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United States v. Honeywell Int'l, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Columbia

December 9, 2013

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
HONEYWELL INTERNATIONAL, INC., Defendant

For UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff: Albert Thomas Morris, LEAD ATTORNEY, Alicia J. Bentley, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, DC; Jennifer Lynn Chorpening, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Commercial Litigation - Civil Frauds, Washington, DC.

For HONEYWELL INTERNATIONAL, INC., Defendant: Craig S. Primis, Eugene Frank Assaf, Jr., LEAD ATTORNEYS, Daniel A. Bress, KIRKLAND & ELLIS LLP, Washington, DC; Janakan L. Thiagarajah, Laura Marie Cullen, KIRKLAND & ELLIS LLP, New York, NY; Jennifer Walsh Cowen, KIRKLAND & ELLIS LLP, Chicago, IL.

Page 130

MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

RICHARD W. ROBERTS, Chief United States District Judge.

The government filed a complaint against defendant Honeywell International, Inc., alleging violations of the False Claims Act (" FCA" ), 31 U.S.C. § § 3729-33, as well as a common law unjust enrichment claim in connection with the sale of Zylon body armor shields. The government moved to stay discovery pending resolution of partial summary judgment cross motions in two pending related cases -- United States ex rel. Westrick v. Second Chance Body Armor, Inc., Civil Action No. 04-0280 (RWR), and United States v. Toyobo Co. Ltd., Civil Action No. 07-1144 (RWR) -- claiming that the resolution will narrow issues and simplify discovery in this case. Because the government has not carried its burden to demonstrate the efficiencies and benefits of a stay, the motion will be denied.

BACKGROUND

Beginning in 2004, the government brought claims under the FCA, 31 U.S.C. § 3729, against manufacturers and retailers involved in producing bulletproof vests that contained some form of Zylon. This case involves specific claims filed against Honeywell in 2008 and remains in the pretrial stage. The discovery process has been a challenging one. Although the case

Page 131

is nearly five years old, access to documents and individuals has been limited, and " much discovery remains to be conducted." Pl.'s Mem., Ex. 7.[1] As a result, the parties have asked for extensions of time to complete discovery on numerous occasions. See Docket Entries 41, 64, 67, 70, and 71; see also Pl.'s Mem., Ex. 6. The litigation in the related cases, though, is now in the summary judgment phase.

The government argues that resolution of pending partial summary judgment motions in the related cases will " likely simplify discovery and narrow the factual and legal issues[,]" as well as " lessen the burden of active discovery on witnesses and the Court" in this case. Pl.'s Mem. at 1. The government notes that Honeywell and the defendants in the related cases have requested the same sets of documents and deposed the same government witnesses, and all of the cases concern liability under the FCA. Id. at 11-13.

In opposition, Honeywell argues that the government has offered no specifics showing how the requested stay would benefit this case, the stay would prejudice Honeywell, Honeywell will not be bound by the resolution of the pending motions in the related cases because it is not a party in the related cases, and the related cases concern Zylon vests made out of Zylon fabric while this case concerns the Z Shield made out of laminated Zylon. Def.'s Opp'n at 12-13.

DISCUSSION

" It has long been recognized that trial courts are vested with broad discretion to manage the conduct of discovery." Chavous v. Dist. of Columbia Fin. Responsibility & Mgmt. Assistance Auth.,201 F.R.D. 1, 2 (D.D.C. 2001) (citing Brennan v. Int'l Bhd. of Teamsters, 494 F.2d 1092, 1100, 161 U.S.App.D.C. 173 (D.C. Cir. 1974)); see also Edmond v. U.S. Postal Serv. Gen. Counsel, 949 F.2d 415, 425, 292 U.S.App.D.C. 240 (D.C. Cir. 1991). In particular, " the decision whether to stay discovery is committed to the sound discretion of the district court judge." White v. Fraternal Order of Police, 909 F.2d 512, 517, 285 U.S.App.D.C. 273 (D.C. Cir. 1990) (citations omitted); see also GFL Advantage Fund, Ltd. v. Colkitt, 216 F.R.D. 189, 193 (D.D.C. 2003) (citing Landis v. N. Am. Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254-55, 57 S.Ct. 163, 81 L.Ed. 153 (1936)). " A court deciding a contested motion to stay 'must weigh ...


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