ALJ Bullock Grants-In-Part Motion To Compel In Certain Sintered Rare Earth Magnets (337-TA-855)

Posted On: March 4, 2013   by: and

On February 27, 2013, Chief ALJ Charles E. Bullock issued the public version of Order No. 51 (dated January 29, 2013) granting-in-part Complainants Hitachi Metals, Ltd. and Hitachi Metals North Carolina’s (collectively, “Hitachi Metals”) motion to compel discovery responses from Respondents Yantai Zhenghai Magnetic Material Co., Ltd. (“Yantai”), Ningbo Jinji Strong Magnetic Material Co., Ltd. (“Ningbo”) and Anhui Earth-Panda Advance Magnetic Material Co., Ltd. (“Anhui”) (collectively, “Respondents”) in Certain Sintered Rare Earth Magnets, Methods of Making Same and Products Containing Same (Inv. No. 337-TA-855).

According to the Order, Hitachi Metals requested that Respondents supplement their responses to interrogatories and document requests regarding:  (1) manufacturing processes and other technical documents and information; (2) rare earth magnets and products containing same sold on or after September 1, 2008; (3) foreign sales information; and (4) production, yield, capacity, sales, inventory and pricing information.  Hitachi Metals also requested additional time to respond to contention interrogatories.

First, ALJ Bullock noted that Ground Rule 3.2 regarding the parties’ obligation to meet and confer on discovery disputes was not satisfied for certain discovery requests.  In particular, the ALJ found that, while Hitachi Metals’ claimed that broad categories of discovery were addressed in its deficiency letters and during discovery conferences, those deficiency letters failed to specifically identify Interrogatory Nos. 4, 5, 10, 13, 16, 21-23 and 78-79, and Request for Production (“RFP”) Nos. 3-8, 10-13, 31-33, 37, 41, 42, 45, 47-54, 63, 64, 66, 91, 132, 133, 135, 138 and 236-38.  Additionally, Hitachi Metals complained about Respondents’ responses to all interrogatories and RFPs that refer back to Interrogatory Nos. 1 and 2, which is over 100 requests.  Accordingly, ALJ Bullock denied the motion with respect to the aforementioned interrogatories and RFPs, as well as any interrogatories and RFPs that refer back to Interrogatory Nos. 1 and 2.

Regarding Respondents’ manufacturing processes and technical documents and information, Hitachi Metals argued that depositions of Respondents’ corporate representatives revealed numerous responsive documents that were not produced.  Respondents’ countered that they have supplemented their responses to the interrogatories and RFPs in question.  The ALJ found that relevant information exists insofar as Yantai and Anhui produced several categories of documents but did not indicate which RFPs they are responsive to, and Ningbo remains “in the process of searching for, collecting, processing and producing responsive documents identified during deposition.”  However, ALJ Bullock also found that Hitachi Metals’ motion failed to discuss how Respondents’ responses to Interrogatory Nos. 6, 82-99 and 101-03 are deficient.  Thus, to the extent responsive documents exist that have not been produced, the motion was granted as to RFP Nos. 2, 9, 20-25, 28-30, 43 and 46 to Yantai; RFP Nos. 9, 20-25, 28-30 and 46 to Ningbo; and RFP Nos. 9, 20-25, 29, 30, 43 and 46 to Anhui.

With respect to Hitachi Metals’ request for documents and information concerning rare earth magnets sold on or after September 1, 2008, Respondents claimed to have supplemented their responses to Interrogatory No. 2, but did not address whether they supplemented their responses to Interrogatory No. 1.  Accordingly, ALJ Bullock granted the motion as to the latter.

As to discovery of foreign sales, Respondents argued that sales outside the U.S. or sales not sold for importation into the U.S. are not within the scope of Interrogatory No. 2 as worded.  ALJ Bullock agreed.  However, because Respondents did not assert that they supplemented their responses to the other interrogatories and RFPs relating to foreign sales information, the ALJ granted Hitachi Metals’ motion to the extent relevant information and responsive documents exist that have not been produced in response to Interrogatory Nos. 1, 20, 35, 40, 41 and 100, and RFP Nos. 46, 65, 90, 115-18, 125, 126, 139 and 140.

Regarding production, yield, capacity, sales, inventory and pricing information, Hitachi Metals argued that Respondents relied on Commission Rule 210.29(c) in their responses, but provided only large strings of production numbers with no narrative.  ALJ Bullock found that Respondents need not provide narrative answers in addition to providing production numbers under Commission Rule 210.29(c).  However, the ALJ noted that Respondents represented that they supplemented their responses only to certain interrogatories.  Thus, Hitachi Metals’ motion was granted as to the following interrogatories not addressed by Respondents:  Interrogatory Nos. 81, 82, 84 and 93 to Yantai; Interrogatory Nos. 7, 8, 45, 50, 81, 82, 84 and 93 to Anhui; and Interrogatory Nos. 81, 82, 84, 93, 94 and 98 to Ningbo.

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