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ALDI Inc. v. Maraccini

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division

May 14, 2019

ALDI INC., Plaintiff,


          James E. Gate United States Magistrate Judge.

         This case comes before the court on the motion (D.E. 59) by plaintiff ALDI Inc. ("ALDI") to compel defendant Bruna Maraccini ("Maraccini") to produce supplemental discovery responses. Maraccini filed a response in opposition to the motion. See D.E. 75. ALDI filed a supplemental emergency motion (D.E. 71), which narrowed the relief sought in its initial motion to compel. For the reasons and on the terms set forth below, the motions will be allowed in part and denied in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         ALDI commenced this action asserting that its former employee, Maraccini, misappropriated ALDI's trade secrets in violation of a nondisclosure/confidentiality agreement when she accepted employment with one of ALDI's competitors, defendants Lidl US, LLC, Lidl U.S. Operations, LLC, and Lidl U.S. Management, LLC (collectively "Lidl"). See generally Compl (D.E. 1) 1-2. In addition, ALDI alleges that Maraccini retained ALDI's confidential, proprietary, and/or trade secret information notwithstanding an agreement to return such property to ALDI and enlisted other ALDI employees to obtain ALDI's confidential information for Lidl's use and benefit. Id. at 2(b), (c).

         In its complaint, ALDI asserts claims against Maraccini for Defend Trade Secrets Act violations (id. ¶¶ 111-22); North Carolina Trade Secrets Protection Act violations (id. ¶¶ 123-33); breach of contract (id. ¶¶ 145-55); North Carolina Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act violations (id. ¶¶ 171-82); and conversion (id. ¶¶ 183-87).

         On 5 March 2019, this court allowed ALDI's motion for preservation of documents, software, and things, and entered a temporary restraining order against Maraccini and the other defendants ("TRO") (D.E. 18). TheTRO enjoined defendants from "[m]isappropriating, using, or disclosing to any person or entity ALDI's Confidential Information and Trade Secrets; and . . . possessing any original, copies or summaries of ALDI's Confidential Information and Trade Secrets in any form, electronic or otherwise." TRO 4 ¶ 2. The TRO was to remain in effect for 14 days (id. at 5 ¶ 4), but was extended in duration on 18 March 2019 until further order of the court (see D.E. 38 at 2).

         The court entered a case management order ("CMO") (D.E. 46) on 2 April 2019. The CMO provides for expedited discovery on certain topics in advance of preliminary injunction proceedings. CMO §I.B. The CMO permitted each party to serve up to 15 requests for production of documents and up to 10 interrogatories by 5 April 2019, with responses to each being due within 14 days of service. Id. § I.C, D.

         On 5 April 2019, ALDI served its Amended First Set of Interrogatories and Amended First set of Requests for Production of Documents on Maraccini. Disc. Reqs. (D.E. 59-1). Maraccini served responses to ALDI's discovery requests on 16 April 2019. Maraccini Disc. Resps. (D.E. 59-2). ALDI filed its initial motion to compel on 27 April 2019 seeking to compel Maraccini to supplement her responses to three interrogatories and seven document requests. As indicated, Maraccini filed a response in opposition. In its supplemental emergency motion, filed 8 May 2019, ALDI has limited its request for relief to two interrogatories, nos. 8 and 9, and one document request, no. 1. At a telephone status conference on 8 May 2019 (see D.E. 76), the court confirmed that Maraccini was not going to respond separately to ALDI's emergency motion, but would rely on the arguments set forth in her response to the initial motion to compel.


         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure enable parties to obtain information by serving requests for discovery on each other, including requests for production of documents. See generally Fed. R. Civ. P. 26-37. Rule 26 provides for a broad scope of discovery:

Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case, considering the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties' relative access to relevant information, the parties' resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit. Information within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1).

         The district court has broad discretion in determining relevance for discovery purposes. Seaside Farm, Inc. v. United States, 842 F.3d 853, 860 (4th Cir. 2016); Watson v. Lowcountry Red Cross, 974 F.2d 482, 489 (4th Cir. 1992). The party resisting discovery bears the burden of establishing the legitimacy of its objections. Eramo v. Rolling Stone LLC, 314 F.R.D. 205, 209 (W.D. Va. 2016) ("[T]he party or person resisting discovery, not the party moving to compel discovery, bears the burden of persuasion." (quoting Kinetic Concepts, Inc. v. ConvaTec Inc., 268 F.R.D. 226, 243 (M.D. N.C. 2010))); Brey Corp. v. LQ Mgmt., L.L.C., No. AW-11-cv-00718-AW, 2012 WL 3127023, at *4 (D. Md. 26 Jul. 2012) ("In order to limit the scope of discovery, the 'party resisting discovery bears the burden of showing why [the discovery requests] should not be granted.'" (quoting Clere v. GC Servs., L.P., No. 3:10-cv-00795, 2011 WL 2181176, at *2 (S.D. W.Va.3June2011))).

         Rule 33 governs interrogatories. Fed.R.Civ.P. 33. It requires that a party served with interrogatories answer each fully under oath to the extent that the party does not object to the interrogatory. Id. (b)(3). Objections not made timely are ...

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