United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
IN THE MATTER OF THE COMPLAINT OF AMERICAN RIVER TRANSPORTATION COMPANY FOR EXONERATION FROM, OR LIMITATION OF, LIABILITY.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
E. JACKSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on the motion of the United States
to compel American River Transport Company (ARTCO) to respond
to document requests and interrogatories. ARTCO has filed a
response in opposition and the issues are fully briefed.
March 6, 2011, four barges separated from the M/V Julie
White, a towboat owned by American River Transportation
Company (ARTCO), and allided with Lock and Dam 25 before
sinking. The United States notified ARTCO of the damage, and
ARTCO commenced this action under the Limitation Act, 46
U.S.C. §§ 30501 et seq., seeking
limitation of its damages to $1, 322, 837.85, the value of
the M/V Julie White together with its barges and the freight.
The United States asserts that ARTCO is not entitled to
exoneration from or limitation of liability and seeks damages
in excess of $10, 000, 000.00.
issue in the present motion are ARTCO's objections to
document requests and interrogatories, its failure to produce
a privilege log, and its responses to specific document
requests and interrogatories.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1), litigants may
discovery regarding 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.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). “Information within this
scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be
scope of discovery under Rule 26(b) is extremely broad.
Gowan v. Mid Century Ins. Co., 309 F.R.D.
503, 508 (D.S.D. 2015) (citing 8 Charles A. Wright
& Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice &
Procedure § 2007, 3637 (1970)). “Mutual
knowledge of all the relevant facts gathered by both parties
is essential to proper litigation. To that end, either party
may compel the other to disgorge whatever facts he has in his
possession.” Hickman v. Taylor, 329 U.S. 495,
in this context “has been construed broadly to
encompass any matter that bears on, or that reasonably could
lead to other matter that could bear on, any issue that is or
may be in the case.” Jo Ann Howard & Assocs.,
P.C. v. Cassity, 303 F.R.D. 539, 542 (E.D. Mo. 2014)
(citation and quotation omitted). After the proponent of
discovery makes a threshold showing of relevance, the party
opposing a motion to compel has the burden of showing its
objections are valid by providing specific explanations or
factual support as to how each discovery request is improper.
Id. (citing Hofer v. Mack Trucks, Inc., 981
F.2d 377, 380 (8th Cir. 1993), and St. Paul Reinsurance
Co., Ltd. v. Commercial Fin. Corp., 198 F.R.D. 508, 511-
12 (N.D. Iowa 2000)). The party must demonstrate to the court
“that the requested documents either do not come within
the broad scope of relevance defined pursuant to Rule
26(b)(1) or else are of such marginal relevance that the
potential harm occasioned by discovery would outweigh the
ordinary presumption in favor of broad disclosure.”
Id. (quoting Burke v. New York City Police
Department, 115 F.R.D. 220, 224 (S.D.N.Y. 1987)).
government has certified, as required by Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 37(a)(1) and Local Rule 3.04, that it made a
good-faith effort to confer with the opposing party. [Doc. #
73-2]. ARTCO suggests that the government has not complied
with the good-faith requirement because the parties were
still negotiating ARTCO's responses to specific requests
when the motion was filed on January 12, 2017. The
government's discovery requests were served in June
and August 2016. The parties have been engaged in discussions
to resolve this dispute since July 2016. ARTCO's
assertion that the government failed to meet its
meet-and-confer obligations is not persuasive.
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