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Eastridge v. Goodrich Corporation

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

July 30, 2015

PAMELA M. EASTRIDGE, Executrix of the Estate of Joseph E. Morris, Jr., Plaintiff,
v.
GOODRICH CORPORATION, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

DAVID J. HALE, District Judge.

Plaintiff Pamela Eastridge asserts that her father, Joseph E. Morris, Jr., developed, and eventually died from, liver cancer after being exposed to carcinogenic compounds during his employment with Defendant Goodrich Corporation ("Goodrich"). Eastridge, as executrix of Morris' estate, contends that Goodrich acted in concert with other defendants, including the Society of the Plastics Industry, Inc. ("SPI"), to conceal the dangers of vinyl chloride prior to and during Morris' employment. Before the Court are SPI's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction (Docket Nos. 163, 187, 193, 199, 238) and Eastridge's motion to compel discovery (D.N. 237, 239). For the reasons set forth below, SPI's motion to dismiss will be granted, and Eastridge's motion to compel will be denied.

I. BACKGROUND

Morris worked for Goodrich in Louisville, Kentucky from 1964 until 2005 at a plant that manufactured polyvinyl chloride ("PVC"). Eastridge alleges that Morris was exposed to toxic PVC products and vinyl chloride, a man-made gas that is processed into PVC, from 1964 until 1980. (D.N. 179, PageID # 1817) Morris died on November 3, 2011 from angiosarcoma-a cancer of the liver-which, according to Eastridge, was caused by Morris' exposure to vinyl chloride during his employment. (D.N. 179, PageID # 1818)

SPI is a trade association that studies and lobbies on behalf of the plastics industry. (D.N. 163, PageID # 1323) SPI is a New York corporation with its principal place of business in Washington, D.C. (D.N. 163, PageID # 1323) SPI does not have an office or employees in Kentucky. (D.N. 163, PageID # 1331) Eastridge avers that SPI was involved in a civil conspiracy with other defendants to conceal the health hazards associated with vinyl chloride, and provided assistance to Goodrich in causing harm to the decedent. (D.N. 179, PageID # 1815) Eastridge maintains that this Court has jurisdiction over SPI because members of SPI participated in meetings in Louisville and periodically visited Kentucky, and because SPI pursued litigation in 1974 to block OSHA regulations designed to protect workers like Morris.[1]

In November 2013, SPI moved this Court to dismiss Eastridge's revised amended complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) for lack of personal jurisdiction.[2] (D.N. 163) The Court issued an opinion on the motion on January 7, 2015, finding that Eastridge had "failed to provide specific facts that meet the requirements for the exercise of long-arm jurisdiction." (D.N. 230, PageID # 3044) Despite this conclusion, the Court ordered that the motion be held in abeyance and permitted Eastridge to conduct limited discovery concerning the issue of personal jurisdiction over SPI. The Court concluded that "[i]f, after such discovery, Eastridge cannot present specific facts, via affidavits or otherwise, supporting the exercise of personal jurisdiction, SPI must be dismissed from the case." (D.N. 230, PageID # 3044)

Pursuant to the Court's Order, Eastridge engaged in limited jurisdictional discovery. Specifically, she conducted a deposition of a corporate representative of SPI in accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30(b)(6). Eastridge subsequently filed a supplemental response to SPI's motion to dismiss, combined with a motion to compel. She argues that SPI's witness failed to prepare for the deposition and that the Court should either compel SPI to provide adequate discovery or deny SPI's motion to dismiss. (D.N. 237)

II. MOTION TO COMPEL

Eastridge's motion to compel SPI to provide discovery concerns the Rule 30(b)(6) deposition of SPI's corporate representative. As grounds for her motion to compel, Eastridge claims that the representative failed to properly prepare for the deposition. (D.N. 237) In response, SPI asserts that the motion should be denied because Eastridge did not comply with necessary procedural rules and because its corporate representative adequately prepared for the deposition and provided responsive testimony. (D.N. 239)

At the outset, the Court notes that Eastridge's motion to compel is supported by no particularized factual evidence. Eastridge relies exclusively on conclusory allegations, which amount to two pages of her brief. The remainder of her motion consists of over twenty pages of various portions of Clark's deposition transcript copied-and-pasted verbatim. Moreover, Eastridge chose not to file a reply brief.

A. Standard

Pursuant to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, "a party may move for an order compelling disclosure or discovery." Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(1). A motion to compel discovery is appropriate where a deponent fails to answer a question, or when a deponent's answer is evasive or incomplete. Id. at (a)(3)(B), (a)(4).

In general, determining "the scope of discovery is within the sound discretion of the trial court." Chrysler Corp. v. Fedders Corp., 643 F.2d 1229, 1240 (6th Cir. 1981). Prior to granting a motion to compel, the Court must determine that the information sought is relevant. The proponent of the motion bears the burden of demonstrating relevancy. Allison v. Staples the Office Super Store E., Inc., No. 1:13-cv-00190, 2015 WL 3849989, at *3 (W.D. Ky. June 22, 2015). "Although a plaintiff should not be denied access to information necessary to establish her claim, neither may a plaintiff be permitted to go fishing'...." Surles v. Greyhound Lines, Inc., 474 F.3d 288, 305 (6th Cir. 2007) (citation omitted).

B. Analysis

Consistent with the Federal Rules, a party may name a private corporation as a deponent and "must describe with reasonable particularity the matters for examination." Fed.R.Civ.P. 30(b)(6). The Rule requires testimony about information that is "reasonably available, whether from documents, past employees, or other sources." Martin Cnty. Coal Corp. v. Universal Underwriters Ins. Servs., No. 08-93-ART, 2010 WL 4629761, at *5 (E.D. Ky. Nov. 8, 2010) (citation omitted). Determining whether certain information is "known or reasonably available" to an entity requires a fact-specific inquiry. Coryn Grp. II, LLC v. O.C. Seacrets, Inc., 265 F.R.D. 235, 239 (D. Md. 2010).

Eastridge's motion to compel asserts that SPI's corporate representative failed to conduct sufficient research or investigation regarding two of the issues Eastridge identified for examination in her notice of deposition. (D.N. 235, PageID # 3061-62) Prior to analyzing Eastridge's specific claims, the Court will briefly examine the testimony provided by SPI's corporate representative.

1. SPI's Testimony

SPI's Vice President of Administration, Anne S. Clark, provided testimony on behalf of SPI. (D.N. 163-1, PageID # 1344) In response to questioning from ...


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