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Bader Farms, Inc. v. Monsanto Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Southeastern Division

October 24, 2017

BADER FARMS, INC. and BILL BADER Plaintiffs,
v.
MONSANTO CO., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          STEPHEN N. LIMBAUGH, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on plaintiffs Bader Farms, Inc. and Bill Bader's (collectively “Bader”) motion to quash the deposition notice and subpoena of Dr. Ford Baldwin and motion for a protective order (#71). The motion is briefed and ripe. For the reasons explained below, the Court denies Bader's motion.

         I. Factual Background

         In its Amended Complaint, Bader alleged that Monsanto representatives conspired with farmers who purchased Monsanto's dicamba-resistant seeds (#62 at 59). Bader relied on information from an expert it retained, Dr. Ford Baldwin, to support the allegation (#51-2 at 1, ¶ 4). Baldwin told Bader that, at an Arkansas State Plant Board hearing, a farmer testified that a Monsanto representative told him to spray old dicamba on his dicamba-resistant seeds. Then, Monsanto served Baldwin with a deposition notice and subpoena. Bader objects.

         Bader claims that it would be inappropriate to depose Baldwin-an expert- outside the Case Management Order's expert discovery schedule (#67). As part of its briefing on this motion, Bader submitted an affidavit signed by Baldwin (#71-5). In his affidavit, Baldwin explains why he believes that Monsanto representatives told farmers to illegally spray old dicamba. Baldwin's belief is based on testimony that Mr. Donald Masters (a Missouri farmer) gave to the Arkansas State Plant Board “and other statements that [Baldwin has] heard in the agricultural community . . . .” (#71-5 at 15, ¶ 70). Baldwin even called Monsanto's practice “common knowledge.” (#71-5 at 16, ¶ 72).

         Monsanto seeks to depose Baldwin to determine the factual basis for Baldwin's assertion that Monsanto representatives told farmers to illegally spray old dicamba. Monsanto concedes that it would not need to depose Baldwin if Masters's testimony were Baldwin's only basis for claiming that Monsanto representatives told this to farmers. But Monsanto claims that Baldwin is deposable-like any other fact witness-if he acquired facts and information (from others in the agricultural community) about what Monsanto representatives allegedly told farmers before he was retained as an expert.

         II. Legal Standard

         This Court has wide discretion in dealing with discovery matters. Cook v. Kartridg Pak Co., 840 F.2d 602, 604 (8th Cir. 1988). Discovery rules should be construed broadly and liberally to serve the purpose of discovery-that is, “to provide the parties with information essential to the proper litigation of all relevant facts, to eliminate surprise, and to promote settlement.” Centrix Fin. Liquidating Tr. v. Nat'l Union Fire Ins. Co. of Pittsburgh, No. 4:12-MC-624-JAR, 2013 WL 3225802, at *2 (E.D. Mo. June 25, 2013) (quoting Gladfelter v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 162 F.R.D. 589, 590 (D. Neb. 1995)).

         Discovery sought with a subpoena under Rule 45 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure must fall within the scope of discovery permissible under Rule 26. Id. “Under Rule 26, parties are entitled to discovery of any information that appears ‘reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.'” Id. (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1)). Rule 26(b)(4) governs the scope and limits of expert discovery. But as the Advisory Committee Notes to the 1970 Amendments explain, Rule 26(b)(4)

does not address itself to the expert whose information was not acquired in preparation for trial but rather because he was an actor or viewer with respect to transactions or occurrences that are part of the subject matter of the lawsuit. Such an expert should be treated as an ordinary witness.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(4) (Advisory Committee Notes to the 1970 Amendments); see also 8A Charles Alan Wright et al., Federal Practice & Procedure § 2033 (3d ed. 2017) (noting that, despite the rewording of Rule 26 in 1993, the Advisory Committee gave no indication that its 1970 comment was no longer valid).

         If a Rule 45 subpoena meets the Rule 26 requirements, the subpoena may still be quashed or modified if it (1) “fails to allow a reasonable time to comply, ” (2) “requires a person to comply beyond the geographical limits specified in Rule 45(c), ” (3) “requires disclosure of privileged or other protected matter, if no exception or waiver applies[, ] or” (4) “subjects a person to undue burden.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 45(d)(3).

         Bader claims that it would be inappropriate to depose Baldwin outside the expert discovery schedule-a Rule 26(b)(4) violation. Yet on the merits, Bader frames its argument under Rule 45(d)(3).

         III. ...


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