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Smart Vent Products, Inc. v. Crawl Space Door System Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

April 11, 2019

SMART VENT PRODUCTS, INC. Plaintiff,
v.
CRAWL SPACE DOOR SYSTEM, INC. Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          JEROME B. SIMANDLE U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         1. This matter comes before the Court by way of a motion filed by Defendant Crawl Space Door System, Inc. (hereinafter, “Defendant”) appealing Magistrate Judge Karen M. Williams' March 11, 2019 Statement of Reasons and Supplemental Order [Docket Item 159] requiring Defendant to produce certain documents in connection with certifications created by Defendant as a result of the permanent injunction entered in this case. (See Def.'s Mot. [Docket Item 160].) The Court will affirm Judge Williams' March 11, 2019 order because the Court finds that the documents in question are relevant to certain claims and defenses that remain in this case, and Judge Williams' Order was neither clearly erroneous nor contrary to law. The Court finds as follows:

         2. The Court thoroughly described the relevant background of this case in Smart Vent Products, Inc. v. Crawl Space Door System, Inc., No. 13-5691, 2016 WL 4408818 *2-*4 (D.N.J. Aug. 16, 2016), and shall not repeat it herein, except as relevant to the present motion.

         3. On March 11, 2019, the Court filed a Memorandum Opinion and Order, clarifying which claims and defenses remain in this case. (See Memorandum Opinion [Docket Item 165]; Order [Docket Item 166].) In conclusion, the Court stated:

         [I]t is this Court's understanding that the issues remaining for trial consist of:

a. The aspects of Plaintiff's Counts I, II, and III alleging Defendant is liable for unfair competition arising from Defendant's alleged false or misleading statements regarding Defendant's vents' net open area and coverage area, and those vents' compliance with industry standards other than NFIP and FEMA, as well as Defendant's alleged false or misleading statements regarding the patent status of Defendant's vents;
b. The aspects of Plaintiff's Count IV alleging Defendant is liable for negligent misrepresentation concerning the matters in (a), above;
c. Plaintiff's Count V, asserting that Defendant is liable for misuse of Plaintiff's trademark;
d. Defendant's counterclaims.

         (Memorandum Opinion [Docket Item 165], 9-10.) The Court further stated that there was presently no motion before the Court seeking to challenge Defendant's compliance with the permanent injunction entered in this case. (Id. at 3 n.2.)[1]

         4. When a magistrate judge decides a non-dispositive motion, the “district court may modify the magistrate [judge]'s order only if the district court finds that the magistrate [judge]'s ruling was clearly erroneous or contrary to law.” Cipollone v. Liggett Group, Inc., 785 F.2d 1108, 1120 (3d Cir. 1986); see also L. Civ. R. 72.1(c)(A)(1) (“A Judge shall consider the appeal . . . and set aside any portion of the Magistrate Judge's order found to be clearly erroneous or contrary to law.”).

         5. A magistrate judge's finding is clearly erroneous when “although there may be some evidence to support it, the reviewing court, after considering the entirety of the evidence, is ‘left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed.'” Kounelis v. Sherrer, 529 F.Supp.2d 503, 518 (D.N.J. 2008) (quoting Dome Petroleum Ltd. v. Emp'rs Mut. Liab. Ins. Co., 131 F.R.D. 63, 65 (D.N.J. 1990); United States v. U.S. Gypsum Co., 333 U.S. 364, 395 (1948)). A ruling is contrary to law if “the magistrate judge has misinterpreted or misapplied applicable law.” Id. Where a magistrate judge “is authorized to exercise his or her discretion, the decision will be reversed only for an abuse of discretion.” Id.

         6. In the present case, Judge Williams' order requiring Defendant to produce certain certifications created by Defendant as a result of the permanent injunction entered in this case was neither clearly erroneous nor an abuse of discretion. Rule 26, Fed. R. Civ. P., states in relevant part that “[p]arties 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(b)(1). Judge Williams rejected Defendant's argument that the documents in question are protected from disclosure by the work product doctrine, finding that Defendant had failed to “set forth with any specificity information to support the application of the doctrine.” (Statement of Reasons and Supplemental Order [Docket Item 159], 2 (citing Louisiana Mun. Police Employees Ret. Sys. v. Sealed Air Corp., 253 F.R.D. 300, 306 (D.N.J. 2008)).) Defendant does not assert that this conclusion was incorrect in the present appeal. Neither does Defendant assert that reasons of proportionality (such as undue burden or expense or a tangential relationship to the claims and defenses) should prevent the disclosure of these documents. Therefore the Court shall focus on the question of the relevance of these documents to the remaining claims and defenses in the case.

         7. Judge Williams stated that “[t]he amended certifications are . . . relevant because Plaintiff contends that the amended certifications misrepresent the performance of Defendant's flood vents.” (Statement of Reasons and Supplemental Order [Docket Item 159], 2 (citing Plaintiff's Letter [Docket Item ...


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