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Coleman v. ANCO Insulations, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

May 8, 2017

WILLIAM D. COLEMAN
v.
ANCO INSULATIONS, INC. ET AL.

          RULING AND ORDER

          ERIN WILDER-DOOMES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Before the court is a Motion to Compel Defendant Pilkington North America, Inc. (“PNA”) to Produce a Corporate Representative Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30(b)(6) (the “Motion to Compel”)[1] filed by Plaintiffs, Pamela Coleman and Jody Coleman Nolte (“Plaintiffs”).[2]By their Motion to Compel, Plaintiffs seek to compel PNA to produce a corporate representative to testify regarding certain topics. PNA has filed an Opposition.[3]

         For the reasons set forth herein, Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. Specifically, The court GRANTS Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel with respect to topic number 52. The court GRANTS Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel with respect to topic number 40 only to the extent this topics seeks information prior to 1972. The court DENIES Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel with respect to topic numbers 12, 22, 32, 37, 38, 15, 25, and 35. The court DENIES Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel with respect to topic numbers 13, 17, 21, 23, 27, 14, 24, 34, 16, 26, 36, 18, 19, 20, and 45 to the extent these topics seek information for the time period following Decedent's employment at the Shreveport plant. The court GRANTS Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel with respect to topic number 52.

         I. Background

         Plaintiffs assert that William D. Coleman (“Decedent”) was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma on or around June 20, 2015 and died on November 8, 2016[4] “due to or a [sic] consequence of his exposure to dust and fibers from asbestos and asbestos-containing materials utilized by” PNA.[5] Per Plaintiffs' First Supplemental and Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs contend that at the time of Decedent's birth in 1941, his father, W.C. Coleman “was employed in the Packing Department at the Libbey-Owens-Ford (“LOF”) Plant located in Shreveport, Louisiana.”[6]Plaintiffs assert that W.C. Coleman was exposed to injurious levels of asbestos during his employment and that Decedent “experienced household exposure to asbestos from, inter alia, the skin and clothing of his father.”[7] In addition to allegations of household exposure, Plaintiffs allege that “[i]n approximately 1962” Decedent “joined his father at the LOF Plant in Shreveport, Louisiana and he worked throughout the LOF Plant until approximately September of 1971 when the plant was closed.”[8] Plaintiffs contend that as a result of Decedent's work at the LOF Plant, he “experienced direct exposure to injurious levels of asbestos from the asbestos containing products utilized therein. Specifically, [Decedent] was exposed to, inter alia, asbestos containing insulation; asbestos containing fire brick; asbestos containing discs; and ‘sheets' of asbestos insulation.”[9]

         Plaintiffs allege that PNA proximately caused Decedent's mesothelioma and assert PNA “[i]nduc[ed] Decedent and his father to work in areas polluted with respirable asbestos fibers” and failed to: (1) provide safety equipment (such as respiratory protection and clothing) for Decedent and his father; (2) institute adequate safety measures and protection (“including wet methods, against deadly and life-threatening asbestos dust”); (3) adequately warn Decedent and his father regarding the dangers of asbestos contamination; (4) maintain safe “ambient and environmental conditions;” (5) remove or abate asbestos in the facility “during the time Decedent and his father were working there;” (6) provide adequate ventilation to ensure individuals were not exposed to asbestos; (7) provide a safe method for use of asbestos and asbestos-containing products and machinery/equipment; (8) adhere to industry safety standards; (9) provide “local exhaust in Decedent and his father's work areas;” (10) “monitor the air for airborne asbestos fibers in Decedent and his father's work areas;” (11) provide “proper medical monitoring while Decedent and his father were employed and working at [PNA's] premise;” (12) educate Decedent and his father regarding the hazards of asbestos; (13) post warning or caution signs regarding the hazards of asbestos; and (14) implement the use of asbestos-free materials.[10]

