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United States ex rel Barko v. Halliburton Co.

October 14, 2010

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA EX REL. HARRY BARKO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
HALLIBURTON COMPANY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Emmet G. Sullivan United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Pending before the Court are two motions for protective orders filed by defendants in response to discovery requests made by plaintiff Harry Barko. The first motion was jointly filed by defendants Halliburton Company, Kellogg Brown and Root, Inc., Kellogg Brown & Root Services, Inc., KBR Technical Services Inc., Kellogg Brown & Root Engineering Corporation, Kellogg Brown & Root International, Inc. (a Delaware Corporation), and Kellogg Brown & Root International, Inc. (a Panamanian Corporation) (collectively, the "KBR defendants"). A separate motion for a protective order was filed by defendant Daoud & Partners, Ltd. ("Daoud"). Upon consideration of defendants' motions, the responses and replies thereto, the applicable law, and the entire record herein, and for the following reasons, the Court hereby GRANTS the KBR defendants' motion for a protective order, and GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART Daoud's motion for a protective order.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed this qui tam action in June 2005 against the KBR defendants, Daoud, and another defendant. Plaintiff, who was a contract administrator for one of the defendants, alleges that defendants used a subcontracting procedure that inflated the costs of constructing laundry facilities and services on military bases in Iraq.

The KBR defendants and Daoud filed separate motions to dismiss the plaintiff's complaint. The KBR defendants' motion to dismiss asserts no jurisdictional defenses; they argue the case should be dismissed for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 12(b)(6) and for failure to plead fraud with particularity under Rule 9(b). Daoud's motion to dismiss, on the other hand, argues that the Court lacks personal jurisdiction over it. In response, the Court entered an Order on June 17, 2010 permitting limited jurisdictional discovery. After the Court entered the June 17, 2010 Order, plaintiff served document requests on both Daoud and the KBR defendants. In addition, he noticed a Rule 30(b)(6) deposition of Daoud, as well as a Rule 30(b)(6) deposition of the KBR defendants. The defendants filed their motions for protective orders shortly thereafter.

II. ANALYSIS

The KBR defendants' motion for a protective order seeks an order stating that the KBR defendants shall not be required to answer any discovery requests or appear for any depositions until further order of the Court. It argues that (i) the Court only authorized limited jurisdictional discovery against Daoud, not the KBR defendants, and (ii) the requests are unreasonable, duplicative, unduly burdensome, and cover topics related to the merits of the case rather than jurisdictional issues. Daoud's motion for a protective order objects only to the deposition noticed by plaintiff. Daoud asks that the Court order that the deposition of Daoud's Rule 30(b)(6) witness take place in Amman, Jordan rather than Washington, DC. In addition, Daoud argues that the topics noticed by the plaintiff are overbroad and irrelevant to the question of jurisdiction. The motions filed by the KBR defendants and Daoud are now addressed in turn.

A. The KBR Defendants' Motion for a Protective Order

The KBR defendants' primary argument is that the Court's June 17th Order only authorized the plaintiff to obtain discovery from Daoud, the party that raised a jurisdictional defense, not the KBR defendants. Plaintiff disputes the KBR defendants' interpretation of the Court's July 17th Order, arguing that Court "did not place any explicit limits as to which parties are subject to the discovery." Pl.'s Opp'n to KBR Defs.' Mot. at 10. For the following reasons, the Court finds plaintiff's interpretation unpersuasive.

The Court's July 17, 2010 Order states, in part, as follows:

Upon consideration of defendant Daoud's motion to dismiss, response and reply thereto, and substantially for the reasons stated by plaintiff, the Court finds that jurisdictional discovery is appropriate. Jurisdictional discovery is limited to three depositions and a request for production of documents. . . . The parties are directed to file a joint status report, including a recommendation for further proceedings, by no later than August 15, 2010.

In the event that counsel are unable to agree on a joint recommendation, each party shall file an individual recommendation by that time.

The language of the July 17th Order makes it clear that the Court's grant of limited jurisdictional discovery was intended to allow plaintiff to seek discovery only against Daoud. In particular, the Court prefaced the sentence granting jurisdictional discovery with the language "[u]pon consideration of defendant Daoud's motion to dismiss" and limited the plaintiff to one document request.

Nor has plaintiff provided any persuasive reason why jurisdictional discovery against the KBR defendants, particularly in the form of broadly worded requests relating to another defendant, is warranted under these circumstances. A plaintiff who is permitted to conduct jurisdictional discovery is entitled to "precisely focused discovery aimed at addressing matters relating to personal ...


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