United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division
OPINION AND ORDER
E. MARTIN MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to
Compel Discovery Responses and Depositions from Defendant RNM
Holdings, Inc. [DE 179], filed on August 23, 2019. Plaintiff
seeks to compel Defendant RNM to produce documents, and
witnesses for deposition, relating to RNM's financial
condition and its relationship with co-Defendant Crane 1
Services (“Crane 1 Delaware”). RNM filed a
response on September 6, 2019, and Plaintiff filed a reply on
September 13, 2019.
October 1, 2013, Plaintiff Munster Steel signed a contract
with an entity called “Crane 1 Services” that
required Crane 1 Services to design, supply, and install
cranes and related equipment to Munster's new facility.
According to Munster, by October 2014, Munster had identified
“serious deficiencies” with the cranes and the
manner in which they were installed. Munster filed its
initial complaint on July 26, 2016, alleging breach of
contract. Defendant “Crane 1 Services” answered,
identified itself as a Delaware corporation, and admitted
that it had contracted with Munster. During discovery,
Defendant disclosed that Plaintiff had in fact contracted
with “Crane 1 Ohio, ” and that Crane 1 Delaware
purchased the majority of Crane 1 Ohio's assets in
October 2015. Munster then filed an amended complaint, adding
a fraudulent misrepresentation claim against Crane 1 Ohio
(now known as “RNM Holdings”), and claims of
fraudulent concealment and fraudulent transfer and conveyance
against both Crane 1 entities. Munster now seeks discovery
from RNM regarding RNM's financial condition, the asset
purchase agreement, and the relationship between the Crane 1
Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) permits discovery
“regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to
any party's claim or defense.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
26(b)(1). Relevance is “construed broadly to encompass
any matter that bears on, or that reasonably could lead to
other matter that could bear on, any issue that is or may be
in the case.” Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v.
Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 351 (1978) (citing Hickman v.
Taylor, 329 U.S. 495, 501 (1947)). A party may seek an
order to compel discovery when the producing party provides
evasive or incomplete responses. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a). The
motion “must include a certification that the movant
has in good faith conferred or attempted to confer with the
person or party failing to make a disclosure or discovery in
an effort to obtain it without court action.”
Id. The party objecting to the discovery request
bears the burden of “show[ing] why [that] particular
discovery request is improper.” McGrath v. Everest
Nat. Ins. Co., 625 F.Supp.2d 660, 670 (N.D. Ind. 2008).
The Court has broad discretion to decide discovery matters.
Thermal Design, Inc. v. Am. Soc'y of Heating,
Refrigerating & Air-Conditioning Eng'rs, Inc.,
755 F.3d 832, 837 (7th Cir. 2014).
Munster seeks documents related to RNM's financial
condition. RNM objects generally that Munster's requests
are “irrelevant, overly broad, unduly burdensome and
premature.” RNM does not explain why the requests are
burdensome, but essentially argues that its financial
information is irrelevant to the claims, and could be
unfairly prejudicial if used at trial. Although RNM cites
cases holding generally that information about a
defendant's finances is not discoverable, the opposite is
true if the allegations “clearly bring the
corporation's financial condition into issue.”
Simon v. Whichello, No. 1:05-CV-333, 2006 WL
2042154, at *4 (N.D. Ind. July 18, 2006); see also
Marshall v. GE Marshall, Inc., No. 2:09 CV 198, 2012 WL
2343368, at *3-4 (N.D. Ind. June 20, 2012) (finding that
individual defendants' financial information was
discoverable where plaintiff alleged breaches of fiduciary
argues, in part, that the asset purchase agreement was
fraudulent, and that RNM's financial information is
relevant to the question of whether RNM received sufficient
consideration in the agreement. RNM does not directly address
that argument, but states that Munster “already has all
the information it needs, ” because Munster has the
agreement itself and “the timing and terms and
conditions” have been disclosed. Given that Munster
claims the agreement itself is fraudulent, RNM has not shown
why the only information relevant to its claim is the content
and timing of the agreement. Moreover, Munster has made
claims for punitive damages, see First Am. Compl.
[DE 108], ¶¶ 89-100, and a defendant's finances
have been found to be relevant to the calculation of punitive
damages. See United States v. Autumn Ridge Condo.
Ass'n, Inc., 265 F.R.D. 323, 327-28 (N.D. Ind. 2009)
provides a list of boilerplate objections, but none with
enough specificity to meet its burden to show the request is
“improper.” RNM says the information is
confidential, but does not say why the confidential
information cannot be addressed with a protective order. RNM
also claims the information could be prejudicial at trial,
but points to no authority holding that relevant information
should be withheld in discovery because it may be prejudicial
at trial. At the discovery phase, Munster is entitled to seek
discovery that “bears on, or that reasonably could lead
to other matter that could bear on, any issue that is or may
be in the case.” Oppenheimer, 437 U.S. at 351.
complains that “the sheer scope and breadth of these
requests would be time consuming, expensive, burdensome and
oppressive, ” but does not address any particular
request or explain why producing financial information is
oppressive. Given that the information is relevant to
Munster's claims, generalized, boilerplate objections to
Munster's requests for that information are not
sufficient. See Gingerich v. City of Elkhart Prob.
Dep't, 273 F.R.D. 532, 536 (N.D. Ind. 2011) (citing
Cunningham v. Smithkline Beecham, 255 F.R.D. 474,
478 (N.D. Ind. 2009)) (finding that boilerplate objections do
not meet the objecting party's burden to show with
specificity that the request is improper).
also requests that the Court compel RNM to produce witnesses
to sit for deposition regarding the asset purchase agreement
and the relationship between the two Crane 1 entities. RNM
does not directly address the depositions beyond its
objection that the topics are irrelevant. For the reasons
stated above, the Court finds that the proposed deposition
topics are relevant, and therefore RNM's witnesses must
sit for deposition on those topics.
foregoing reasons, the Court GRANTS
Plaintiff's Motion to Compel Discovery Responses and
Depositions from Defendant RNM Holdings, Inc. [DE 179]. The
Court ORDERS RNM to (1) produce documents in
response to requests for production #38-55, #58-61, and #63
by November 8, 2019, and (2)
produce a witness or witnesses for deposition regarding the
asset purchase agreement and the relationship between Crane 1
Delaware and Crane 1 Ohio.
the motion to compel is granted, “the court must, after
giving an opportunity to be heard, require the party . . .
whose conduct necessitated the motion . . . to pay the
movant's reasonable expenses incurred in making the
motion, including attorney's fees.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
37(a)(5)(A). Accordingly, the Court ORDERS
Munster to file, by October 23,
2019, an itemization of costs and fees incurred