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Eagle Air Med Corp. v. Sentinel Air Medical Alliance

United States District Court, D. Nevada

May 8, 2019

EAGLE AIR MED CORPORATION, et al., Plaintiffs,


         Presently before the court is plaintiffs Eagle Air Med Corporation (“Eagle Air Med”) and Valley Med Flight Inc.'s (“Valley Med”) (collectively “plaintiffs”) objection to Magistrate Judge Peggy A. Leen's orders. (ECF No. 19). Defendants Sentinel Air Medical Alliance and Jeffrey Frazier (collectively “defendants”) did not file a response and the time to do so has passed.

         I. Facts

         This is a miscellaneous action that is related to litigation in Utah in which plaintiffs allege that defendants made false and defamatory statements about plaintiffs' air ambulance services. (ECF No. 19). In brief terms, defendants allegedly told plaintiffs' customers that plaintiffs charges were “egregious” “in comparison to charges by other providers.” Id.

         Through the course of discovery, plaintiffs learned that defendants' statements were based on rate quotes defendants obtained from competing providers or from Milan Floribus at AC Global Medical Transports (“AC Global”). Id. To prove that the statements were false, which is an element of plaintiffs' claims, plaintiffs deposed AC Global. Id. Floribus voluntarily appeared for the deposition but refused to provide the identities of the air ambulance providers from whom he obtained rate quotes. Id.

         Plaintiffs then initiated this miscellaneous action and file a motion to compel further deposition testimony from AC Global regarding its sources for rate quotes. Id. The magistrate judge denied plaintiffs' motion, holding that plaintiffs' requested discovery was not relevant and proportional to the Utah litigation. Id. Plaintiffs filed a motion for reconsideration, which the magistrate judge also denied. Id. Now, plaintiffs have objected to the magistrate judge's orders and request the court to grant the discovery that plaintiffs seek. Id.

         II. Legal Standard

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(a), aggrieved parties may file objections to the rulings of a magistrate judge in non-dispositive matters. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a). For a party to prevail on an objection pursuant to Rule 72(a) the movant must show that “the magistrate judge's order is clearly erroneous or contrary to law.” LR IB 3-1(a); 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A). Under this standard, courts review factual determinations for clear error and legal conclusions de novo. United States v. McConney, 728 F.2d 1195, 1200-1201 (9th Cir. 1984) (overruled on other grounds by Estate of Merchant v. CIR, 947 F.2d 1390 (9th Cir. 1991)

         III. Discussion

         The magistrate judge denied plaintiffs' motion to compel on three grounds: (1) the discovery was not relevant and proportional; (2) the motion was incomplete or otherwise deficient; and (3) the court does not have personal jurisdiction over Floribus and AC Global. (ECF No. 10). The court addresses each in turn.

         a. Relevance and proportionality

         “Parties may obtain discovery regarding any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). “[T]he scope of permissible discovery under Rule 26 is ‘broad.'” Republic of Ecuador v. Mackay, 742 F.3d 860, 866 (9th Cir. 2014) (quoting Shoen v. Shoen, 5 F.3d 1289, 1292 (9th Cir. 1993)). “Information within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). “A party or any person from whom discovery is sought may move for a protective order in the court” on the grounds of “annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or under burden or expense.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c).

         The discovery that plaintiffs seek is relevant because they are inquiring about an essential element of their claims for defamation, false light, and tortious interference-the falsity of defendants' and AC Global's statements regarding plaintiffs' charges for air ambulance services. See (ECF No. 19). Deposing AC Global and Floribus is also proportionate to the needs of the case because AC Global has admitted that it did not retain any documents pertaining to the truth of its statements. Id. Moreover, the cost of the proposed discovery is de minimis because plaintiffs are willing to travel to a convenient location within a few miles of Floribus' home. Id.

         b. Motion was incomplete or otherwise deficient

         The magistrate judge held that the plaintiffs' motion was deficient on two grounds: (1) plaintiffs did not properly support their motion with points and authorities and (2) plaintiffs did not properly serve a deposition notice and subpoena on AC Global. (ECF No. 10). A cursory review of the motion shows that the magistrate judge's findings were clearly erroneous. ...

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