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Idaho Waste Systems, Inc. v. United States Air Force

United States District Court, D. Idaho

September 30, 2019

IDAHO WASTE SYSTEMS, INC., an Idaho corporation, Plaintiff,
v.
THE UNITED STATES AIR FORCE; PROTECH COATINGS, INC., a Nevada corporation; and SNAKE RIVER RUBBISH, LLC, an Idaho limited liability company, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          B. LYNN WINMILL, U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.

         INTRODUCTION

         The Court has before it a motion to compel and for sanctions filed by defendant U.S. Air Force (USAF) seeking answers to discovery and sanctions against the plaintiff for discovery abuses. The motion is fully briefed and at issue. For the reasons expressed below, the Court will grant the motion and award sanctions against the plaintiff.

         LITIGATION BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Idaho Waste Systems Inc. (IWS) filed this lawsuit against USAF, Protech Coatings Inc., and Snake River Rubbish LLC, alleging that they dumped hazardous waste in IWS’s landfill and have refused to remove the waste. IWS seeks to recoup its response costs and damages to its business.

         The lawsuit was filed on May 23, 2018, and the parties have been engaged in discovery. USAF claims that IWS has delayed responding to discovery requests and required USAF to expend time and resources to force IWS to comply with its discovery obligations. USAF’s motion seeks to compel answers to discovery and to sanction IWS in the sum of $11, 692 for its discovery abuses. IWS denies these allegations and objects to the request for sanctions.

         The Court will examine USAF’s allegations regarding IWS’s conduct in discovery and determine whether sanctions are warranted.

         ANALYSIS

         Initial Disclosures

         IWS filed this lawsuit on May 23, 2018, and filed its initial disclosures on September 7, 2018. With regard to the initial disclosures required by Rule 26(a)(1)(ii) (documents that may be used to support claims or defenses) and Rule 26(a)(1)(ii) (a computation of each category of damages), IWS submitted no documentation but merely stated that the material is “being prepared” and “will be provided in a supplemental disclosure when available.” See Rey Declaration (Dkt. No. 44-2) at pgs. 1-2.

         As months passed and IWS failed to provide these initial disclosures, USAF’s counsel tried various informal methods to prompt IWS to fulfill its Rule 26 obligations. These methods included the following: (1) letter dated December 14, 2018; (2) email dated February 12, 2018; (3) email and telephonic meet and confer on February 28, 2019; (4) letter dated March 15, 2019; (5) telephonic meet and confer on March 22, 2019; (6) mediation with the Court’s staff on May 1, 2019. Id. ¶¶ 6 to 17. It was not until May 30, 2019, that IWS produced the initial disclosures required by Rule 26(a)(1)(ii) & (iii).

         Damages Discovery

         On December 10, 2018, USAF sent its first set of Requests for Production of Documents, requesting, among other things, “documents concerning any alleged damages and response costs resulting therefrom.” See Request for Production No. 9 (Dkt. No. 44-2). Months passed and IWS failed to respond. On several occasions, USAF contacted IWS counsel requesting answers to the discovery. USAF’s efforts either (1) went unanswered by IWS’s counsel, or (2) when answered, were accompanied by promises of production that were never fulfilled. See Rey Declaration (Dkt. No. 44-2). Frustrated by these unsuccessful informal direct efforts to get the discovery, USAF used the Court’s informal mediation process during which IWS counsel would again promise to provide answers and then again fail to follow through. Id. On March 8, 2019, and again on May 30, 2019, IWS did send to USAF a statement of the dollar amounts it was seeking in damages. For example, IWS claimed damages of $33, 106 “for environmental consulting, evaluation and mitigation” and $147, 000 “for remobilization and plaintiff’s remedial efforts.” But IWS failed to provide any supporting documentation as requested by USAF.

         After almost six months had gone by, USAF filed this motion to compel on June 7, 2019, at 10:25 a.m. That motion sought in part to compel documents supporting IWS’s damage claims. Almost five hours after USAF’s motion was filed, IWS emailed to USAF a spreadsheet along with 62 pages of documents relating to damages, the first time IWS had produced any documentation concerning its damages. Finally, after nearly six months of delay, IWS produced documentary discovery concerning its ...


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