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Hansen v. Savage Arms Co.

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

March 22, 2018

RONALD W. HANSEN, Plaintiff,
v.
SAVAGE ARMS CO.; and SAVAGE ARMS INC., Defendants.

          ORDER

          C.J. WILLIAMS, CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         TABLE OF CONTENTS

         I. Factual and Procedural Background ......................................................... 2

         II. Applicable Law ................................................................................. 3

         III. Discussion ..................................................................................... 5

         A. Bulged Barrels ................................................................................ 6

         B. Muzzleloader Return Team ............................................................... 11

         C. Sanctions ..................................................................................... 12

         IV. Conclusion ................................................................................... 13

         This matter is before the Court on Ronald W. Hansen's (“plaintiff”) Motion to Compel Discovery and Request for Expedited Relief. (Doc. 67). Savage Arms Co.[1] and Savage Arms Inc. (“defendants”) timely filed their resistance (Doc. 70), and plaintiff timely filed his reply. (Doc. 71). Although plaintiff requested oral argument, the Court determined that oral argument was not necessary and, further, that granting plaintiff's request for oral argument would hamper plaintiff's request for expedited relief. As such, the Court considers the motion to be fully submitted and ripe for a ruling. For the following reasons, plaintiff's motion is denied. Defendants' request for sanctions is denied.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff alleges that while firing a muzzleloader rifle manufactured by defendants, the muzzleloader exploded, causing plaintiff to suffer severe permanent injury to both his right hand and ear. (Doc. 8). The cause of the alleged explosion is in dispute. Plaintiff theorizes that the explosion was caused by a design defect, which caused the steel used to manufacture the firearm to weaken and begin “bulging, ” before ultimately exploding. (Doc. 67-3, at 2-4). Defendants, however, contend that the alleged explosion was caused by user error as opposed to a defect with the firearm. This dispute has led plaintiff to seek discovery of those firearms whose barrels bulged. Although defendants maintain that bulged barrels are irrelevant to the instant litigation, defendants assert that “in an effort to avoid discovery disputes and move this case forward, Defendant[s] produced copies” of all information pertaining to bulged barrels that plaintiff contends has gone unproduced. (Doc. 70, at 4-6). Plaintiff, in turn, asserts that defendants' claim that they have produced all such material “is simply untrue and misleading.” (Doc. 71, at 2). Plaintiff, however, offers nothing in support of this contention.

         This is the second motion to compel discovery that has come before the Court. In the Court's first Order, the Court determined that defendants properly objected to certain definitions posed by plaintiff in the context of discovery requests and that defendants properly proposed different clarifying definitions. (Doc. 62, at 11-12). The Court previously found the alternative definitions to be “unobjectionable.” (Id., at 11). As the Court noted, however, the Court's determination that the definitions were acceptable was due more to plaintiff's failure to provide the Court with any reason to find the alternative definitions improper, than it was due to a finding on the merits of the definitions themselves. (Id., at 11-12). Otherwise stated, plaintiff previously failed to make his case that the definitions were improper. The issues currently presented largely overlap with those issues the Court considered previously. The Court has addressed the overlap where appropriate.

         The issues presented in the instant motion are as follows: 1) whether bulged barrels are to be included within the scope of discovery; 2) whether defendants should be compelled to produce “any and all information generated by the muzzleloader return team;” 3) whether defendants should be compelled to produce “in as convenient form as possible” the contact information for customers who returned muzzleloaders with bulged barrels; 4) whether defendants should be compelled “to make an immediate due and diligent search for the current employment, addresses[, ] and phone numbers of proposed deponents;” and 5) whether defendants should be ordered to comply with the Court's previous Order. (Doc. 62). (Doc. 67, at 1-3). Defendants contend that the motion “was not substantially justified, ” and request that they be awarded reasonable attorneys' fees incurred in resisting the motion. (Doc. 70, at 7-8).

         II. APPLICABLE LAW

         A party moving to compel discovery “must 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 effort to obtain it without court action.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(1); see also LR 37(a). Alternatively, counsel may certify in a written declaration that such a personal conference was impossible “and describe the efforts undertaken to schedule the conference. An exchange of written communications or a single telephone message will not, by itself, satisfy the requirements of this [rule].” LR 37(a). The importance of the meet-and-confer requirement is not to be diminished. See Williams v. ...


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