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Schall v. Suzuki Motor of America, Inc.

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

January 3, 2018

DEREK SCHALL PLAINTIFF
v.
SUZUKI MOTOR OF AMERICA, INC., SUZUKI MOTOR CORPORATION, and NISSIN KOGYO CO., LTD. DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JOSEPH H. MCKINLEY, JR., CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         This matter is before the Court on an objection by defendant Suzuki Motor Corporation (“SMC”) to Magistrate Judge Brennenstuhl's Memorandum Opinion and Order entered November 21, 2017. (Order at ¶ 135, Objection at ¶ 137.) Plaintiff Derek Schall has filed a response in opposition to the objection (DN 140), which SMC has moved to strike. (DN 141.) These matters are ripe for decision.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Schall was injured in a motorcycle accident on July 19, 2013, in Daviess County, Kentucky. (Pl.'s Am. Compl. [DN 5] ¶ 39.) He alleges that the accident was caused by defects in the front brake master cylinder on the motorcycle, a 2007 Suzuki GSX-R600. (Id.) He has brought an action against Suzuki Motor Corporation (“SMC”), the manufacturer of the motorcycle; Suzuki Motor of America, Inc. (“SMA”), the importer of the motorcycle; and Nissin Kogyo Co., Ltd. (“Nissin”), the manufacturer of the front brake master cylinder, alleging strict products liability and negligence. (Id. at ¶ 41-52.)

         On March 9, 2016, Schall deposed Mr. Yoshinobu Matsumoto, the individual designated as SMC's corporate representative pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 30(b)(6). Mr. Matsumoto was unable to testify as to certain “policies and procedures governing the investigation . . . and disclosure of the defect.” (Order Grant. Mot. To Compel [DN 127] at 15.) Subsequently, SMC disclosed documents to Schall related to these policies and procedures that had not been included in prior discovery disclosures. Schall moved the Court to reopen the deposition of a corporate representative of SMC so as to ask questions regarding these newly disclosed documents. (DN 121.) On September 13, 2017, the Magistrate Judge granted the motion to compel additional testimony from SMC's corporate representative. (DN 127.) Following this, SMC moved for the entry of a protective order so as to require the deposition to take place in Japan, SMC's principal place of business, as opposed to in California, where Mr. Matsumoto had originally been deposed and where Schall intended to hold the second deposition. (DN 132.) The Magistrate Judge denied the motion for a protective order. (DN 135.) SMC has objected to that order (DN 137), and Schall has filed a response in opposition to the objection (DN 140) that SMC has moved to strike. (DN 141.)

         II. Standard of Review

         Rule 72(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits a party to submit objections to a magistrate judge's ruling on non-dispositive matters, such as discovery orders. The district court reviews an order by a magistrate judge on a non-dispositive matter under the “clearly erroneous or contrary to law” standard. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a).

         III. Discussion

         A. Motion to Strike

         The Court will GRANT SMC's motion to strike Schall's response. While the response acknowledges that Local Rule 72.2 does not permit responses to objections to a magistrate judge's order on a non-dispositive issue without authorization by the Court, Schall submitted a response “in an abundance of caution” due to SMC's request in its objection for entry of a protective order. Even though SMC restates the relief it seeks in its objection, that does not transform its objection into a new motion that requires a response. Therefore, the Court will not consider Schall's response, and it is to be stricken from the record.

         B. Objection to Magistrate Judge's Order

         The Court construes SMC's objection as consisting of two distinct arguments. First, it argues that the Magistrate Judge's factual conclusion that SMC engaged in discovery misconduct by failing to make certain disclosures prior to Mr. Matsumoto's first deposition was clearly erroneous. And second, it contests the legal conclusion that Schall has demonstrated sufficient “special circumstances” to justify the denial of the protective order. The Court will address each in turn.

         1. Finding of Discovery Misconduct

         At multiple points, the order references misconduct on the part of SMC in failing to disclose documents before Mr. Matsumoto's first deposition and failing to adequately prepare him to discuss certain topics that were noticed by Schall for discussion in the deposition. (See DN 135, at 10-11.) SMC argues that this factual conclusion is clearly ...


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