Northern District of Iowa Offers Scathing Insight into the Cost of Discovery Violations
Liguria Foods, Inc. v. Griffith Laboratories, Inc., Case No. 14-3041 (N.D. Iowa, Mar. 13, 2017) involves claims of breach of implied warranties of fitness for a particular purpose and merchantability. Defendant manufactured spice and seasoning blends, which Plaintiff purchased for use in its pepperoni sausages. The sausages became rancid, and Plaintiff concluded that the seasonings manufactured by Defendant had caused the rancidity. During discovery, the court determined that both parties had provided boilerplate objections to each other’s discovery requests after a hearing on the issue. The court then entered an order and provided an extensive list of the responses by both sides that it found improper. Several days later, the court entered an Order to Show Cause directing every attorney who signed a discovery response to show cause as to why he should not be sanctioned for discovery abuses. The parties filed briefs.
The court noted that discovery abuse constitutes “one of the principal causes of delay and congestion in the judicial system” and that discovery costs can take up more than 50 percent of the total cost of litigation. Lawyers who ignore the Federal Rules can be at least partially responsible for the increase in costs and delays. The court outlined the requirements under FRCP 26, 33 and 34; Rules 33 and 34 specifically state that objections must be made with specificity. Further, Rule 34 does not contain a waiver provision, but but inadequate responses to document requests can still constitute waiver of objections. The court found that both parties made boilerplate objections and did not respond as required.
The court then noted that more frequent sanctioning and cost of discovery violations might create deterrence and throughout its opinion engaged in a lengthy discussion of the ethics of discovery misconduct, but ultimately ended in a warning rather than sanctions – a warning in all capital letters.
Parties engaging in eDiscovery or paper discovery must be careful to provide specific answers and objections.