Federal court refuses to compel defendant to produce documents from foreign manufacturer which defendant had no control on nor practical ability to reach

BridgeportCourthouse%28sm%29[1]There is no duty to produce documents on which defendant does not any legal entitlement nor any practical ability to reach. Grayson v. GE, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 44325 (D. Conn. Apr. 1, 2016).

In a putative class action, Plaintiffs sued General Electric’s (“GE”) claiming that certain models of microwave (branded GE) defectively designed or manufactured, causing their glass doors to spontaneously shatter. The microwaves were manufactured by Samsung Electrics Co., Ltd. (“Samsung Korea”).

The Plaintiffs moves to compel GE to produce, among others, “[d]ocuments in Samsung Korea’s possession relating to the design and manufacture of the microwaves” pursuant to Rule 37 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

The court highlights how “a party is not obliged to produce … documents that it does not possess or cannot obtain.” (Shcherbakovskiy v. Da Capo Al Fine, Ltd., 490 F.3d 130 (2d Cir. N.Y. 2007) and that a “party “controls documents that it has the right, authority, or ability to obtain upon demand.” Scott v. Arex, Inc., 124 F.R.D. 39 (D. Conn. 1989)

In this case “Samsung Korea’s documents are not in … possession, custody, or control” of the defendant. Indeed, finds the Court, “[t]he relationship between GE and Samsung Korea does not evidence GE’s legal entitlement to the documents”. GE and Samsung Korea “are completely different entities; GE is not a parent of Samsung Korea, and does not have any ownership interest in it”. Also, GE has no “a practical ability to obtain the documents from Samsung Korea.”

Grayson v. GE, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 44325 (D. Conn. Apr. 1, 2016) is available with Lexis Nexis subscription here.

For more information, Francesca Giannoni-Crystal.