         Additionally, Plaintiffs contend that defendants (i.e., PNA and its alleged insurers) knew “for many decades” of the dangers posed by inhalation of asbestos dust and fibers but withheld and concealed such information; “released, published and disseminated” incorrect or otherwise misleading information; “distorted the results of medical examinations conducted on Decedent as well as workers and family members such as Decedent;” and contrived through trade organizations to “induce the Decedent to rely upon said false and fraudulent representations, omissions, and concealments, to continue to expose herself [sic] to the dangers inherent in the use of and exposure to Defendants' asbestos-containing products and machinery….”[11] Plaintiffs allege that as “a direct and proximate result of Decedent's reliance on Defendants' false and fraudulent representations, omissions, and concealments, Decedent sustained damages including injuries, illnesses, and disabilities and has been deprived of the opportunity of informed free choice in connection with the exposure to Defendants' asbestos-containing products and machinery requiring or calling for the use of asbestos and asbestos-containing products.”[12]

         II. Law and Analysis

         “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 outweighs its likely benefit. Information within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1).

         “Generally, the scope of discovery is very broad, though it is not unlimited.” Heck v. Buhler, 2015 WL 7432367, at * 2 (M.D. La. Nov. 23, 2015) (citing Crosby v. Louisiana Health Serv. & Indent. Co., 647 F.3d 258, 264 (5th Cir. 2011)). See also, Southern Filter Media, LLC v. Halter, 2014 WL 4278788, at * 3 (M.D. La. Aug. 29, 2014) (“The general scope of discovery is broad and permits the discovery of ‘any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense.' The rules governing discovery are accorded a broad and liberal treatment to achieve their purpose of adequately informing litigants in civil trials.”) (internal citations omitted). “It is well established that the scope of discovery is within the sound discretion of the trial court.” Southern Filter Media, LLC v. Halter, 2014 WL 4278788, at * 3 (M.D. La. Aug. 29, 2014). The court must limit the frequency or extent of discovery if it determines that: “(i) the discovery sought is unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or can be obtained from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive; (ii) the party seeking discovery has had ample opportunity to obtain the information by discovery in the action; or (iii) the proposed discovery is outside the scope permitted by Rule 26(b)(1).” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(2)(C).

         Rule 30(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs deposition notices directed to organizations. In the deposition notice, the party “must describe with reasonable particularity the matters for examination.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 30(b)(6). In response, the organization must designate an agent or other person to testify on its behalf “about information known or reasonably available to the organization.” Id. “The court may limit a Rule 30(b)(6) deposition notice to the extent it requests the organization to designate an agent to testify on topics of information that are overly broad, vague, or ambiguous.” Krantz v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Co., 2016 WL 320148, at * 3 (M.D. La. Jan. 25, 2016) (citing Scioneaux v. Elevating Boats, LLC, 2010 WL 4366417, at *3 (E.D. La. Oct. 20, 2010) (quashing deposition notice where the plaintiff failed to particularize the topics of discussion in Rule 30(b)(6) deposition notice); In re Katrina Canal Breaches Consolidates Litigation, 2008 WL 4833023 (E.D. La. July 2, 2008) (granting motion for protective order to the extent topics listed in a 30(b)(6) notice were overly broad, vague and ambiguous); Padana Assicurazioni-Societa Azioni v. M/V Caribbean Exp., 1999 WL 30966 (E.D. La. Jan. 21, 1999) (denying motion to compel Rule 30(b)(6) deposition where the notice was insufficiently particularized)).

