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Cooper v. Meritor, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Greenville Division

May 31, 2018

BRENDA J. COOPER, et al. PLAINTIFFS
v.
MERITOR, INC., et al. DEFENDANTS

          ORDER

          DEBRA M. BROWN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         These consolidated actions are before the Court for consideration of “Partial Objection of Defendants Meritor Inc., Rockwell Automation, Inc. and the Boeing Company to the Magistrate Judge's Ruling (Doc. #526) and Appeal to the District Court.” Doc. #530.

         I Factual and Procedural History

         A. Complaint and Consolidation

         On March 16, 2016, Brenda Cooper, Sylvia Caffey, Margaret Odems, Bernice Richardson, Dora Ward, Rosie Brady, Pearl Seldon, Betty Phillips, Alice Crumley, and Sylvia Cunningham filed a complaint in this Court against Rockwell International Corporation and the Randall Division of Textron, Inc. Doc. #1. On June 30, 2016, the case was consolidated with four member cases: No. 4:16-cv-53, No. 4:16-cv-54, No. 4:16-cv-55, and No. 4:16-cv-56. Doc. #41. The day after consolidation, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint against Meritor, Inc., Rockwell Automation Inc., The Boeing Company, and Textron, Inc. Doc. #43.

         In the amended complaint, the plaintiffs, residents or former residents of Grenada County, Mississippi, seek to recover for injuries to their homes and property caused by a manufacturing plant located in Grenada, Mississippi. The plaintiffs allege that they “are residents or former residents of a neighborhood adjacent” to the manufacturing plant, specifically the “Eastern Heights” neighborhood, and that the plant was operated by: (1) Rockwell International Corporation, the predecessor to Rockwell Automation, Inc., which itself is a predecessor to The Boeing Company, from 1965 until 1985; and (2) Randall Wheel Trim, a subsidiary of Textron, Inc., from 1985 until the present. Doc. #43 at 1-6, 9. The plaintiffs further allege that the plant, which was used to manufacture chrome-plated wheel covers, utilized numerous chemicals, including hexavalent chromium and trichloroethylene (“TCE”), and that these chemicals were illegally placed into the environment, including the air and groundwater, with the defendants concealing such disposal. The plaintiffs assert six claims arising from the allegedly wrongful acts: (1) Fraud and Fraudulent Concealment (Count I); (2) Civil Conspiracy (Count II); (3) Negligence (Count III); (4) Nuisance (Count IV); (5) Trespass (Count V); and (6) Intentional and/or Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress (Count VI). Subsequently, the parties stipulated to the dismissal of Count I and Count II. Doc. #174.

         B. Initial Discovery

         On August 19, 2016, United States Magistrate Judge Jane M. Virden issued a case management order which set: (1) the discovery deadline as November 29, 2017; (2) the amendment deadline as October 20, 2016; (3) the plaintiffs' expert designation deadline as April 28, 2017; (4) the defendants' expert designation deadline as July 28, 2017; and (4) the dispositive motions deadline as December 29, 2017. Doc. #83. Later, Judge Virden, acting on motion of the defendants, extended the defendants' expert designation deadline until August 18, 2017. Doc. #263.

         On June 21, 2017, the plaintiffs issued a subpoena to T&M Associates, Inc., an environmental firm which has contracted with Meritor for a number of years. Doc. #498-4. The subpoena sought seven categories of documents:

1. All documents you provided to Textron, Meritor, Arvin Meritor, Rockwell Automation and Boeing Automation and any of their agents or attorneys between January 1, 2015 and the date of your response.
2. All documents you have in your possession that relate to environmental investigations, studies, testing, planning or similar work performed at or in the vicinity of the Grenada Plant, specifically including the Eastern Heights neighborhood and any known or suspected waste disposal areas located along or near Moose Lodge Road.
3. All correspondence, including electronic mail or other electronic communications of any sort, that you have concerning environmental investigations, studies, testing, planning or similar work performed at or in the vicinity of the Grenada Plant, between you and the following:
Phillip Sykes
Trudy Fisher
Lea Ann Smith
William Smith
Peter Farrell
Barber Boone
James Palmer
Any person with the firm Butler Snow
Any person with the firm Balch Bingham
Any person with the firm Kirkland Ellis
4. All correspondence in connection with this subpoena.
5. All correspondence between you (including anyone on your behalf) and the U.S. EPA related in any way to the Grenada Plant, known or suspected waste disposal sites along Moose Lodge Road, or the Eastern Heights subdivision in Grenada County, Mississippi.
6. All correspondence between you (including anyone on your behalf) and the MS DEQ related in any way to the Grenada Plant, known or suspected waste disposal sites along Moose Lodge Road, or the Eastern Heights subdivision in Grenada County, Mississippi.
7. Any reports prepared, whether in final or draft form, related to contamination originating from the Grenada Plant or any known or suspected waste disposal sites along Moose ...

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