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Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co.

June 25, 2009

ESTHER KIOBEL, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ROYAL DUTCH PETROLEUM COMPANY, ET AL.,



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wood, U.S.D.J.

ORDER

Defendants in the above-captioned action, Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., 02 Civ. 7618 ("Kiobel"), contend that Plaintiffs' responses to Defendants' first set of interrogatories merit sanctions because they fail to comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 26(g); Defendants therefore move to strike Plaintiffs' interrogatory responses under Rule 26(g)(3) (Defendants' "Rule 26(g)(3) motion").*fn1 Defendants also move to compel Plaintiffs, pursuant to Rule 37(a), to respond to Defendants' second set of interrogatories (Defendants' "Rule 37(a) motion").

For the reasons below, the Court (1) DENIES Defendants' Rule Defendants.

26(g)(3) motion without prejudice, and with leave to refile after further development of the record, (D.E. 229); (2) limits, sua sponte, Defendants' second set of interrogatories pursuant to Rule 26(b)(2)(C); and (3) GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Defendants' Rule 37(a) motion, (D.E. 230).

I. Defendants' Rule 26(g)(3) Motion

A. Background

The full background of Kiobel is provided in the Court's previous orders, familiarity with which is assumed. This order provides only the background relevant to the motions this order decides.

1. Defendants' First Set of Interrogatories

Defendants' first set of interrogatories asked Plaintiffs for information regarding individuals with personal knowledge of Plaintiffs' allegations.

Plaintiffs responded. Disputes regarding the sufficiency of Plaintiffs' responses ensued. In particular, Defendants contended that Plaintiffs' responses did not state with sufficient clarity and specificity who had personal knowledge of what allegations. Plaintiffs revised their responses (Plaintiffs' "revised interrogatory responses"). Defendants continued to contend that Plaintiffs' revised interrogatory responses were inadequate.

At a February 10, 2004 conference before Magistrate Judge Pitman, Plaintiffs' counsel informed the Court that Plaintiffs' revised interrogatory responses stated that an individual had "knowledge" of an event only if the individual had directly perceived the event, and stated that an individual had "information" if the individual had what Plaintiffs believed was admissible testimony, but had not directly perceived the event. (See Conf. Tr. 34:9-18, Feb. 10, 2004.) Plaintiffs' counsel also stated that they, rather than Plaintiffs themselves, had investigated the case and found the witnesses listed in Plaintiffs' revised interrogatory responses. (See Conf. Tr. 37:15-19, Feb. 10, 2004.)

Magistrate Judge Pitman deemed sufficient Plaintiffs' revised interrogatory responses. (See id. at 117:5 - 118:10.)

2. Defendants' Depositions of Individuals with Personal Knowledge

Following the conference before Magistrate Judge Pitman, Defendants deposed four of the individuals Plaintiffs' revised interrogatory responses listed as having personal knowledge (the "deponents").*fn2

According to Defendants, these depositions reveal that two of the deponents, Lede Idamkue and Freddie Idamkue, lacked the personal knowledge that Plaintiffs' revised interrogatory responses claimed they had.*fn3 Defendants also contend that the deposition testimony of three of the deponents demonstrates that Plaintiffs' attorneys first spoke with the deponents after Plaintiffs filed interrogatory responses describing those deponents' personal knowledge.

B. Discussion

Defendants have not yet established that the certification by Plaintiffs' counsel of Plaintiffs' revised interrogatory responses violated Rule 26(g). Accordingly, the Court denies Defendants' Rule 26(g)(3) motion, without prejudice, and with leave to refile upon further development of the record.

1. Legal Standard

a. Rule 26(g)

Rule 26(g) requires that "[e]very disclosure under Rule 26(a)(1) or (a)(3) and every discovery request, response, or objection must be signed by at least one attorney of record in the attorney's own name." Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(g)(1).

By signing a response to a discovery request, an attorney certifies that to the best of her "knowledge, information, and belief formed after a reasonable inquiry," the response is (1) consistent with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and justified under existing law; (2) not interposed for any improper purpose, such as to unnecessarily delay or needlessly increase the costs of ...


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