Untimely Motion to Compel

Untimely Motion to Compel Denied Despite Being Relevant and Proportional: eDiscovery Case Law

In Corker v. Costco Wholesale Corp., No. C19-0290RSL (W.D. Wash. July 1, 2022), Washington District Judge Robert S. Lasnik denied the plaintiff’s motion to compel the defendant to produce ESI over an expanded timeframe, finding it to be an untimely motion to compel, despite finding that it was “relevant and proportional to the needs of the case.”

Case Discussion

In this case over alleged claims that the defendants were misrepresenting their coffee as “Kona” coffee, the plaintiffs filed a motion to compel the defendants to produce information regarding defendants’ purchases of, sales of, and profits from Kona-labeled coffee products prior to February 2015. The defendants objected, arguing that the parties previously agreed that discovery would be limited to the period after February 2015, the date on which the longest possible limitations period began to run, and/or that the Court had adopted that limitation. They also argued that the dramatic expansion of the relevant time period would cause prejudice and that the requested production was not proportional to the needs of the case, unduly burdensome, and harassing.

Fact discovery closed on March 11, 2022. Plaintiffs filed this motion to compel on the last possible day.

Judge’s Ruling

Considering the plaintiff’s motion, Judge Lasnik stated: “The fact that a party is willing to make a concession or accede to a limitation during the meet and confer process does not forever bar it from pursuing the information if it is relevant and proportional to the needs of the case. Nor has the Court substantively considered or ruled upon the statute of limitations issue, instead simply acknowledging and enforcing the parties’ prior agreement in order to define the scope of a Rule 30(b)(6) witness’ preparations. The Court therefore rejects defendants’ argument that plaintiffs are barred from seeking information that might toll the statute of limitations and establish damages over a longer period. The Court further finds that the requested information is relevant and proportional to the needs of the case.”

However, finding the plaintiffs filed an untimely motion to compel, Judge Lasnik also stated: “Nevertheless, a dramatic expansion of the temporal scope of the case at the very end of fact discovery would impose an undue burden and expense on defendants…Plaintiffs have known of their discovery rule, fraudulent concealment, and estoppel arguments for years and yet they sought discovery dating back only to February 2015. Defendants have expended resources conducting searches, performing relevance reviews, and making productions based on the parameters plaintiffs set. These same activities would have to be repeated for a wholly different time frame if plaintiffs were permitted to expand the temporal scope of discovery from four years preceding the date of filing to the date on which each defendant began selling Kona-labeled coffee products. In addition, depositions were taken and interrogatory responses were crafted based on the four-year period, discovery which would likely need to be repeated or supplemented if the proposed expansion were permitted.”

So, what do you think? Do you agree that this was an untimely motion to compel, or do you think the plaintiffs filed it in time and should have been able to expand the scope of discovery?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Case opinion link courtesy of eDiscovery Assistant, an Affinity partner of eDiscovery Today.

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