The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kimba M. Wood, U.S.D.J.
Defendants' move the Court to (1) determine, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 36(a)(6), the sufficiency of Plaintiffs' responses to Defendants' Requests for Admission ("RFAs"; Plaintiffs' "RFA responses"); (2) sanction Plaintiffs, pursuant to Rule 37(b)(2), for failing to comply with the Court's orders regarding Plaintiffs' responses to the RFAs; and (3) preclude Plaintiffs, pursuant to Rule 37(c)(1); from responding to Defendants' RFAs with information that is different from that which Plaintiffs have disclosed previously.
As explained below, the Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Defendants' motion. (96-D.E. 376.)
The factual allegations and procedural history of these cases are discussed in detail in the Court's prior orders, familiarity with which is assumed. Here, the Court describes the events leading up to this motion, which involve longstanding disputes about whether Plaintiffs have indicated with sufficient specificity witnesses with personal knowledge of Plaintiffs' allegations. The Court also briefly summarizes Defendants' current complaints about Plaintiffs' RFA responses.
I. The Parties' Disputes Regarding Witnesses with Personal Knowledge of Plaintiffs' Allegations
A. Plaintiffs' Rule 26(a) Disclosures
Plaintiffs' initial Rule 26(a) disclosures, made April 1, 2002, listed 35 people, other than those alleged to be in Defendants' or their subsidiary's control, who might have discoverable information relevant to Plaintiffs' claims. (Millson Decl. Ex. 1.)
B. Defendants' First Set of Interrogatories
On February 19, 2003, Defendants served their first set of interrogatories on Plaintiffs, requesting that Plaintiffs identify all persons who have personal knowledge of Plaintiffs' allegations (Defendants' "first interrogatories"). Plaintiffs responded on March 21, 2003 (Plaintiffs' "first interrogatory responses"). (Millson Decl. Ex. 3.)
C. Defendants' Second Set of Interrogatories
On May 9, 2003, Defendants served a second set of interrogatories on Plaintiffs (Defendants' "second interrogatories"), in which Defendants asked Plaintiffs to provide, for each person listed as having personal knowledge in Plaintiffs' first interrogatory responses, the basis for that personal knowledge.
At a hearing regarding Defendants' second interrogatories, the parties agreed that Plaintiffs would respond to Defendants' second interrogatories by providing a "general statement of the personal knowledge of the individuals listed in the answers to the first interrogatories, with the sufficient specificity to allow Defendants to determine whom they should depose." (May 30, 2009 Hr'g Tr. 19:11-16.) The parties agreed that Plaintiffs would do so only for those individuals listed in Plaintiffs' first interrogatory responses who were not under Defendants' control.
Plaintiffs responded to Defendants' second interrogatories on July 1 and 2, 2003 (Plaintiffs' "second interrogatory responses").
Defendants contended that Plaintiffs' second interrogatory responses were deficient. On October 10, 2003, Plaintiffs served amended responses to Plaintiffs' second interrogatories ("Plaintiffs' "amended second interrogatory responses").*fn1
D. Defendants' Motion to Compel Plaintiffs' Interrogatory Response
Defendants contended that Plaintiffs' amended second interrogatory responses were also defective and moved to compel further interrogatory answers and preclude testimony because, inter alia, Plaintiffs' amended second interrogatory responses included individuals' knowledge of oral or written statements.
Magistrate Judge Pitman held a hearing regarding Defendants' motion on February 10, 2004. At the hearing, Magistrate Judge Pitman held an extensive colloquy with Plaintiffs' counsel regarding what information, precisely, would be responsive to Defendants' requests. (Feb. 10, 2004 Hr'g Tr. 39:25-53:16.) Plaintiffs indicated that their amended second interrogatory responses included, inter alia, information about an individual's knowledge of written or oral statements that Plaintiffs considered party-opponent admissions.*fn2 (See, e.g., id. at 44:21-45:2.) Plaintiffs stated that they had included knowledge of party-opponent admissions because, if Plaintiffs had not, "defendants would have [later] moved to preclude that testimony because we [Plaintiffs] didn't answer the questions in the . . . interrogatory in that way." (Id. at 47:2-4.) Plaintiffs explained that their interrogatory responses indicated the basis for an individual's knowledge (e.g., personal knowledge of an event versus personal knowledge of a statement regarding an event), such that Defendants could easily discern which individuals had personal knowledge of an event and which only had personal knowledge of an oral or written statement relating to that event. Magistrate Judge Pitman noted that if Plaintiffs' responses were already as clear as Plaintiffs contended they were, "it would not be a burdensome undertaking to identify who [of the individuals listed in Plaintiffs' amended second interrogatory responses] has personal knowledge and who doesn't." (Id. 50:21-22.)
On February 13, 2004, Magistrate Judge Pitman ordered Plaintiffs to supplement their amended second interrogatory responses with respect to any individuals who were not named plaintiffs (Magistrate Judge Pitman's "February 2004 Order"). (Feb. 13, 2004 Order 2.) With respect to these non-plaintiff individuals, Magistrate Judge Pitman ordered Plaintiffs to "specify  what such individuals know through their personal knowledge and what they know through other means." (Id.) Magistrate Judge Pitman further ordered that "[a] witness who has knowledge of an event only by virtue of what he or she has read or heard does not have personal knowledge of the event." (Id.)
In response to Magistrate Judge Pitman's February 13, 2004 Order, Plaintiffs filed supplementary responses to Defendants' second interrogatories on March 4, 2004 (Plaintiffs' "2004 interrogatory responses"). These responses differed from Plaintiffs' amended second interrogatory responses in that they used bold-faced type to indicate what aspects of a response involved an individual's personal knowledge of the events that were the subjects of Defendants' interrogatories.
E. Defendants' Motion to Strike Plaintiffs' 2004 Interrogatory Responses
Defendant moved to strike Plaintiffs' 2004 interrogatory responses on April 2, 2004. Magistrate Judge Pitman denied Defendants' motion on September 12, 2006 (Magistrate Judge Pitman's "September 2006 Order"). (Sept. 12, 2006 Order 2.) Magistrate Judge Pitman noted that some of Plaintiffs' 2004 interrogatory responses failed to identify any individuals with personal knowledge of the events that were the subjects of Defendants' interrogatories. Instead, Plaintiffs responses indicated an individual's personal knowledge of oral or written statements and/or of facts that Plaintiffs deemed circumstantial evidence of the events that were the subject of Defendants' interrogatories.
Because Plaintiffs had, at worst, provided Defendants with information beyond that which Defendants' interrogatories had requested, Magistrate Judge Pitman found that "Plaintiffs identification of the circumstantial testimony they will attempt to offer to prove their allegations, if it is error at all, is harmless." (Id. 17.) On June 15, 2007, The Court upheld this aspect of Magistrate Judge Pitman's September 12, 2006 Order.
On December 11, 2003, Defendants served Plaintiffs with a third set of RFAs that asked, in pertinent part, for Plaintiffs to admit or deny that specific individuals had personal knowledge of particular ...