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Asarco LLC v. Union Pacific Railroad Co.

United States District Court, D. Idaho

September 30, 2016

ASARCO LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD COMPANY and UNION PACIFIC CORPORATION, Defendants.

         MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER RE: DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO COMPEL DISCOVERY RESPONSES AND TO DEEM REQUESTS FOR ADMISSION ADMITTED (DOCKET NO. 127) UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD COMPANY'S OBJECTION TO, AND MOTION TO STRIKE OR EXCLUDE, ASARCO'S UNTIMELY FILINGS (DOCKET NO. 160) ASARCO'S MOTION TO EXTEND TIME FOR FILING DOCUMENTS IN SUPPORT OF ASARCO LLC'S RESPONSE IN OPPOSITION TO UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD COMPANY'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOCKET NO. 176) ASARCO LLC'S MOTION TO STRIKE AND OBJECTION TO IMPROPER BRIEFING (DOCKET NO. 178)

          Honorable Ronald E. Bush Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge.

         Now pending before the Court are (1) Defendant's Motion to Compel Discovery Responses and to Deem Requests for Admission Admitted (Docket No. 127), (2) Union Pacific Railroad Company's Objection to, and Motion to Strike or Exclude, Asarco's Untimely Filings (Docket No. 160), (3) Asarco's Motion to Extend Time for Filing Documents in Support of Asarco LLC's Response in Opposition to Union Pacific Railroad Company's Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket No. 176), and (4) Asarco LLC's Motion to Strike and Objection to Improper Briefing (Docket No. 178). Having carefully considered the record and otherwise being fully advised, the undersigned enters the following Memorandum Decision and Order:[1]

         I. DISCUSSION

         A. Defendant's Motion to Compel Discovery Responses and to Deem Requests for Admission Admitted (Docket No. 127)

         Through its Motion, Union Pacific ask the Court to require that Asarco:

1. Supplement its responses to Requests for Admission Nos. 1-8, 15-20, 23-40, 42-55, and 57-59 in Union Pacific's First Set of Requests for Admission;
2. Supplement its responses to Interrogatory Nos. 2, 3, and 8 (as to Requests for Admission Nos. 1-8) in Union Pacific's First Set of Interrogatories;
3. Produce specific documents and other materials requested in (1) Request for Production Nos. 1, 4, 5, and 6 in Union Pacific's Second Set of Requests for Production and (2) Request for Production Nos. 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 in Union Pacific's Fourth Set of Requests for Production; and
5. Supplement its responses to Request for Admission Nos. 97, 113, and 114 in Union Pacific's Second Set of Requests for Admission.

         1. Asarco's Supplemental Responses to Union Pacific's First Set of Requests for Admission

         The Motion is moot as to Request Nos. 1-8. See Reply, p. 9, n.4 (Docket No. 170). The remaining Requests are addressed in turn:

         a. Request Nos. 15-20

         Asarco objects to each of these Requests as “call[ing] for legal conclusions” and, in other instances, as being vague and ambiguous, not limited by a period of time. Even so, Asarco responded to each of these Requests. Union Pacific argues that FRCP 36(a) does not limit Requests solely to “facts, ” and expressly allows a party to request responses that may seek the “application of law to fact.” As to Asarco's more substantive responses, Union Pacific contends that they are “generic.”

         “Requests cannot be used to compel an admission of a conclusion of law.” Welcher v. Idaho Dept. of Correction, 2006 WL 1663567, *2 (D. Idaho 2006) (citing Playboy Enterprises, Inc. v. Welles, 60 F.Supp.2d 1050, 1057 (S.D. Cal. 1999)). Union Pacific does not elaborate how, or why, these Requests do not ask for a legal conclusion and/or how, or why, they properly seek the application of laws to fact. Moreover, other than commenting that Asarco's more substantive responses to these Requests are “generic, ” Union Pacific provides no argument that they are deficient in any respect.[2] Union Pacific's Motion is denied in these respects.

         b. Request Nos. 23-31, 40, 42-55, and 57-59[3]

         Union Pacific next contends that Asarco's supplemental responses to various Requests are not specific enough. For example, Union Pacific asserts that, while Asarco admits that Union Pacific has contribution protection for “certain claims for response costs” or “limited contribution protection, ” Asarco does not identify those limits, claims, or response costs; and, conversely, that, while Asarco denies that Union Pacific has contribution protection for certain claims and response costs, it again does not identify them with any specificity. The Court is not persuaded that Asarco's responses are lacking in the manner of which Union Pacific complains.

         To begin, Asarco clearly points to language from the Union Pacific consent decree as setting the stage for its responses to various Requests. Nothing is improper about this when, at least in Asarco's mind, such language informs an answer to a particular Request. Asarco then provides an additional response. While this additional response may not contain the level of specificity that Union Pacific is seeking, the Request itself is similarly broad. Moreover, as stated earlier in this action, requests for admission are not discovery devices per se - they are tools to crystalize legitimately undisputed matters to help streamline a prospective trial. Where Requests speak to matters that are not undisputed on both ends of the equation or may not be crafted in a manner that permits agreement from both sides as to the details of the subject matter, then the responses may simply illustrate that situation, rather than being obstructive.

         Such is the case here. After reviewing the at-issue Requests and Asarco's most recent responses, the undersigned concludes that there is no basis to compel further responses. Union Pacific's Motion is denied in these respects.[4]

         2. Asarco's Supplemental Responses to Union Pacific's First Set of Interrogatories

         The Motion is moot as it pertains to Interrogatory Nos. 2 and 3. See Reply, p. 9, n.4 (Docket No. 170). It is unclear, however, whether the remaining Interrogatory - Interrogatory No. 8 - is still in question. Specifically, it is unclear whether Interrogatory No. 8 speaks only to Asarco's denials (or responses that are not an unqualified admission) of Union Pacific's Request Nos. 1-8 or something more. To the extent it speaks to the former, Union Pacific's Motion is moot (see id.); to the extent it speaks to all of Union Pacific's Requests (or, at least, something more than Request Nos. 1-8), the record is too underdeveloped to so rule on the adequacy of Asarco's response. However, Asarco is ordered to review its response to Interrogatory No. 8 vis à vis its supplemental responses to Union Pacific's Requests for Admission and, if necessary, supplement its response thereto accordingly. In this limited respect, Union Pacific's Motion is granted.

         3. Asarco's Responses to Union Pacific's Second and Fourth Sets of Requests for Production

         Union Pacific's Second and Fourth Sets of Requests for Production generally requests documents reviewed by, considered by, referred to, cited by and/or relied upon by Asarco's experts. Since its filing, Union Pacific's Motion to Compel has changed somewhat in its focus, so that it now relates to five sets of documents: (1) publicly-available information, (2) expert research logs, (3) Mr. Gallacher's March 13, 2015 memorandum, (4) draft expert reports, and (5) a July 27, 2015 meet-and-confer conference recording. Each such item is addressed below.

         a. ...


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