eDiscovery Daily Blog
Court Rules on Scope of Plaintiff Discovery Requests: eDiscovery Case Law
In Performance Pulsation Control, Inc. v. Sigma Drilling Techs., LLC, et al., No. 4:17-CV-00450 (E.D. Tex. Fe. 13, 2018), Texas District Judge Amos L. Mazzant granted the plaintiff’s motion to compel in part, ordering the defendants to produce documents related to four specific categories, but within certain parameters.
In this case regarding claims of misappropriation of trade secrets and confidential information by a former employee of the plaintiff who formed a competing company, the parties had discovery disputes and the plaintiff contended that the defendants failed to produce any of the materials they generally described in their Rule 26 disclosures or state when they intended to produce such materials. In September 2017, the plaintiff sent more than 850 Requests for Production to the Defendants and, about a month later, the defendants objected and responded to their requests. In response to a letter by the plaintiff detailing stated issues with the defendants’ production, the defendants produced additional documents, but the parties still needed a telephonic conference with the Court in December 2017 to discuss the discovery dispute and the Court recommended that the parties file briefing on the issue. Six days later, the plaintiff filed its motion to compel.
In its motion, the plaintiff sought an order compelling the defendants to produce four general categories of documents and tangible items from time periods before, during, and after employment by the former employee, as follows:
“(1) Emails and documents sent to or received from any “PPC Contact” and similar documents sent to or received from relevant third parties.
(2) Emails and documents relating to PPC trade secrets, specific pulsation control products, and pulsation control generally.
(3) Emails and documents relating to Defendants’ scope of work with PPC, information owned by PPC, and emails to and from PPC.
(4) Emails and documents relating to Defendants’ competitive business.”
With regard to the first category, the parties had already further refined the scope of “PPC Contacts” and “relevant third parties” and the defendants had produced additional documents and were “conducting additional searches based on that information.” With that in mind, Judge Mazzant stated: “The Court finds that to the extent Defendants have not already done so, they must produce documents sent to or received from any “PPC Contact” or “third party” as limited in the conference letter. However, the Court narrows such production to documents and communications dated during and after the time of Defendants’ employment.”
With regard to category #2, Judge Mazzant stated: “The Court finds production of such information and documents is warranted as limited in PPC’s conference letter, with the exception that such production is narrowed to documents and communications dated during or after Defendants’ employment with PPC.” He also reminded the defendants that such trade secret related information could be produced subject to the Court’s protective order with an Attorney’s Eyes Only or Confidential designation.
With regard to category #3, Judge Mazzant stated: “The Court finds that to the extent that Defendants have not produced such information, they must do so. However, any production is limited to information dated or obtained during and after Defendants’ employment with PPC. Further, to the extent Defendants are concerned that any information is confidential or relates to any trade secrets, the Court reiterates Defendants’ ability to produce any information pursuant to the Court’s Protective Order and/or in a reasonably redacted format.”
In discussions with the defendant on category #4, the plaintiff, in its conference letter, described “competitive business activities” to include “formation documents, corporate governance documents, revenues and net profits earned, employees, agreements with third parties, contacts, types of work, etc.” With that in mind, Judge Mazzant stated: “The Court finds to the extent Defendants have not already done so, they must produce all emails and documents related to Defendants’ formation documents, corporate governance documents, revenues and net profits earned, employees, agreements with third parties, contacts, and types of work. However, such production is limited to during and after Defendants’ employment with PPC.”
So, what do you think? Did the court manage the discovery disputes effectively? Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.
Case opinion link courtesy of eDiscovery Assistant.
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