United States District Court, D. Alaska
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ex rel. BEN FERRIS, Plaintiff,
AFOGNAK NATIVE CORPORATION and ALUTIIQ, LLC, Defendants.
ORDER MOTION FOR A PROTECTIVE ORDER
Russel Holland United States District Judge.
moves for a protective order quashing
defendants' first set of requests for admissions. This
motion is opposed. Oral argument was not requested and is not
April 11, 2008, defendants served relator with their first
set of requests for admissions, which consisted of 537
requests. The RFAs consist of two parts. The first
part consists of twenty-two RFAs which seek to identify the
scope of relator's claims generally. The second part
consists of seventeen sections, with each section being
devoted to a particular 8(a) subsidiary (the sixteen 8(a)
subsidiaries relator alleges are shams and the one 8(a)
subsidiary that relator allegedly has admitted was not a
sham). Each of the seventeen sections contains approximately
30 RFAs. The RFAs in each section are largely identical.
Defendant Alutiiq LLC also served relator with its third set
of interrogatories, which includes Interrogatory No.
Interrogatory No. 20 asks: “If your response to any of
Defendants' First Set of Requests for Admissions is
anything other than an unconditional admission, state the
reason for denying the request and identify all facts,
witnesses, and documents that support that
now moves for a protective order quashing the requests for
admission and Interrogatory No. 20.
have the power to issue protective orders in the discovery
process in order ‘to protect a party or person from
annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or
expense.'” Byard v. City and County of San
Francisco, 16-cv-00691-WHA (DMR), 2017 WL 988497, at *1
(N.D. Cal. March 15, 2017) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c)(1)).
“Generally, a party seeking a protective order has a
‘heavy burden' to show why discovery should be
denied. . . .” Sequoia Property v. United
States, 203 F.R.D. 447, 451 (E.D. Cal. 2001) (quoting
Blankenship v. Hearst Corp., 519 F.2d 418, 429 (9th
36, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides:
A party may serve on any other party a written request to
admit, for purposes of the pending action only, the truth of
any matters within the scope of Rule 26(b)(1) relating to:
(A) facts, the application of law to fact, or opinions about
(B) the genuineness of any described documents.
are sought, first, to facilitate proof with respect to issues
that cannot be eliminated from the case and, second, to
narrow the issues by eliminating those that can be.”
Conlon v. United States, 474 F.3d 616, 622 (9th Cir.
2007). “The rule is not to be used in an effort to
‘harass the other side' or in the hope that a
party's adversary will simply concede essential
elements.” Id. (quoting Perez v.
Miami-Dade County, 297 F.3d 1255, 1268 (11th Cir.
2002)). “Rather, the rule seeks to serve two important
goals: truth-seeking in litigation and efficiency in
dispensing justice.” Id. “[R]equests for
admission should not be used to establish facts which are
obviously in dispute, to demand that the other party admit
the truth of a legal conclusion, even if the conclusion is
attached to operative facts, or to ask the party to admit
facts of which he or she has no special knowledge.”
Tuvalu v. Woodford, No. CIV S-04-1724 DFL KJM P,
2006 WL 3201096, at *7 (E.D. Cal. Nov. 2, 2006) (internal
relator argues that the sheer number of RFAs that defendants
have propounded is oppressive and unduly burdensome. However,
“courts do not readily grant protective orders against
an entire set of discovery requests on the grounds that the
number of requests is excessive.” Jones v.
Skolnik, No. 3:10-cv-00162-LRH, 2014 WL 2625000, at *2
(D. Nev. June 12, 2014). “Like all discovery, Requests
for Admissions . . . are bound by the scope of Rule 26
requiring discovery to be relevant and proportional to the
needs of the case.” Blanton v. Torrey Pines
Property Mgmt., Inc., No. 15-CV-0892 W (NLS), 2017 WL
2291752, at *3 (S.D. Cal. May 24, 2017). The factors the
court considers in determining whether a discovery request is
proportional are 1) “the importance of the issues at
stake in the action, ” 2) “the amount in
controversy, ” 3) “the parties' relative
access to relevant information, ” 4) “the
parties' resources, ” 5) “the importance of
the discovery in resolving the issues, ” and 6)
“whether the burden or expense of the proposed
discovery outweighs its likely benefit.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
case involves fraud on the government, which is an important
issue, and relator contends there are billions of dollars at
stake. Only relator has access to the information that
defendants seek because only he knows whether he plans to
dispute certain facts. Relator has the resources to respond
to the RFAs given that he has a number of lawyers
representing him. And, the expense or burden of responding to
these RFAs will not outweigh the likely benefit because
relator's responses will help the parties determine what
facts are actually in dispute. While “[r]equests to
admit should not be excessive in number and, obviously,
should be tailored in a manner and scope to avoid harassment
and improper motive[, ]” Tamas v. Family Video
Movie Club, Inc.,301 F.R.D. 346, 347 (N.D. Ill. 2014),
the number of RFAs that defendants have propounded is not
excessive, given the nature of this case. Relator has put
sixteen of defendants' 8(a) subsidiaries at issue and has
alleged a fraudulent scheme involving those sixteen entities
that spans several years and that has allegedly resulted in
the government being ...