United States District Court, Southern District of New York
July 8, 2003
AUSCAPE INTERNATIONAL, ETC., PLAINTIFFS,
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SOCIETY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lewis Kaplan, District Judge
By letter dated July 3, 2003, plaintiffs seek an order requiring defendants to provide further answers to interrogatories.
Each of the interrogatories in the two sets of interrogatories propounded on behalf of plaintiff Oxford Scientific Films and another set propounded by plaintiffs generally to Mindscape purports to require the addressee to state whether it contends that some proposition is true and, if so, to explain the specific bases for its contention. Those propounded on behalf of plaintiff Sebastian are similar although not identical. Two more sets propounded on behalf of plaintiff Woolfitt seek identification of all facts, circumstances, documents and evidence supporting enumerated contentions, specific explanations of the manner in which that evidence supports the contentions, and identification of each person with information relating to the contention. Thus, with the exception of the final clause of the interrogatories propounded by Woolfitt, these interrogatories seek to have the defendants set forth their contentions, marshal their evidence, and preview their arguments. Indeed, they go farther, as they seek this information in some instances with respect to purely legal contentions, e.g., that one or more claims asserted by plaintiffs fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, they essentially are asking defendants to write briefs for them.
Defendants uniformly responded to these interrogatories principally in two ways in those instances in which they made the contention in respect of which inquiry was made. In some instances, they indicated that they had produced any pertinent documents. In others, they indicated that their contentions would be set forth in their memoranda on the summary judgment motions. In each case in which Woolfit inquired as to the identity of persons with knowledge, they responded that their lead counsel was the most knowledgeable person. To the extent the interrogatories were not answered, defendants objected to them on grounds including undue burden, plaintiffs non-compliance with Rule 33(a)'s limitation on the number of interrogatories, and the availability of other, less burdensome means of getting the information.
Interrogatories may serve a useful purpose in litigation. On the other hand, they can be extraordinarily oppressive, as the interrogatory need not expend significant resources in posing questions that the recipient can answer only at great cost. Moreover, as with all other discovery devices, their use may be limited in accordance with Rule 26(b)(2).
There has been extensive discovery in this case. Eight summary judgment motions comprising thousands of pages are pending. In these circumstances, defendants' responses that their contentions are as set forth in the summary judgment motion are more than sufficient to meet any legitimate need of the plaintiffs for an understanding of the case they must meet. Likewise, defendants' production of documents suffices in that regard under Rule 33(d). See Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(2). To require greater specificity in this context would be a useless exercise or, at best, one the burden or expense of which would far outweigh the benefit. In consequence, to the extent that plaintiffs seek further answers to so much of their interrogatories as demand information about the nature of defendants' contentions, the evidence supporting those contentions, and the manner in which the evidence is said to support the contentions, the application is denied.
Defendants' effort to avoid listing individuals with relevant knowledge by stating that their lead counsel is the most knowledgeable and otherwise objecting maybe another matter. If the information already has been provided under Rule 26(a)(1) or otherwise, there would be no objection. On the other hand, the plaintiffs are entitled to the information. Accordingly, to the extent that defendants responded to that fashion, they are directed to answer that part of the relevant interrogatories fully, within 10 days, to the extent, if any, to which they have not previously provided plaintiffs with the information in a form keyed to the specific contentions as to which inquiry has been made.
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