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Burroughs Diesel, Inc. v. Baker Petrolite, LLC

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Eastern Division

December 11, 2018

BURROUGHS DIESEL, INC. PLAINTIFF
v.
BAKER PETROLITE, LLC, et al. DEFENDANTS

          ORDER

          Michael T. Parker United States Magistrate Judge

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion [71] to Compel Discovery against Defendants, Baker Petrolite and Baker Hughes.[1] Having considered the parties' submissions, the Court finds that Motion to Compel [71] should be granted in part and denied in part.

         This action arises out of the alleged failure of a tank, owned by Defendants, on October 14, 2016 that contained hydrochloric acid. The acid allegedly traveled through the air and damaged Plaintiff's real and personal property.

         On August 16, 2018, Plaintiff served interrogatories and requests for production of documents on Defendants. See Notices [41], [42], [43], [44]. On August 31, 2018, Defendant Baker Petrolite filed its discovery responses. See Notices [47], [48]. On October 1, 2018, Defendant Baker Hughes Oilfield Operations filed its discovery responses. See Notices [49], [50].

         The Court held a conference with the parties on October 30, 2018 to discuss several discovery disputes. After the parties were unable to agree on all the issues, Plaintiff filed the instant Motion.

         The Court applies the standard set forth in Federal Rule of Civil 26(b)(1) which allows for discovery of material that is proportional to the case and non-privileged. “The party seeking discovery bears the burden of showing its necessity.” Freeman v. United States, 556 F.3d 326, 341 (5th Cir. 2009). Discovery is “to be accorded a broad and liberal treatment to effect [its] purposes of adequately informing litigants in civil trials.” Herbert v. Lando, 441 U.S. 153, 176 (1979). “At some point, however, discovery yields diminishing returns, needlessly increases expenses, and delays the resolution of the parties' dispute.” Willis v. City of Hattiesburg, 2016 WL 918038, at *2 (S.D.Miss. Mar. 10, 2016). Discovery disputes are left to the discretion of the trial court. Freeman, 556 F.3d at 341. Having carefully considered the Motion, the Court rules as follows:

         Interrogatory No. 7

Interrogatory No. 7: Please identify all ruptures of tanks containing hydrochloric acid in tanks owned by Baker Petrolite or Baker Hughes for the last ten (10) years, and identify specifically the location, cause of the rupture of the tank, amount of acid spilled, and reference all claims for damages or civil actions arising from the rupture of the acid spill.

         This information is relevant to the claims at issue, but the request is far too broad. Defendants have already answered this interrogatory regarding all ruptured tanks owned by Baker and manufactured by Poly Processing within the past five years in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama. Plaintiff also requests this information regarding Texas.

         The request will be granted in part. Defendants shall identify any such ruptures of tanks for a five-year period, from the date suit was filed, in Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, and Texas which have resulted in the filing of a lawsuit. For any such lawsuit filed, Defendants shall provide the names of the parties, identify the court where the suit was filed, and the cause number. The Motion to Compel as to Interrogatory No. 7 is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART as set forth above.

         Interrogatory No. 11

Interrogatory No. 11: Please state the company or individuals that you purchased hydrochloric acid from for the five (5) years prior to the subject spill on October 14, 2016, identify the person or entity who filled the tank and at what pneumatic pressure by which the tank was filled, and list the persons or entities who utilized or purchased hydrochloric acid withdrawn from the subject tank within this five (5) year period.

         Plaintiff concedes that Defendants have already provided records pertaining to the filling of the tank for the past five years. The only issue remaining is records regarding the identity of the purchasers and how much hydrochloric acid was purchased.

         Defendants assert that the transfer of acid from the tank at issue to the intermediary tank, from which the acid was actually sold, was not recorded, and records of customer purchases from the intermediary tank will not aid the Plaintiff in calculating how much acid was in the tank at issue when the alleged failure occurred. Mem. [76] at 4-5. The Court finds that this information would not be relevant to the claims and defenses considering that the acid that was sold was drawn from an intermediary tank and not the tank at issue. The burden of producing this information outweighs any likely benefit.[2] The Motion to Compel as to Interrogatory No. 11 is DENIED.

         Interrogatory No. 16

Interrogatory No. 16: Please provide a list containing the model number, year manufactured and serial number of any and all storage tanks which you have previously purchased from Poly Processing Company, LLC on any storage facility owned by Baker Petrolite and Baker Hughes, identify each tank which has cracked, ruptured, or leaked, and give dates, locations and cause of the cracks, ruptures, or leaks.

         Plaintiff states in its Motion that it would limit the scope of this interrogatory to the past five (5) years within the states Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, and Texas. Mot. [71] at 4. Defendants have already provided this information regarding tanks in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama, but they object to providing the information from Texas. Defendants shall provide this information regarding any such tanks which are the subject of any lawsuit identified in Interrogatory No. 7. The Motion to Compel as to Interrogatory No. 16 is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART as set forth above.

         Request for Production No. 3

Request for Production No. 3: Please produce all documentation of any type or sort relating to purchase of tanks from Poly Processing Company, LLC (“Poly Processing”) or any other manufacturer for storage of hydrochloric acid for the last ten (10) years, including all documents relating to any of the tanks that have cracked or ruptured, the specific reasons for any cracking or rupture, the amount of acid leaked or spilled, and reference all civil actions by entities or persons alleging damages from the acid spill(s).

         Plaintiff states in in its Motion that it would limit the scope of this request to the past five (5) years, from the date of the rupture, within the states of Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, and Texas. Mot. [71] at 5. Defendants have provided this information regarding tanks in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama from 2011-2016. See Resp. [75] Ex. D. Defendants shall produce this information for the five years prior to filing suit for any tank manufactured by or purchased from Poly Processing that resulted in litigation in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, or Texas. The Motion to Compel as to Request for Production No. 3 is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         Request for ...


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