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Aldi Inc. v. Maraccini

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

June 13, 2019

ALDI INC., Plaintiff,
v.
BRUNA MARACCINI; COLLEEN SAVORY; LIDL US, LLC; LIDL U.S. OPERATIONS, LLC; and LIDL U.S. MANAGEMENT, LLC, Defendants.

          ORDER

          JAMES A. GATES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This case comes before the court on the motion (D.E. 51) by defendants Lidl US, LLC, Lidl U.S. Operations, LLC, and Lidl U.S. Management, LLC (collectively "Lidl") to compel plaintiff ALDI Inc. ("ALDI") to produce supplemental discovery responses or, in the alternative, to strike purportedly irrelevant information from plaintiffs verified complaint and motion for injunctive relief. ALDI filed a response in opposition to the motion. See D.E. 66. At the court's direction, see 15 May 2019 Text Order, the parties filed a joint notice (D.E. 79) regarding the status of the instant motion, which narrowed the relief sought. For the reasons and on the terms set forth below, the motion will be denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         ALDI commenced this action asserting that its former employee, Bruna Maraccini ("Maraccini"), misappropriated ALDI's trade secrets in violation of a nondisclosure/confidentiality agreement when she accepted employment with one of ALDI's competitors, 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 the following claims: violation of the Defend Trade Secrets Act against all defendants (id. ¶¶ 111-22); violation of the North Carolina Trade Secrets Protection Act against Maraccini and Lidl (id. ¶¶ 123-33); violation of the Virginia Uniform Trade Secrets Act against Savory and Lidl (id. ¶¶ 134-44); breach of contract against Maraccini (id. ¶¶ 145-55); tortious interference with contractual relations against Lidl (id. ¶¶ 156-62); breach of the duty of loyalty against Savory (id. ¶¶ 163-70); violation of the North Carolina Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act against all defendants (id. ¶¶ 171-82); and conversion against all defendants (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 defendants ("TRO") (D.E. 18). The TRO enjoined defendants from "[misappropriating, 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. The CMO adopted the parties' proposed subjects for expedited discovery, as set forth in the parties' Rule 26(f) report. See CMO § LB; Rule 26(f) Rep. ¶ 3(a)l.- 13. These subjects included "[t]he extent to which Lidl used any ALDI information," (Rule 26(f) Rep. ¶ 3(a)(2)); "[identification by ALDI of information that it claims to be Confidential Information and Trade Secrets as defined in ALDI's Verified Complaint and the bases for such claims," (id. ¶ 3(a)(9)); "ALDI's means of protecting its alleged Confidential Information or Trade Secrets generally and with respect to Maraccini," (id. ¶ 3(a)(10)); and "ALDI's use and enforcement of restrictive covenants to protect its information," (id. ¶ 3(a)(12)).

         On 5 April 2019, Lidl served its First Set of Interrogatories and Requests for Production of Documents on ALDI. Lidl's Disc. Reqs. (D.E. 51-1). ALDI served responses to Lidl's discovery requests on 19 April 2019. ALDI's Disc. Resps. (D.E. 51-2). Lidl filed the instant motion on 26 April 2019 seeking to compel ALDI to supplement its responses to two document production requests, nos. 5 and 6, and two interrogatories, nos. 1 and 7, or in the alternative, to strike certain information from ALDI's complaint and motion for injunctive relief. As indicated, ALDI filed a response in opposition. In their joint notice, the parties advise that the dispute over interrogatory no. 1 has been resolved, but that the dispute over the other discovery requests continues. The joint notice does not address the status of Lidl's request for alternative relief, and the court presumes that Lidl is still pursuing such relief in its motion.

         II. APPLICABLE LEGAL PRINCIPLES

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure enable parties to obtain information by serving requests for discovery on each other, including interrogatories and 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-1 l-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. 3 June 2011))).

         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 waived, ...


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