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Sahu v. Union Carbide Corp.

March 16, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: John F. Keenan, United States District Judge

Opinion and Order

Before the Court are cross motions for reconsideration of a September 22, 2009 Memorandum Opinion and Order staying the time for Plaintiffs' opposition to Defendants' May 18, 2005 motion to dismiss and/or for summary judgment and granting in part, denying in part certain discovery requests under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(f). For the reasons that follow, both motions are denied.

I. Background

Familiarity with the facts and extensive procedural history of this case is presumed. See Sahu v. Union Carbide Corp., 418 F. Supp. 2d 407 (S.D.N.Y. 2005); Sahu v. Union Carbide Corp., No. 04 Civ. 8825, 2006 WL 3377577 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 20, 2006), rev'd, 548 F.3d 59 (2d Cir. 2008); Sahu v. Union Carbide Corp., 262 F.R.D. 308 (S.D.N.Y. 2009). In brief, Plaintiffs initially filed suit as members of a putative class in a predecessor action entitled Bano v. Union Carbide Corp., No. 99 Civ. 11329. However, that case was ultimately dismissed on statute of limitations grounds. See Bano v. Union Carbide Corp., No. 99 Civ. 11329, 2003 WL 1344884 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 18, 2003). Those Plaintiffs who presented timely claims re-filed the instant suit against Union Carbide Corporation ("UCC," together with its former CEO Warren Anderson, "Defendants"), seeking recovery for injuries allegedly caused by exposure to soil and drinking water polluted by hazardous wastes produced by the Union Carbide India Limited ("UCIL") plant in Bhopal, India. Plaintiffs claim that UCC, which was UCIL's parent company until 1994, and Warren Anderson are liable for their injuries because: (1) Defendants were direct participants and joint tortfeasors in the activities that resulted in the pollution; (2) Defendants worked in concert with UCIL to cause, exacerbate, or conceal the pollution; and (3) UCIL acted as UCC's alter ego, so the Court should pierce the corporate veil.

Discovery has been an issue of much debate in this case. Originally in Bano, Defendants produced documents responsive to the so-called "Eight Initial Discovery Topics" which generally involved "UCIL's practices at the Bhopal plant for the disposal of chemical waste products and the alleged environmental contamination or pollution of the soil or groundwater in or around the Bhopal plant." Sahu, 262 F.R.D. at 315. The initial Bano production amounted to less than two boxes of documents, an amount which Magistrate Judge Pitman found to be unsurprising given UCC's assertions that it had limited involvement with the operations of the Bhopal plant. Id. After this discovery was produced, the Court permitted Defendants to move for summary judgment with the understanding that Plaintiffs could also move for additional discovery under Rule 56(f). Id. Plaintiffs so moved, and Defendants subsequently produced documents responsive to five additional requests. Id.

As the Sahu plaintiffs were all members of the putative class in Bano, they had the benefit of this discovery prior to filing the operative Complaint. They have also received Rule 56(f) discovery in this case relating to Plaintiffs' attempt to pierce the corporate veil to hold UCC liable for UCIL's (now called Eveready Industries India Limited) conduct. See Sahu, 418 F. Supp. 2d at 416.

After the Court of Appeals reversed this Court's decision to convert Defendants' motion to dismiss to a motion for summary judgment and dismiss the case, Plaintiffs moved for a stay and an opportunity to conduct additional discovery under Rule 56(f). Plaintiffs wished to gather the necessary evidence to oppose summary judgment through 63 document requests, one Rule 30(b)(6) deposition, depositions of UCC's former officers, and 86 requests for admission. In a September 22, 2009 Memorandum Opinion and Order, the Court granted the stay in order to permit limited discovery. Sahu, 262 F.R.D. at 318. As such, the Court denied many of Plaintiffs' document requests as either not germane to the issues to be argued on summary judgment or cumulative of Rule 56(f) discovery Plaintiffs previously received in this case and in Bano. Id. at 314-17. The Court also denied Plaintiffs' requests to take depositions as overly burdensome in light of the difficulty and expense involved in preparing witnesses to testify to events which occurred as long as thirty-seven years ago. Id. at 317. The Court further denied Plaintiffs' requests for admission because they could adequately prove the facts for which they requested admissions with documentary evidence already provided. Id. at 318.

Plaintiffs now move for reconsideration of the September 22, 2009 opinion, arguing that the Court failed to consider certain facts in denying one Rule 30(b)(6) deposition, five document requests, and one request to admit. Defendants cross move for reconsideration of two document requests the Court allowed Plaintiff to pursue.

II. Discussion

A.S.D.N.Y. Local Civil Rule 6.3

Under Local Civil Rule 6.3, a party seeking reconsideration of a decision must "set[] forth concisely the matters or controlling decisions which counsel believes the court has overlooked." Reconsideration is appropriate only if the court overlooked controlling decisions or facts presented in the underlying motion which, had they been considered, might reasonably have altered the result of the initial decision. See Shrader v. CSX Transp., Inc., 70 F.3d 255, 257 (2d Cir. 1995); Keiser v. CDC Inv. Mgmt. Corp., No. 99 Civ. 12101, 2004 WL 516212, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 17, 2004). The goal of Local Rule 6.3 is to "ensure the finality of decisions and to prevent the practice of a losing party examining a decision and then plugging the gaps of a lost motion with additional matters." Grand Crossing, L.P. v. U.S. Underwriters Ins. Co., No. 03 Civ. 5429, 2008 WL 4525400, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 6, 2008) (citations omitted); see In re Refco Capital Markets, Ltd. Brokerage Customer Secs. Litig., No. 06 Civ. 643, 2008 WL 4962985, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 20, 2008) (a motion for reconsideration "is not an opportunity for a losing party to advance new arguments to supplant those that failed in the prior briefing of the issue"). Therefore, "[u]nder Local Rule 6.3, a party may not 'advance new facts, issues or arguments not previously presented to the Court.'" E.E.O.C. v. Fed. Express Corp., 268 F. Supp. 2d 192, 199 (E.D.N.Y. 2003) (quoting Morse/Diesel, Inc. v. Fidelity & Deposit Co. of Md., 768 F. Supp. 115, 116 (S.D.N.Y. 1991)). The motion is neither an invitation for the parties to relitigate a settled issue, nor is it an appropriate substitute for an appeal. See Morales v. Quintiles Transnational Corp., 25 F. Supp. 2d 369, 372 (S.D.N.Y. 1998).

B. Plaintiffs' Motion for Reconsideration

Plaintiffs argue that in ruling on the boundaries of additional Rule 56(f) discovery, the Court only considered the possibility of Defendants' direct liability on the basis of UCC's allegedly inadequate transfer of technology to UCIL. In so doing, Plaintiffs believe that the Court overlooked other theories of direct liability -- including, inter alia, UCC's alleged faulty storage, disposal, and clean up of hazardous wastes and ...

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