         Per the instant Motion to Compel, Plaintiffs seek to compel a corporate representative of PNA to testify regarding the following topics:

12. Scientific literature (i.e. case reports, plant studies, literature, editorials, etc.) maintained by LOF on a corporate level regarding the hazards of excessive dust. Please provide all documents reviewed, relied upon, and/or prepared regarding this topic.
13. Scientific literature (i.e. case reports, plant studies, literature, editorials, etc.) maintained by LOF on a corporate level regarding the hazards of asbestos. Please provide all documents reviewed, relied upon, and/or prepared regarding this topic.
14. LOF's Worker's Compensation for occupational diseases. Please provide all documents reviewed, relied upon, and/or prepared regarding this topic.
15. Discussions, either written or verbal, between LOF and its insurance carriers regarding LOF's plant conditions.
16. Discussion, either written or verbal, between LOF and its insurance carriers regarding asbestos in LOF's plants. Please provide all documents reviewed, relied upon, and/or prepared regarding this topic.
17. Warnings issued to LOF plant management from LOF's corporate level management regarding the hazards of asbestos. Please provide all documents reviewed, relied upon, and/or prepared regarding this topic.
18. The organizational structure of PNA from 1972 through the present. Please provide all documents reviewed, relied upon, and/or prepared regarding this topic.
19. Any corporate level safety program at PNA from 1972 through the present. Please provide all documents reviewed, relied upon, and/or prepared regarding this topic.
20. Any corporate level industrial hygiene program at PNA from 1972 through the present. Please provide all documents reviewed, relied upon, and/or prepared regarding this topic.
21. Any corporate level research program at PNA designed to analyze the use of asbestos, asbestos containing products, and/or asbestos containing equipment in the manufacture of glass at former LOF plants. Please provide all documents reviewed, relied upon, and/or prepared regarding this topic.
22. Scientific literature (i.e. case reports, plant studies, literature, editorials, etc.) maintained by PNA on a corporate level regarding the hazards of excessive dust. Please provide all documents reviewed, relied upon, and/or prepared regarding this topic.
23. Scientific literature (i.e. case reports, plant studies, literature, editorials, etc.) maintained by PNA on a corporate level regarding the hazards of asbestos. Please provide all documents reviewed, relied upon, and/or prepared regarding this topic.
24. PNA's Worker's Compensation for occupational diseases. Please provide all documents reviewed, relied upon, and/or prepared regarding this topic.
25. Discussions, either written or verbal, between PNA and its insurance carriers or any other person or entity regarding LOF's plant conditions. Please provide all documents reviewed, relied upon, and/or prepared regarding this topic.
26. Discussion, either written or verbal, between LOF and its insurance carriers or any other person or entity regarding asbestos in LOF's plants. Please provide all documents reviewed, relied upon, and/or prepared regarding this topic.[13]
27. Warnings issued by PNA to former LOF employees regarding the hazards of asbestos. Please provide all documents reviewed, relied upon, and/or prepared regarding this topic.
32. Scientific literature (i.e. case reports, plant studies, literature, editorials, etc.) maintained by LOF in Shreveport, Louisiana regarding the hazards of excessive dust. Please provide all documents reviewed, relied upon, and/or prepared regarding this topic.
34. To the extent handled on a plant level, Worker's Compensation for occupational diseases at LOF in Shreveport, Louisiana. Please provide all documents reviewed, relied upon, and/or prepared regarding this topic.
35. To the extent handled on a plant level, discussions, either written or verbal, between LOF in Shreveport, Louisiana and its insurance carriers or any other person or entity regarding the Shreveport plant's conditions. Please provide all documents reviewed, relied upon, and/or prepared regarding this topic.
36. To the extent handled on a plant level, discussion, either written or verbal, between LOF in Shreveport, Louisiana and its insurance carriers or any other person or entity regarding asbestos in the Shreveport plant. Please provide all documents reviewed, relied upon, and/or prepared regarding this topic.
37. Any studies of air conditions at the LOF plant in Shreveport, Louisiana, including but not limited to air monitoring studies, from 1945 through 1972. Please provide all documents reviewed, relied upon, and/or prepared regarding this topic.
38. Any verbal, written, or otherwise published warnings regarding the hazards of excessive dust at the LOF plant in Shreveport, Louisiana from 1945 through 1972. Please provide all documents reviewed, relied upon, and/or prepared regarding this topic.
40. Any environmental or industrial hygiene studies of the Shreveport plant conducted at any time. Please provide all documents reviewed, relied upon, ...

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