line of pontoon boats from 2011 to the present. Plaintiffs allege that Forest River's responses to these requests for production are incomplete.

Plaintiffs' counsel has certified to the court that counsel have conferred and attempted to resolve the issues in the Motion to Compel in good faith but have been unable to do so. Plaintiffs seek an order requiring Forest River to fully answer the foregoing requests for production and awarding Plaintiffs their reasonable expenses, including attorney's fees, incurred in connection with bringing the motion.

II. Law and Analysis

A. Legal Standards

Rule 26(b)(1) of the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure provides that "[p]arties may obtain discovery regarding any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense." To be relevant, "information need not be admissible at trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). The scope of discovery is not without limits, however, and the court may protect a party from responding to discovery when: (i) it is unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or obtainable from some other less-burdensome source; (ii) the party seeking discovery has had the opportunity by discovery in the action to obtain the information sought; or (iii) the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(2).

Rule 34 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for the discovery of documents and tangible items. A party seeking discovery must serve a request for production on the party believed to be in possession, custody, or control of the documents or other evidence. Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(a). The request is to be in writing and must set forth, among other things, the desired items with "reasonable particularity." Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(b)(1)(A).

Rule 34 provides a party with 30 days after service of requests for production to respond or object. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(b)(2)(A). If a party fails to respond timely or fully to requests for production, the party seeking discovery may move to compel disclosure and for appropriate sanctions under Rule 37. An "evasive or incomplete disclosure, answer, or response must be treated as a failure to disclose, answer or respond." Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(4).

B. Plaintiffs' First Set of Discovery Requests - Purchase Programs ...


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