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Maximum Human Performance v. Sigma-Tau Healthscience, LLC

United States District Court, Third Circuit

August 26, 2013

MAXIMUM HUMAN PERFORMANCE, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
SIGMA-TAU HEALTHSCIENCE, LLC, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER ON DISCOVERY DISPUTE [D.E.s 21, 23]

STEVE MANNION, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Pending before this Court is a discovery dispute raised by defendant Sigma-tau HealthScience, LLC ("Defendant") concerning its subpoena duces tecum issued to non-party Vitaquest International, LLC ("Vitaquest"). Defendant has moved to compel discovery from Vitaquest. (D.E. 21). Vitaquest objects and has cross-moved for a protective order seeking to shift costs and attorneys' fees for complying with the subpoena. (D.E. 23).

The Court has considered the motion record and the August 13, 2013 oral arguments of counsel, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78, and for the reasons set forth below the Court grants Defendant's motion to compel and grants Vitaquest's motion to shift costs in part and denies it in part.

II. BACKGROUND[1]

This case concerns claims by plaintiff Maximum Human Performance, LLC that Glycocarn, a product that it purchased from Defendant, was not fit for their intended use. (D.E. 9). Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that it purchased Glycocarn from Defendant for use in a powder that Plaintiff had manufactured by Vitaquest and sold to customers as a pre-workout supplement.

It is alleged that Glycocarn absorbs moisture and caused Plaintiff's finished product to harden, and thereby become useless to Plaintiff's customers. Plaintiff is suing for breach of implied warranty of fitness for a particular propose. Defendant disputes that Glycocarn was or is unsuitable for use in powder form. (D.E. 9). It further contends that Plaintiff will be unable to prove it was relying on Sigma-tau's skill and judgment in selecting Glycocarn for the finished product at issue, a dietary supplement called "Code Red".

Defendant asserts that it had no control over the combination of ingredients in Code Red or its packaging, and disclaims any warranties concerning finished products outside of its control. It further contends that FDA regulations require supplement makers such as Plaintiff to perform stability testing on finished products, and proper stability testing would have revealed any problems with Code Red or its packaging.

On March 4, 2013, Defendant served Vitaquest with a subpoena for documents relating to how it manufactured Code Red for Plaintiff, including any efforts to determine whether Code Red would remain stable over time. Ten days later, Vitaquest objected to the subpoena as overbroad, burdensome, and for seeking proprietary materials. Counsel for the two companies then conferred to attempt to resolve some of the discovery disputes. Vitaquest subsequently amended its objections on April 17, 2013 to include the cost of harvesting and producing electronically stored information (ESI). Counsel continued to confer on the issue, but reached an impasse.

This Court issued an order granting leave to file motions. (D.E. 20). Defendant filed its motion to compel on June 5, 2013. (D.E. 21). Vitaquest filed its opposition and cross-motion for a protective order on July 30, 2013. (D.E. 23).

III. DISCUSSION

A. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26 defines the bounds of relevant discovery. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26. Pursuant to subparagraph (b)(1), "parties may obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged that is relevant to the claim or defense of any party." Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "allow broad and liberal discovery." Pacitti v. Macy's, 193 F.3d 766, 777 (3d Cir. 1999). Courts have interpreted the federal rules to mean that discovery encompasses "any matter that bears on or reasonably could lead to other matters that could bear on any issue that is or may be in the case." Kopacz v. Del. River and Bay Auth., 225 F.R.D. 494, 496 (D.N.J. 2004).

In interpreting Rule 26(b)(1), district courts must remain mindful that relevance is a broader inquiry at the discovery stage than at the trial stage. Nestle Foods Corp. v. Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co., 135 F.R.D. 101, 104 (D.N.J. 1990). Accordingly, Rule 26(b)(1) provides that "[f]or good cause, the court may order ...


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