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Wells v. Lamplight Farms, Incorporated

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Western Division

August 15, 2014

CORY C. WELLS as Administrator of the Estate of N.K.W., et al. Plaintiffs,
v.
LAMPLIGHT FARMS, INCORPORATED, et al., Defendants.

ORDER

LEONARD T. STRAND, Magistrate Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

This case is before me on a motion (Doc. No. 67) by defendant Lamplight Farms Incorporated (Lamplight) to compel answers to interrogatories and discovery of records. Plaintiffs have filed a response (Doc. No. 68) and Lamplight has filed a reply (Doc. No. 70). I held a telephonic hearing on July 30, 2014. Attorneys A. Laurie Koller, Suzan Boden and Timothy Bottaro appeared for plaintiffs. Attorneys Richard J. Sapp and Jess William Vilsack appeared for Lamplight and for defendants W.C. Bradley Co. (Bradley) and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (Wal-Mart). Attorney Brandon Wayne Lobberecht appeared for defendants Rexam Closures and Containers, Inc. (Rexam), and Berry Plastics Corporation (Berry). The motion is now fully submitted.

II. BACKGROUND

This case arises from the tragic death of N.K.W., the twenty-two month old daughter of plaintiffs Cory C. Wells (Cory) and Bonnie J. Wells (Bonnie). Plaintiffs allege that on August 2, 2011, Cory, N.K.W. and others were on a camping excursion in Dickinson County, Iowa, when N.K.W. ingested a product called "Tiki Citronella Torch Fuel with Lemongrass Oil" (the Citronella Torch Fuel). They further allege that N.K.W. died later that day.

Plaintiffs filed this action on July 30, 2013. Cory asserts claims individually and as administrator of N.K.W.'s estate. Bonnie asserts claims individually. The defendants include (a) Lamplight, which is alleged to have manufactured and distributed the Citronella Torch Fuel, (b) Rexam, which is alleged to have manufactured the child-resistant closure used by Lamplight for the Citronella Torch Fuel container, (c) Berry, which is alleged to be the successor-in-interest to Rexam (d) Bradley, which is alleged to have assisted Lamplight in the design, manufacture and distribution of the Citronella Torch Fuel, and (e) Wal-Mart, which is alleged to be the retailer from whom Cory purchased the Citronella Torch Fuel. Plaintiffs allege Cory purchased the product at a Wal-Mart Store in Spencer, Iowa, on or about August 1, 2011.

Plaintiffs assert two primary theories of liability. First, they allege that the child-resistant closure included with the Citronella Torch Fuel purchased by Cory was defective, thus allowing N.K.W. to open the container. Second, they contend that the container itself, when combined with the color and appearance of the enclosed fluid, resembled a bottle of apple juice. They contend that the container should have been opaque, not transparent, to avoid creating a dangerous "look alike" problem for young children such as N.K.W. The defendants have denied liability and contend that Cory was at least partially at fault. Trial is scheduled to begin June 15, 2015.

III. ANALYSIS

Through its motion, Lamplight seeks:

1. Disclosure of "other incidents" evidence plaintiffs intend to offer at trial.
2. Disclosure of Cory's and Bonnie's mental health and counseling records (including Cory's military records).
3. Disclosure of Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) records regarding N.K.W.

I will address each item separately.

A. Disclosure of "Other Incidents" ...


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