Federal Bar Update: Permissible fishing in discovery process

Back to TopE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Most discovery orders are uninteresting and have little or no significance beyond the dispute between the parties. The Southern District of Indiana’s order in Eli Lilly and Co. v. Wockhardt Limited, et al., No. 1:08-cv-01547 (S.D. Ind. May 27, 2010) (Baker, M.J.), however, is both interesting and has potential broader significance. The court’s unpublished order is available on the court’s website in the Recent Opinions section.

The case was brought by Lilly alleging patent infringement, and the patent discovery issues would be best understood by and most relevant to patent litigators. For the rest of us with average IQs, there are some broader points of relevance.

First, the order teaches that discovery is broad and in some respects a permissible fishing expedition. In granting in part Lilly’s motion to compel, the court wrote: “What’s a high-stakes patent case without a fierce discovery dispute and cries of an unfair ‘fishing expedition’? This case does not disappoint. Defendants … claim that Plaintiff Eli Lilly and Company caught its fair share of discovery documents and needs to return to shore. Lilly wants to fish a little deeper.”

After analyzing various specific issues, the court ultimately concluded, “This case brings to mind Eli Lilly and Company v. InvaGen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 1:09-cv-87-WTL-TAB (S.D. Ind. Sept. 17, 2009), in which cries of a ‘fishing expedition’ also were made. In addressing this concern, the Court observed that the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allow courts to ‘determine the pond, the type of lure, and how long the parties can leave their lines in the water.’”

Second, the order indicates that sometimes throwing more resources at discovery is necessary. The court observed, “Lilly stresses that Wockhardt has produced only 17,000 pages of documents to Lilly’s 3.5 million, and that Wockhardt’s production is lacking in emails and PowerPoints and devoid of research reports and laboratory notebooks – documents that Lilly claims are relevant to the issues of infringement, induced infringement, and nonobviousness.”

In addressing and rejecting defendants’ “undue burden” arguments, the court then explained, “The foregoing rulings are made with due regard to Wockhardt’s concern that additional production would be unduly burdensome. Discovery in a high-stakes patent infringement case is not without its burdens. Lilly indicated at the … pretrial conference that it allocated significant resources – nearly 60 attorneys and millions of dollars – to responding to Wockhardt’s discovery requests. Wockhardt, on the other hand, has produced only thirty emails and few of the PowerPoints and other documents that are ubiquitous in this type of case. Of course, discovery – unlike some fishing – is not a contest, and Wockhardt need not engage 60 attorneys in a multimillion dollar document production. But Wockhardt will need to allocate more resources toward responding to Lilly’s discovery requests. In this case, that is not an unreasonable burden.”

Finally, regarding Lilly’s contention interrogatories seeking defendant’s basis for its defense that each claim of its patent is invalid, the court rejected defendant’s argument that it should be allowed to await the close of discovery to answer the interrogatories. The court explained, “Wockhardt must answer Lilly’s interrogatory nos. 7 and 10 in good faith and may supplement its responses as it is able to digest Lilly’s large production. Within 28 days of this order, Wockhardt must provide Lilly with at least its basis for raising the defense identified in interrogatory no. 7 and the counterclaim identified in interrogatory no. 10, and Wockhardt must supplement its responses in good faith as discovery progresses.”•


John Maley – – is a partner with Barnes & Thornburg litigating federal and state matters nationally. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author.


Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  2. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  3. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  4. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  5. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well