United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
H. Hennessy United States Magistrate Judge
Order of Reference dated September 2, 2016 (Docket #47), and
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A), this matter was
referred to me for a ruling on Plaintiff Primarque
Products' Motion to Compel Answers to Interrogatories and
Production of Documents (Docket #41). Defendant Williams West
& Witt's Products Company (“WWW”) filed
an opposition to the motion, which includes a request for
attorney's fees. (Docket #45). A motion hearing was held
on October 11, 2016. (Docket #53). This matter is now ripe
for adjudication. For the reasons that follow, the Motion to
Compel Discovery is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART as is
set forth below.
Primarque and Defendant WWW had a business relationship for
over thirty years. (Docket #18 at ¶ 6). Pursuant to the
business arrangement, WWW manufactured soup base products and
Primarque was the exclusive distributor of WWW's soup
products throughout New England. (Id. at ¶ 7).
Primarque asserts that it had an agreement with WWW whereby
(1) WWW was required to give Primarque ninety days'
notice before terminating the business relationship, and (2)
WWW would not solicit any business from Primarque's
customers directly. (Id. at ¶¶ 10, 13).
The customers to whom Primarque delivered WWW's soup
products are referred to as “drop-ship”
about May of 2014, Joanne Steiger became a sales
representative for WWW, and around that time the business
relationship began to deteriorate. (Id. at
¶¶ 15-16). Primarque asserts that Steiger became
“unusually combative, hostile and antagonistic in her
communications with Primarque, marking what appeared to be a
personal vendetta against the owner of Primarque, ” and
that Steiger threatened to solicit business from
Primarque's customers directly, in contravention of their
business agreement. (Id. at ¶¶ 16-17).
Primarque outlines some examples of Steiger's alleged
hostility, including an instance where she closed an email by
saying, “Please contact me if you have any questions.
Although I do not look forward to your reply . . . .”
(Docket #41 at 3-4). Unrelated to the issues with Steiger,
Primarque contacted WWW's Director of Regulatory
Compliance with a quality control concern sometime around
October of 2014. (Docket #18 at ¶¶ 18-19).
Primarque contends that Steiger was “infuriated”
when she learned that Primarque had contacted another officer
of WWW. (Id. at ¶ 20).
letter dated March 12, 2015, and without advanced notice, WWW
terminated its business relationship with Primarque.
(Id. at ¶ 21; Docket #45-1). Primarque contends
that on the same day as the termination notice, WWW began to
directly solicit business from Primarque's customers.
(Docket #18 at ¶ 23; Docket #41 at 4). As a result of
the termination, Primarque was unable to obtain soup base
products for a number of its customers, and it asserts that
some of those former customers now obtain soup products from
WWW directly. (Docket #41 at 4).
19, 2015, Primarque filed an amended complaint against WWW,
asserting claims of breach of contract, promissory estoppel,
and intentional interference with business relations, among
other things. (Docket #18). On January 19, 2016, WWW filed
its answer and asserted counterclaims for (1) breach of
contract for goods delivered and (2) conversion, based on
Primarque's alleged failure to pay for twelve deliveries
totaling $97, 843.22. (Docket #31-1 through #31-12).
and WWW issued written discovery on May 13, 2016, and May 16,
2016, respectively. (Docket #45 at 9). On June 24, 2016, WWW
served its Objections and Responses to Primarque's First
Request for Production of Documents, and on June 27, 2016,
WWW served its Objections and Answers to Primarque's
First Set of Interrogatories. (Docket #45 at 9-10).
discovery requests can be separated into three categories:
discovering relating to WWW's: (1) sales to
Primarque's former drop-ship customers, including
Interrogatory No. 18 and Document Request Nos. 9, 15, and 19;
(2) national sales and profit records, including Document
Request No. 18; and (3) alleged solicitation breaches,
including Interrogatory No. 17, and Document Request Nos. 10
and 23. The crux of this discovery dispute implicates the
following question: What is the proper time period after the
termination of the alleged contract for which WWW is required
to disclose certain data and documents.
scope of discovery generally extends to:
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
Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). If an objection is raised as to the
relevancy of discovery, the court may “become involved
to determine whether the discovery is relevant to the claims
or defenses.” In re Subpoena to Witzel, 531
F.3d 113, 118 (1st Cir. 2008) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P.
26(b)(1)). In this regard, Rule 26(b)(1) “vests the
trial judge with broad discretion to tailor discovery
narrowly.” See Cutter v. HealthMarkets, Inc.,
No. 10-11488-JLT, 2011 ...