Walmart Granted Partial Relief From Scope of Discovery Requests re Motorized Shopping Cart Accidents

17 Jan 2018

Our blog discusses discovery and case law.In Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County, No. B284803 (Cal. App. 2nd, Dec. 13, 2017) petitioner Wal-Mart sought to limit the scope of discovery re overly burdensome production requests that it claimed would cost thousands of man-hours to complete.

Plaintiff Gracelynn Jun (“Jun”) sued defendant Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (“Wal-Mart”) after she was hit and injured by a motorized shopping cart. During discovery, Jun requested all documents regarding claims arising from accidents caused by motorized shopping carts during the prior ten years. She also requested all documents involving complaints made to Walmart about the safety of motorized shopping carts at its stores during the preceeding five years.

Wal-Mart agreed to produce documents for claims involving motorized shopping carts for the 54 stores located in Los Angeles County for the five-year period before Jun’s accident. Jun moved for further responses. The lower court granted Jun’s motion, but limited the required responses to production of documents relative to litigation involving motorized shopping cart collisions within the United States during the five years prior to Jun’s accident.  The Court further ordered that Wal-Mart send an email to the managers of all stores asking whether any manager had any knowledge of any incident involving a motorized shopping cart and a pedestrian, and if so, the relevant details. Wal-Mart appealed the Order.

The Court of Appeals examined the lower court’s rulings for abuse of discretion. The Appellate Court found that the trial court properly expanded the scope of discovery to Wal-Mart stores nationwide, rather than restrict the scope of the discovery to stores in Los Angeles County. The Appellate Court did find, however, that the trial court abused its discretion in compelling the production of documents relating to all types of motorized shopping cart collisions regardless of the nature or cause of the collision.

The Appellate Court did not find persuasive Jun’s argument that she was entitled to broader discovery merely based upon her allegations that Wal-Mart failed to ascertain whether users of the motorized shopping carts were capable of using them in a safe manner.  The Court also found she did not sufficiently demonstrate why limiting discovery to incidents involving pedestrians and motorized carts would not be adequate discovery.

The Court further considered the balancing of interests relative to the request, and stated that it may limit the scope of discovery if it determined that the burden of that discovery clearly outweighed the likelihood that the information sought would lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. The Court considered Wal-Mart’s argument that a nationwide search would impose an unreasonable burden and would require thousands of man-hours. To reduce the oppression of discovery, the Appellate Court confirmed the lower court’s limiting of the scope of discoverable prior claims to those involving litigation.

The motions were granted,  but limited to discovery of litigation involving a pedestrian who was struck by the sharp edges of a motorized shopping cart or to claims that Wal-Mart’s shopping carts lacked bumper guards or other safety features, during the period of five years before the incident.  The Order also included instruction that Wal-Mart send an email to all managers of all U.S. Wal-Mart stores asking for any knowledge of an incident in which a pedestrian was injured by the sharp edges of a motorized shopping cart. Petitioner Wal-Mart was awarded its costs.