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Hill-Rom Services, Inc. v. Tellisense Medical, LLC

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

December 12, 2019

HILL-ROM SERVICES, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
TELLISENSE MEDICAL, LLC, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER ON MOTION TO COMPEL

          MARK J. DINSMORE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the Motion to Compel Answer to Interrogatories Propounded on Hill-Rom Services, Inc., filed by Defendants Encompass Group, LLC, and Robert Ufford [Dkt. 286]. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Hill-Rom Services, Inc. (“Hill-Rom”) is a health care company that, inter alia, designs, manufactures, and sells hospital beds. In 2013, Hill-Rom contracted with Encompass Group, LLC, (“Encompass”), Tellisense Medical, LLC (“Tellisense”), and Robert Ufford (collectively, the “Encompass Defendants”) to work with Hill-Rom on a project (hereinafter “the Project”) to develop a moisture detection system that “would detect and signal the presence of incontinence events to healthcare personnel.” [Dkt. 143 at 5.] In a nutshell, in its Second Amended Complaint, Hill-Rom alleges that after Roc Lastinger became involved with the Project through his relationship with Tellisense, Lastinger formed Helvetia and, using Hill-Rom's trade secrets and confidential information that he obtained through his work on the Project, developed several inventions for which he filed patent applications. In its Second Amended Complaint, Hill-Rom asserted numerous claims against the Encompass Defendants, Helvetia, and Lastinger. [SeeDkt. 143]. Hill-Rom dismissed its claims against Helvetia and Lastinger in August 2019 after the death of Lastinger. [SeeDkt. 248].

         II. Legal Standard

         A party may “obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26. A party may seek an order to compel discovery when an opposing party fails to respond to discovery requests or provides evasive or incomplete responses. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(2)-(3). Relevant information “need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). “The burden ‘rests upon the objecting party to show why a particular discovery request is improper.'” McGrath v. Everest Nat. Ins. Co., 625 F.Supp.2d 660, 670 (N.D. Ind. 2008) (quoting Kodish v. Oakbrook Terrace Fire Protection Dist., 235 F.R.D. 447, 449-50 (N.D. Ill. 2006)).

         III. Discussion

         At issue before the Court are two interrogatories.[1] Hill-Rom has objected to each of them and provided no substantive response to either.

         As an initial matter, Hill-Rom objects to both interrogatories on the ground that the Encompass Defendants have, as a unit, exceeded the twenty-five interrogatory limit found in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 33(a)(1). The Court agrees with the general premise that parties that are acting jointly in a case usually should be treated as one party for purposes of propounding interrogatories. However, that general premise applies without regard to whether the joint parties are the propounders or the propoundees. In other words, generally the Encompass Defendants would be permitted to serve twenty-five interrogatories on Hill-Rom and vice versa. Neither Hill-Rom nor the Encompass Defendants have proceeded under this general rule, however. The Encompass Defendants have proceeded as if they were each entitled to serve twenty-five interrogatories on Hill-Rom and vice versa, while Hill-Rom argues that it is entitled to serve twenty-five interrogatories on each Encompass Defendant, for a total of seventy-five, but the Encompass Defendants are only entitled to serve a total of twenty-five interrogatories on Hill-Rom.

         Because none of the parties sought guidance on this issue from the Court sooner, [2] the Court resolves the issue by sua sponte enlarging the number of permissible interrogatories in this case to seventy-five per party, with the Encompass Defendants being treated as one party for purposes of both propounding and responding to interrogatories.

         The Court will address Hill-Rom's remaining objections to each of the interrogatories in turn below.

         A. Interrogatory No. 21

         The first interrogatory at issue, which was served by Encompass, reads as follows:

INTERROGATORY NO 21: Identify and describe in detail the total fees and costs incurred by You in this Action. In Your response, include without limitation the identities of the attorneys retained and the past and current rates those attorneys billed to You; the experts retained and the past and current rates those experts billed to You; the number of hours ...

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