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Waste Management of Louisiana, LLC v. River Birch, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

June 30, 2017


         SECTION: “N” (4)



         Before the Court is a Motion for Protective Order Concerning Certain Proposed Rule 30(b)(6) Deposition Topics (R. Doc. 267) filed by the Plaintiff Waste Management of Louisiana, LLC seeking an order from the Court preventing the Defendants from taking the deposition of the Plaintiff in relation to three topic areas. The motion is opposed. R. Doc. 269. The motion was submitted on June 28, 2017 and heard with argument that same day. For the following reasons, the motion is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.

         I. Background

         This action was filed in the District Court on September 23, 2011. R. Doc. 1. Waste Management of Louisiana, LLC (“Plaintiff”) alleges that the Defendants have engaged in a long-running conspiracy to limit and exclude competition for landfill disposal services in and around New Orleans, Louisiana. R. Doc. 140, p. 1. The Defendants in this action are: River Birch, Inc., the owner and operator of River Birch landfill; Highway 90 LLC, who owns Highway 90 landfill; Frederick Heebe, the owner of Shadow Lake Management, Co., which is the parent corporation of River Birch, Inc.; and Albert Ward, who is the father-in-law of Heebe, and former President of River Birch, Inc. and Manager of Highway 90 LLC (collectively “Defendants”). In particular, the Plaintiff states that it suffered direct injury as a result of the Defendants actions in at least two instances: the premature closure of the Chef Menteur landfill in 2006 as part of a scheme to transfer more Hurricane Katrina clean-up debris to River Birch's landfill; and the efforts to prematurely oust the Plaintiff as operator of the Jefferson Parish landfill as part of a scheme to transfer the Parish's municipal solid waste to River Birch landfill under an exclusive 25-year contract. Id. at p. 2. As such, the Plaintiff has alleged two counts of violations under Federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (“RICO”) Sections 1962(c) and Section 1962(d). Id. at p. 39-42.

         At this time, the Plaintiff has filed a motion for protective order relating to three proposed topics for the 30(b)(6) deposition of the Plaintiff. R. Doc. 267. The Plaintiff argues that Topics 6 and 7-which discuss the factual bases for the Plaintiff's RICO statement and Third Amended Complaint-are overbroad, seek legal conclusions, and are duplicative of prior discovery. R. Doc. 267-1, p. 6-9. The Plaintiff further argues that Topic 27-which discusses the causation of the denial of the Two Rivers Landfill permit-is irrelevant and disproportionate to the needs of this case. Id. at p. 9-10.

         The Defendants oppose the motion. R. Doc. 269. The Defendants argue that Topics 6 and 7 are reasonably particular and are not unreasonably cumulative, burdensome, or duplicative. Id. They further argue that Topic 27 is relevant given the Plaintiff's own allegations that the Defendants engaged in a RICO conspiracy to disadvantage competitor landfills such as Two Rivers. Id. at p. 11-12.

         II. Standard of Review

         “Rule 30(b)(6) allows parties to obtain testimony from a corporation, provided the party describes with reasonable particularity the matters for examination.” Mike Hooks Dredging Co., Inc. v. Eckstein Marine Service, Inc., No. 08-3945, 2011 WL 2559821, at *1 (E.D. La. June 28, 2011) (Berrigan, J.) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 30(b)(6)). Thereafter, the named organization “must then designate one or more officers, directors, or managing agents, or designate other persons who consent to testify on its behalf; and it may set out the matters on which each person designated will testify.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 30(b)(6); id.; see also, Brazos River Auth. v. GE Ionics, Inc., 469 F.3d 416, 433 (5th Cir. 2006) (quoting 8A Charles A. Wright, Arthur R. Miller & Richard L. Marcus, Federal Practice and Procedure § 2103, at 33 (2d ed.1994)) (“‘Obviously it is not literally possible to take the deposition of a corporation; instead . . . the information sought must be obtained from natural persons who can speak for the corporation.'”).

         As the Fifth Circuit has explained:

the deponent must make a conscientious good-faith endeavor to designate the persons having knowledge of the matters sought by [the party noticing the deposition] and to prepare those persons in order that they can answer fully, completely, unevasively, the questions posed ... as to the relevant subject matters. [T]he duty to present and prepare a Rule 30(b)(6) designee goes beyond matters personally known to that designee or to matters in which that designee was personally involved. The deponent must prepare the designee to the extent matters are reasonably available, whether from documents, past employees, or other sources.

Brazos River Auth., 469 F.3d at 433 (internal quotations and citations omitted).

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“Rule”) 26(b)(1) provides that “[p]arties may obtain discovery regarding any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense.” Rule 26(b)(1) specifies that “[i]nformation within the scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discovered.” Rule 26(b)(1) also specifies that discovery must be “proportional to the needs of the case, considering the important 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.” Id.

         Under Rule 26(b)(2)(C), discovery may be limited if: (1) the discovery sought is unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or is obtainable from another, more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive source; (2) the party seeking discovery has had ample opportunity to obtain the discovery ...

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