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Flores v. Southern Peru Copper Corp.

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Plaintiff sued Defendant in federal court for causing harm to the environment for over 40 years. The federal rules require initial disclosures before discovery. Plaintiff refused to waive Defendant’s requirement of a making a certain disclosure. Defendant objected, claiming that the court should rule on its dispositive motion before forcing Defendant to make such a disclosure.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    A federal court has the discretion to delay the required initial disclosures of the parties.

     

    Facts.

    Flores (Plaintiff) filed suit against South Peru Cooper Corp. (Defendant) in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleging that Defendant conducted mining activities that harmed the environment for more than 40 years. Under Rule 26(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the parties are required to give the court a combined “Report and Proposed Discovery Plan.” Under Rule 26(a)(1), the parties are required to make initial disclosures regarding discovery. The parties agreed to delay these initial disclosures regarding the following: the identity of individuals possessing discoverable information, the production of evidence, and the amount of damages Plaintiff claimed. However, the parties disagreed on waiving the disclosure of any applicable insurances policies. Defendant argued that the disclosure of insurance policies over a 40-year period involved an undue burden and expense that may not be necessary if Defendant’s dispositive motion was granted.

    Issue.

    In federal court, is a court required to force a party to make an initial disclosure, as required by a federal rule, if the opposing party refuses to waive it?

    Held.

    No. It is within a court’s discretion whether or not to require a party to make an initial disclosure. Although the initial disclosure of any applicable insurance policies was required, the court has the discretion to delay the required disclosure if the defendant raised a motion that could make such a disclosure unnecessary. In this case, Defendant’s motion was pending before the court. If the court granted Defendant’s motion, the case will be dismissed. Therefore, it is unnecessary for the court to require Defendant to provide any applicable insurance policies until the court rules on the pending motion. Defendant’s objection was sustained.

    Discussion.

    Under Rule 26(a)(1), parties are required to make certain disclosures before discovery to promote efficiency in the federal lawsuit. Disclosures may be waived by the parties or by court order. Although the parties did not waive the disclosure of any applicable insurance parties, the court may still waive such a disclosure before ruling on any dispositive motion.


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