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Carhartt, Inc. v. Innovative Textiles, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

October 28, 2019

CARHARTT, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
INNOVATIVE TEXTILES, INC., Defendant / Third Party Plaintiff,
v.
GENTRY MILLS, INC., Third Party Defendant.

          District Judge Judith E. Levy

          OPINION AND ORDER

          R. STEVEN WHALEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Before the Court are Defendant / Third Party Plaintiff Innovative Textiles, Inc.'s (“ITI's”) Motion to Compel Discovery Regarding Communications Exchanged Between and Information Considered by Carhartt's Four-Person “Product Notification” Team [ECF No. 98] and its Amended Motion to Compel [ECF No. 109].[1] Following an in camera review of the documents in question, and for the reasons discussed below, the motions will be DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Carhartt is a Dearborn, Michigan based clothing company that markets a line of flame-resistant garments. Beginning in 2009, ITI supplied Carhartt with flame-resistant fabric. Carhartt alleges that around June of 2016, its internal testing revealed that ITI's fabrics “did not satisfy the standards they were required to satisfy...and did not live up to the representations that [it] had made about the fabrics.” Complaint, ECF No. 1, PageID.11. As a result, Carhartt recalled products containing the allegedly non-conforming (i.e., defective) fabric, and seeks damages associated with the recall.

         At issue in these motions is Carhartt's decision to recall products containing the allegedly defective fabric, and internal communications among Carhartt personnel preceding that decision. Ultimately, four people participated in the decision to recall products: William Hardy, Jeffrey Hicks, Joe Don Long, and Anna Inch. Ms. Inch was Carhartt's in-house counsel. Mr. Hardy, a senior vice-president, testified as follows at his deposition:

Q: Okay. Who at Carhartt made the final decision to issue the product notification?
A: The final decision was made by a collective group of us, there was three or four primary people involved in that....Yeah, so it was a collective decision. Jeff, amongst myself and our Linda Hubbard and Joe Don Long and our inside counsel, we had extensive meetings together, and spent a lot of time evaluating the information that we had.
Q: Was everyone in that group in agreement on the decision to issue the product notification?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: Okay. So there wasn't one final person that made the decision?
A: No, we collectively all came to the agreement, what we needed to do.

Deposition of William Hardy, ITI' Exhibit 3, ECF No. 109-4, PageID.5023-5024; Carhartt Exhibit 2, ECF 126-3, PageID.5508.

         Joe Don Long, formerly Carhartt's Director of Quality for Raw Materials testified similarly that four individuals participated in the ...


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