U.S. Magistrate Judge in the Connecticut Declines to Compel Production from Defendant’s Overseas Manufacturer

In What's New in E-Discovery and Spoliation?, What's New in Product Liability Law?, What's New in the Courts by gravierhouseLeave a Comment

In a suit against General Electric regarding alleged defects in GE branded microwaves, the plaintiffs sought to compel GE to produce discovery from Samsung Electrics Co., Ltd. (Samsung Korea), the manufacturer of the microwaves at issue.  Plaintiffs’ motion to compel was denied.

“The relationship between GE and Samsung Korea does not evidence GE’s legal entitlement to the documents: they are completely different entities; GE is not a parent of Samsung Korea, and does not have any ownership interest in it. Even in cases where there is a parent/subsidiary relationship between entities, which is not the case here, courts look for ‘a showing that the two entities operate as one, demonstrated access to documents in the ordinary course of business, and an agency relationship’ …. GE also does not have a practical ability to obtain the documents from Samsung Korea. While Plaintiffs claim that GE has selectively produced some documents from Samsung Korea, this argument is vitiated by GE’s assertion that it produced any relevant documents it already had in its possession from Samsung Korea. Already having documents does not necessarily equate to a practical ability to obtain additional documents. Without more, there is insufficient evidence that the business relationship between GE and Samsung Korea compels a finding of control…. Plaintiffs also claim that there is a contractual agreement between GE and Samsung Korea giving rise to control. This arguments is unavailing because an examination of the contract beyond the provisions to which Plaintiffs cite show that the agreement enabled GE to ask for specific categories of documents for GE’s review and approval during the manufacturing of the products at issue. GE maintains that any such documents that were already in their possession as a result of this agreement, if relevant, were produced. The Court cannot say the agreement’s language amounts to a finding of control…. Plaintiffs cite to Barton v. RCI, No.10-3657, 2013 WL 1338235 (D.N.J. April 1, 2013) as support for the proposition that a contractual right to access documents amounts to legal control. In that case, however, the court found evidence sufficient to show an agency relationship between the defendant and the non-party entity. Here, however, no agency relationship has been shown.”

Grayson v. Gen. Elec. Co., No.13-1799, 2016 WL 1275027 (D. Conn. April 1, 2016).

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