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Jackson v. E-Z-Go Division of Textron, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, at Louisville

July 21, 2015

LORA MADONNA JACKSON, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
E-Z-GO Division of TEXTRON, INC., et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

THOMAS B. RUSSELL, Senior District Judge.

The E-Z-GO Division of Textron Inc. ("Textron") wants this Court to grant a protective order preventing the discovery of what it believes to be (1) irrelevant documents and (2) confidential internal recordkeeping procedures and its in-house legal staff's attorney work product. Lora Madonna Jackson believes, however, that the requested discovery is proper and should be allowed in full. After careful consideration, the Court believes the protective order is appropriate to an extent and so grants Textron's request in part.

I.

In July 2010, fifteen year-old Jordan Kori Jackson went on a golf cart joyride with three other teenagers; none were licensed drivers. Jordan sat in the front passenger seat. While driving down a steep hill, the cart overturned.[1] The driver and rear passengers sustained minor injuries. Tragically, Jordan's injuries proved fatal.

The golf cart was a 1993 E-Z-GO PC-4X.[2] It had no speed regulator and lacked allwheel brakes. Lora Madonna Jackson, Jordan's mother, brought suit against Textron alleging that the golf cart's design was defective, and that Textron failed to provide adequate warnings. Plaintiff seeks discovery of incident reports Textron collected over the years. She believes this discovery will show Textron was aware of these supposed defects-the incidents reflect accidents with other E-Z-GO products over the years. In his deposition, James A. Fisher, E-Z-GO's Manager of Reliability Engineering, explained that as he became aware of incidents involving Textron's products, he would enter the information into a legal case management database called "Team Connect." The information in the database came from internet publications and the like, and it apparently also included comments on the incidents from Fisher and his staff. After Jackson moved to compel the release of an Excel file containing the information from Team Connect, the Court granted the motion "in part, to the extent that [Textron] shall produce information on all incidents that Jim Fisher or his predecessor collected and/or entered into the Team Connect database." D.N. 55, PageID # 907. Textron complied with the order and produced the information through supplemental responses made in July and October 2014. Jackson asserts that what Textron produced may still not be a full representation of the relevant information Textron has. She argues that, even with the order to compel, Textron's productions have been improperly constrained. Since the supplemental responses, the parties have disagreed over the scope of discovery; Jackson now wants to inquire into E-Z-GO and the Textron legal department's recordkeeping. Though the parties collaborated on these disputes without the Court's intervention, their talks fell short of a compromise.

During a March 2015 teleconference amongst the parties, Jackson conceded that pure warranty claims should be excluded from the search of prior incidents. The parties could not agree on other concessions. Textron believes that her requests should be pared down: For example, Textron thinks that files about fire loss, vehicle-to-vehicle collisions, and other incidents not similar to Jordan's accident should be excluded. It feels that the incident discovery Jackson seeks is too broad and unlikely to lead to relevant information. Jackson, though, believes she needs more information about Textron's recordkeeping before she can appropriately narrow her requests. To that extent, she gave notice of her intent to take a Federal Rule 30(b)(6) motion to inquire into:

1. Textron's methods of recording information of any sort, whether electronic, documentary, or otherwise, regarding E-Z-GO Incidents.
2. The raw number of E-Z-GO Incidents, totaled by calendar year.
3. The raw number of suits regarding E-Z-GO Incidents filed by calendar year.
4. The year in which Textron began utilizing any form of electronic spreadsheet or database or similar application to compile information regarding E-Z-GO Incidents.
5. To describe the applications identified in Topic #4, including the name by which it was referred, the length of time the application was used, the fields in which data was collected, and the persons (by job description, not name) who utilized any part thereof;
6. The periods of time in which Textron has used the Team Connect database and all electronic spreadsheets, databases, and other applications to record information regarding E-Z-GO Incidents;
7. Whether Textron maintains separate electronic spreadsheets, databases, and other applications for warranty claims versus other types of ...

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