United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER OVERRULING OBJECTIONS ,
ADOPTING DISCOVERY MASTER'S REPORT , DENYING MOTION
FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT  WITHOUT PREJUDICE, GRANTING
MOTION TO PERMIT DISCOVERY , AND REFERRING CASE TO
STEPHEN J. MURPHY, III UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
on January 10, 2014, the instant case is one of the
Court's oldest, and Plaintiffs' motion for class
certification has been pending for almost three years. The
cause of the delay is clear: Defendants have consistently
frustrated the discovery process and repeatedly flouted the
Court's discovery orders. Defendants' counsel
recently contacted the Court, however, and suggested that the
parties would benefit from mediation and settlement talks.
The Court held a status call with the parties and discussed
how to best resolve the case through mediation. The instant
order is the result. For the reasons below, the Court will
overrule Defendants' objection to the Discovery
Master's recent Report, adopt the Report, resolve two of
the parties' outstanding motions, and put the parties on
track to resolve the case with the assistance of an expert
Court's January 10, 2017 order details the class
certification and discovery issues giving rise to the
Court's re-appointment of the Discovery Master. ECF 73,
PgID 1722-24, 1727-33. A flurry of motions followed that
order, and included: Defendants' motion for partial
summary judgment as to Defendant Leon Saja under Rules 12(c)
and 56(c), ECF 74; Plaintiffs' motion to permit discovery
under Rule 56(d), ECF 77; and Defendants' motion to alter
or amend the Court's January 10, 2017 order under Rule
59(e), or to certify that order for interlocutory
appeal-presumably under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b), ECF 78.
Simultaneously, and pursuant to the Court's January 10,
2017 order, the parties timely met with the Discovery Master.
ECF 83, PgID 2086.
Court had instructed the Discovery Master to "(1)
ascertain exactly how much of discovery has been completed,
(2) supervise the exchange of the remaining discovery, (3)
detail the extent of Defendants' noncompliance with
discovery to date, (4) recommend specific Rule 37 sanctions
in light of that noncompliance, and (5) help the parties
agree" to a scheduling order and briefing schedule for
the updated motion to certify class. ECF 73, PgID 1731-32.
The Discovery Master issued a Report in which he recommended
that Defendants each supplement document production
responsive to Plaintiffs' Requests for Production, and
answers responsive to Plaintiffs' Interrogatories, and
that any failure to do so should "result in a default
and potential judgment in Plaintiffs' favor against"
each Defendant. ECF 83, PgID 2110-11. Additionally, the
Discovery Master recommended that Defendant Nationwide pay
for and "provide a third-party vendor with access to its
servers and computers to harvest data, " and that
Nationwide "must provide a certification from a
corporate representative of its diligent search" for
documents in response to several of Plaintiffs' Requests
for Production. Id. at 2011. Finally, the Discovery
Master recommended that the parties receive additional time
to complete discovery pursuant to a suggested briefing
schedule. Id. at 2109. Defendants filed timely
objections. ECF 84.
have lodged three objections to the Report: (1) discovery
matters should be put on hold until after the Court has
resolved Defendants' outstanding motion for partial
summary judgment, and motion to alter or amend the
Court's January 10, 2017 order, or to certify that order
for interlocutory appeal; (2) the Discovery Master's
recommendations as to Defendant Saja are improper; and (3)
the Discovery Master's recommendations as to Defendant
Nationwide are improper. ECF 84. When considering objections
to the Discovery Master's Report, the Court reviews
findings of fact and questions of law de novo, and rulings on
procedural matters for an abuse of discretion. Fed.R.Civ.P.
response to Defendants' first objection, Plaintiffs
contend that the Discovery Master did not abuse his
discretion "in making a recommendation on discovery
while Defendants' motions are pending." Id.
at 2250. The Court agrees. The Discovery Master did exactly
what the Court ordered, and was under no obligation to the
consider any later-filed motions that fell outside the scope
of the Court's directive.
further assert that the imposition of a stay of discovery is
improper when factual issues remain for dispositive motions.
ECF 87, PgID 2249. "Defendants should not be permitted
to evade discovery, " Plaintiffs argue, "and then
deprive Plaintiffs of the opportunity to use the information
requested in response to dispositive motions - particularly
when Defendants have already been ordered on multiple
occasions to promptly produce that information."
Id. at 2252. Essentially, this is the thrust of
Plaintiffs' earlier motion to permit discovery under Rule
56(d), and is supported by a declaration from Plaintiffs'
counsel. See ECF 77, 77-1.
56(d) allows the Court to deny an outstanding motion for
summary judgment or allow time to take discovery if the
nonmovant explains, by way of affidavit or declaration, that
it cannot present facts essential to justify its opposition.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d). While the Court has "inherent
authority to control its docket in promoting economies of
time and effort for the court, the parties, and the
parties' counsel, " Jordan v. City of
Detroit, 557 F.App'x 450, 456-57 (6th Cir. 2014)
(quotations omitted), it is crucial that a "plaintiff 
receive a full opportunity to conduct discovery to be able to
successfully defeat a motion for summary judgment."
Ball v. Union Carbide Corp., 385 F.3d 713, 719 (6th
Cir. 2004) (internal quotation marks omitted).
object to the Discovery Master's recommendation that they
produce additional discovery. Defendants claim that they have
fully supplemented their discovery requests in compliance
with the Court's orders. But there is no question that
Defendants' obstruction has prevented Plaintiffs from
receiving a full opportunity to conduct sufficient discovery
to oppose a summary judgment motion. Defendants'
discovery abuses have been well-documented by the Court's
earlier orders, and need not be reiterated here. See
ECF 50, 56, 73. Those orders, combined with the Discovery
Master's recent Report, show a pattern of willful
disobedience to the Court's orders.
Discovery Master's Report is thorough and well-reasoned,
and his recommendations are fair and measured. Defendants
have provided the Court with no factual or legal basis to
find otherwise. Accordingly, the Court will overrule
Defendants' objections, adopt the Report in full, deny
without prejudice Defendants' outstanding motion for
partial summary judgment, grant Plaintiffs' motion to
allow discovery under Rule 56(d), and refer the case to
it is hereby ORDERED that Defendants' Objection  is
OVERRULED, the Discovery Master's Report  is ADOPTED
in full, Plaintiffs' Motion to Permit Discovery  is
GRANTED, and Defendants' ...