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Chevron Oronite Company LLC v. Jacobs Field Services North America Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

September 5, 2018


         SECTION: “I” (4)



         Before the Court is a Motion to Compel Discovery (R. Doc. 24) filed by the Defendant Jacobs Field Services North America Inc. seeking an order compelling Plaintiff Chevron Oronite Company, LLC to provide sufficient responses and document production in response to their First Set of Interrogatories and Requests for Production of Documents. R. Doc. 24. The motion is opposed. R. Doc. 30. Oral argument was heard on August 15, 2018.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Chevron owned a facility in Belle Chasse, Louisiana. Defendant Jacobs, a contractor, performed work at this facility pursuant to a series of contracts. These contracts included maintenance contract nos. K-2551, K-2542, 2961, and 3414, which were effective between 1988 and 1994 (“Contracts”). These Contracts contained provisions where Jacobs promised to indemnify Chevron for claims arising from Jacobs' work at the Chevron facility, and all applied to welders.[1]

         Between 1988 and 1994 an employee of Jacobs named Wayne Bourgeois worked for Jacobs at the Chevron facility as a welder. On March 9, 2017, Bourgeois sued Chevron, alleging exposure to asbestos during his time spent at the Chevron facility. On November 7, 2017, Chevron tendered a letter to Jacobs demanding that they defend and indemnify them from Mr. Bourgeois' lawsuit pursuant to the indemnity provisions within the Contracts. R. Doc. 28-14. Jacobs did not defend Chevron against Mr. Bourgeois' suit. After tendering the November 7, 2017, letter to Jacobs, Chevron settled with Mr. Bourgeois for $550, 000.

         This matter was originally filed in the District Court on March 2, 2018. R. Doc. 1. Chevron alleged that Jacobs had refused to indemnify them for their settlement with Mr. Bourgeois pursuant to the Contracts. The Motion before the Court, filed by Jacobs, seeks to compel Chevron to respond to interrogatories and requests for production pertaining to the presence of asbestos at the Chevron facility. R. Doc. 24.

         Chevron opposes the Motion. R. Doc. 30. Chevron argues that because they tendered their defense to Jacobs in the November 7 letter, and because Jacobs refused this defense, all of Jacobs' requested discovery is irrelevant because it seeks to establish whether Chevron was actually liable to Mr. Bourgeois rather than just potentially liable to Mr. Bourgeois. Prior to filing the Motion to Compel, on June 27, 2018, and July 5, 2018, Jacobs conferred by e-mail with Chevron in an attempt to resolve the dispute without seeking relief from the court. R. Doc. 24-3. Jacobs and Chevron conferred by telephone conference on July 13 and July 30, 2018, again without success in resolving the dispute. Id.

         II. Standard of Review

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“Rule”) 33 allows a party to serve another party written interrogatories which, “must, to the extent it is not objected to, be answered separately and fully in writing under oath.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(b)(3).

         Discovery of documents, electronically stored information, and tangible things is governed by Rule 34. Rule 34 allows a party to request the production of “any designated documents or electronically stored information” or “any tangible things.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(a)(1). Rules 33 and 34 allow a party to ask interrogatories and request production to the extent of Rule 26(b).

         Rule 26(b)(1) provides that parties may obtain discovery regarding relevant information to any claim or defense as long as it is nonprivileged. 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.

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“Rule”) 37 provides that “[a] party seeking discovery may move for an order compelling an answer, designation, production, or inspection. This motion may be made if: ... (iii) a party fails to answer an interrogatory submitted under Rule 33, or (iv) a party fails to respond that inspection will be permitted-or fails to permit inspection-as requested under Rule 34.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(3)(B). An “evasive or incomplete” answer or production is treated the same as a complete failure to answer or produce. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(4).

         A motion to compel under Rule 37(a) must also “include a certification that the movant has in good faith conferred or attempted to confer with the person or party failing to make disclosure or discovery in an ...

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