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Dewitt Stern Group, Inc. v. Eisenberg

United States District Court, S.D. New York

September 12, 2014

DEWITT STERN GROUP, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
RICHARD EISENBERG and ARTHUR J. GALLAGHER RISK MANAGEMENT SERVICES, INC., Defendants.

Peter J. Biging, Esq., GOLDBERG SEGALLA LLP, New York, NY, Attorney for Plaintiff DeWitt.

Aaron Warshaw, OGLETREE, DEAKINS, NASH, SMOAK & STEWART, P.C., New York, NY, Attorney for Defendant Eisenberg.

OPINION

ROBERT W. SWEET, District Judge.

Defendants Richard Eisenberg ("Eisenberg") and Arthur J. Gallagher Risk Management Services, Inc. ("AJG, " together with Eisenberg, "Defendants") have moved for a pre-motion conference to request (1) an order bifurcating discovery initially limited to plaintiff DeWitt Stern Group Inc.'s ("DeWitt" or "Plaintiff") theory that DeWitt purchased Eisenberg's book of business or, in the alternative, (2) to compel DeWitt to produce all responsive discovery, including but not limited to discovery relating to electronically stored information ("ESI") and emails.

For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion is denied in part and granted in part.

Prior Proceedings & Facts

The procedural history and facts underlying this action were previously set forth in opinions by this Court dated October 29, 2013 and April 9, 2014. (See Docket Nos. 39, 57.) Knowledge of the general background of this case is assumed. The instant motion was heard and marked fully submitted July 2, 2014.

Discussion

Defendants' Motion To Bifurcate Discovery Is Denied

Rule 42 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows a court to order separate trials "[f]or convenience, to avoid prejudice, or to expedite and economize" with regard to "separate issues, claims, crossclaims, counterclaims, or third-party claims." Fed. R.Civ. P. 42(b). This rule, however, pertains only to the bifurcation of trials, not the bifurcation of discovery that Defendants seek. See, e.g., Koch v. Pechota, 10 Civ. 9152, 2012 WL 2402577, *6 (S.D.N.Y. June 26, 2012).

Defendants argue that the question of whether DeWitt purchased Eisenberg's book of business is a threshold question on which DeWitt's breach of contract and unjust enrichment claims depend. (Def.'s June 13, 2014 Letter at 2.) This question, however, is not the type of issue or claim contemplated by Rule 42. In fact, the cases cited by Defendants in support of their request deal solely with the separation of distinct causes of action into separate trials.[1] As such, Defendants' request for bifurcation of discovery is denied.

Defendants' Motion To Compel Is Denied

Defendants argue, in lieu of bifurcation, that DeWitt should be compelled to produce documents responsive to Defendants' Document Request Numbers 26, 27, 28, 56 and 57, limited to Eisenberg's book of business as DeWitt intends to define it and responsive email documents pursuant to the search term and custodian list that DeWitt first proposed in October 2013. (Defs.' June 13, 2014 Letter at 7.) Plaintiff objects to Defendants' document requests on the basis that they are overbroad and burdensome.

Rule 26 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows parties to obtain discovery "regarding any matter, not privileged, that is relevant to the claim or defense of any party." Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b) (1). The relevance standard is broad in order "to encompass any matter that bears on, or that reasonably could lead to other matter that could bear on, any issue that is or may be in the case." Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 351 (1978). "The broad standard of relevance, however, is not a license for unrestricted discovery." Gucci America, Inc. v. Guess?, Inc., 790 F.Supp.2d 136, 140 (S.D.N.Y. 2011). "Rule 26 ...


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