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McMahon v. Robert Bosch Tool Corp.

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

August 30, 2019

ROBERT BOSCH TOOL CORP., et al., Defendants.


          Charles Shaw, United States District Judge

         This is a products liability case in which plaintiff alleges he suffered injuries on April 28, 2016 when the auxiliary handle of a RotoZip Model RZ20 hand-held saw he was using detached from the body of the saw, causing plaintiff to drop the saw while the blade was still in motion. Plaintiff asserts claims under theories of negligent and strict products liability for design defect, failure to warn, and negligent supply of a dangerous instrumentality. Amended Complaint, Doc. 4.

         The case is before the Court on defendant Robert Bosch Tool Corp.'s (“Bosch”) motion to clarify the Court's Order of August 14, 2019 (Doc. 74), to the extent it granted in part plaintiff's motion to compel and directed Bosch to produce documents responsive to plaintiff's Request for Production No. 28 for claims based on a saw handle malfunction or on saw handles becoming loose or detached, for saw models RZ5, RZ10, RZ20, Rotozip Revolution, Rotozip Rebel, and Rotozip Solaris.

         The Court directed plaintiff to respond to the motion to clarify and “specifically address the factual contentions set forth in the numbered paragraphs in defendant's motion and, if he opposes defendant's position that discovery is properly limited to ‘other incidents involving auxiliary handles of the same design at issue in this case,' fully explain the relevance of discovery concerning: (1) saw models not designed, manufactured, or distributed by defendant; (2) other kinds of handles not at issue in this case that can be used on relevant saw models; and (3) a prior version of the auxiliary handle design that did not have a lock and pin, and instead contained a cover over the handle release button.” (DTO 78) Plaintiff responded to the motion to clarify and Bosch has filed a reply. The motion will be granted in part, as follows.

         A. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b), as amended December 1, 2015, imposes a proportionality requirement on the scope of discovery:

(1) Scope in General.
Unless otherwise limited by court order, the scope of discovery is as follows: Parties may obtain 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. Information within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.

Rule 26(b)(1), Fed.R.Civ.P. “The parties and the court have a collective responsibility to consider the proportionality of all discovery and consider it in resolving discovery disputes.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26 advisory committee's notes to 2015 amendment).

         “[T]he standard of relevance in the context of discovery is broader than in the context of admissibility” but “[s]ome threshold showing of relevance must be made before parties are required to open wide the doors of discovery and to produce a variety of information which does not reasonably bear upon the issues in the case.” Hofer v. Mack Trucks, Inc., 981 F.2d 377, 380 (8th Cir. 1992). “The party who served the discovery must show why the information is important to the issues and the party opposing . . . must quantifiably explain the burden of providing the requested information.” Vallejo v. Amgen, Inc., 903 F.3d 733, 740 (8th Cir. 2018) (quoting magistrate judge's order).

         B. Discussion

         1. Discovery of Early Rotozip Saw Models, and Initial Design Iteration[1]

         Bosch asserts that it did not design, manufacture, or distribute the Rotozip Revolution, Rotozip Rebel, or Rotozip Solaris models (the “early Rotozips”), and therefore contends discovery concerning their handles is not relevant.

         Plaintiff responds that discovery should be allowed as to the early Rotozips because they were recalled in 2002 based on 360 reports of loose or separating handles, and Bosch's expert Peter Domeny, who was Bosch's Director of Public Safety when the saw at issue was placed in the stream of commerce, testified Bosch was aware of the problems with early Rotozips and “specifically testified that Bosch relied on, analyzed and considered the failed design of the early Rotozip latching system.” Pl.'s Resp. at 1. Plaintiff asserts he should be entitled to discover “exactly what [Bosch] relied in [sic] its analysis of the ...

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