United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
R. Grand Mag. Judge.
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S OBJECTIONS
 TO MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO
COMPEL PRODUCTION OF SETTLEMENT AGREEMENTS BETWEEN PLAINTIFF
AND CLEAR IMAGING, LLC AND HORIZON IMAGING, LLC
E. LEVY United States District Judge.
Court referred defendant Joseph F. DeSanto's September
16, 2016 motion to compel (Dkt. 141) to the Magistrate Judge.
Defendant DeSanto's motion sought the production of
settlement agreements executed between plaintiff State Farm
Mutual Automobile Ins. Co. and former defendants Clear
Imaging, LLC and Horizon Imaging, LLC, which were dismissed
from the case on April 1, 2016, pursuant to a stipulated
order among the settling parties. (Dkt. 134.) The Magistrate
Judge granted defendant DeSanto's motion to compel (Dkt.
155), and plaintiff filed the objections at issue here on
November 11, 2016. (Dkt. 157.) For the reasons set forth
below, plaintiffs objections are denied, and the Magistrate
Judge's order stands.
Court has reviewed and adopts the background as described in
the Magistrate Judge's opinion and order (Dkt. 155), in
addition to what is written below.
reached a settlement with defendants Clear Imaging and
Horizon Imaging on March 21, 2016, and a stipulated order
dismissing the claims as to those defendants was entered on
April 1, 2016. (Dkt. 157 at 5; see Dkt. 134.) On May
13, 2016, defendant DeSanto served plaintiff with a discovery
request seeking "all settlement agreements, and related
documents, entered into between [plaintiff] and any
[d]efendant(s) in this matter." (Dkt. 157 at 5;
see Dkt. 141.)
objected to the request and thus did not produce the
documents, so defendant DeSanto filed a motion to compel,
seeking the Clear Imaging and Horizon Imaging settlement
agreements with plaintiff. (Dkt. 141.) Defendant DeSanto argued
that the agreements are non-privileged and relevant, and thus
discoverable, because they may bias the testimony of multiple
key witnesses, and also because they will help defendant
DeSanto calculate potential liability. (Dkt. 141 at 14-17.)
The Magistrate Judge granted the motion to compel, finding
that the settlement agreements are relevant to possible
witness bias and to potential liability or damages, and
declining to review them in camera. (Dkt. 155 at
filed objections, arguing that the Magistrate Judge's
decision is clearly erroneous and contrary to law. (Dkt.
157.) According to plaintiff, the settlement agreements are
irrelevant to the question of bias, because neither the
witnesses whose testimony is at issue nor their counsel were
at all involved in crafting or signing the agreements.
(Id. at 10-13.) Plaintiff also argues that the
agreements are only relevant to ongoing parallel state court
litigation, in which the receivables from Clear Imaging and
Horizon Imaging are at issue. (Id. at 13-14.)
also argues that the Magistrate Judge's decision not to
conduct an in camera review of the settlement
agreements is contrary to law. Plaintiff cites cases in which
"a court exercised its discretion in conducting in
camera inspections of discovery documents for
relevance." (Id. at 14-15.)
magistrate judge's nondispositive order is reviewed for
clear error. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) ("A judge of
the court may reconsider any [nondispositive] pretrial matter
. . . where it has been shown that the magistrate judge's
order is clearly erroneous or contrary to law.");
see Vogel v. U.S. Office Prods. Co., 258 F.3d 509,
515 (6th Cir. 2001). A magistrate judge's decision is
clearly erroneous "when although there is evidence to
support it, the reviewing court on the entire evidence is
left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has
been committed." United States v. U.S. Gypsum
Co., 333 U.S. 364, 395 (1948).
terms of a settlement agreement, even when marked
confidential, are not protected from discovery by privilege.
State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Physiomatrix,
Inc., No. 12-cv-11500, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 184665, at
*4-5 (E.D. Mich. Apr. 24, 2014) (citing Goodyear Tire
& Rubber Co. v. Chiles Power Supply, Inc., 332 F.3d
976, 981 (6th Cir. 2003)). The only constraint is whether,
under Ruled 26 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the
material "is relevant to any party's claim or
defense and proportional to the needs of the case."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1); see Physiomatrix, Inc., 2014
U.S. Dist. LEXIS 184665, at *2.
argues that the Magistrate Judge committed clear error by
finding that the agreements are relevant, because the
witnesses whose testimony is at issue and their counsel did
not participate in ...