United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
H. SHARP UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court is Plaintiff Bridgestone Americas,
Inc.'s (“BSAM”) Motion for Review of Order
Granting Defendant's Motion to Preclude Plaintiff's
Claim for Unearned Customer Awards. (Docket No. 506).
Defendant International Business Machines, Corp.
(“IBM”) filed a Response in Opposition. (Docket
No. 521). For the following reasons, the Court will deny
BSAM's Motion for Review and affirm the Magistrate
the discovery process in this case has been incredibly
complex and contentious throughout the past three and a half
years and the Magistrate Judge has been intimately involved
with the process, the Court herein adopts the Magistrate
Judge's Order for reference to the factual background of
the dispute currently before the Court. (See Docket
No. 500 at 2-10). Following an analysis of the discovery
dispute between the parties, on October 31, 2016, the
Magistrate Judge issued an order “precluding BSAM from
claiming or introducing at trial any evidence supporting its
$29 million or $26 million claim for unearned customer
awards.”(Docket No. 500 at 23). The Magistrate
Judge found this to be an appropriate sanction under Rule
37(c)(1) and Rule 37(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure because BSAM had “failed to provide a timely
computation of this claim in its initial and supplemental
disclosures, and that failure was not substantially justified
or harmless. Further, BSAM failed to fully comply with a
[January 12, 2016] discovery order which required BSAM to
provide this computation by February 26, 2016.”
(Id. at 24). The Magistrate Judge also found this
sanction appropriate because BSAM's failure to provide
the requested computation “put IBM and its experts at a
severe disadvantage without good cause.”
claims that the Magistrate Judge made a factual error in
considering IBM's Motion to Preclude Plaintiff's
Claim for Unearned Customer Awards, by failing to consider a
document that BSAM previously produced to IBM. (Docket No.
505 at 2). BSAM now requests review of the Magistrate
Judge's Order based on the alleged factual error. BSAM
claims that it complied with both its initial disclosure
requirements and the January 12, 2016 Order by providing a
timely calculation of the $29 million or $26 million amount.
(Id.). It claims that it did so on May 29, 2015,
when it provided a list of the customers in question, the
amount received by each customer, and the total amount of
$25, 775, 159.39. (Id. at 3). BSAM calls this
previously produced document “Exhibit C.”
(Id. at 3 n.7).
district court normally applies a ‘clearly erroneous or
contrary to law' standard of review for nondispositive
preliminary measures.” Baker v. Peterson, 67
F. App'x 308, 310 (6th Cir. 2003) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P.
72(a)). “A district court must review dispositive
motions under the de novo standard.”
Id. The parties dispute whether the Magistrate
Judge's Order precluding BSAM's claim for unearned
customer awards is dispositive or nondispositive. Although
the Magistrate Judge's Order may be read as implying
dismissal of the potential unearned customer awards claim
(and therefore dispositive), this Court finds the Order to be
nondispositive for the following reasons.
Sixth Circuit has employed a functional equivalence analysis
to determine whether a motion is dispositive or
non-dispositive for purposes of review of a Magistrate
Judge's decision. . . . Any motion not listed as
dispositive in § 636(b)(1)(A) but functionally
equivalent to a dispositive motion is deemed
dispositive.” Cooper v. Shelby County, 2010
U.S. Dist. LEXIS 42290, *7 (W.D. Tenn. Apr. 28, 2010).
[M]otions for sanctions premised on discovery abuses are
generally non-dispositive, parties may . . . ask the court to
sanction the offending party by dismissing its claim. The
majority of courts to consider the issue have concluded that
when a party brings a motion for discovery sanctions, the
sanction chosen by the magistrate judge . . . governs the
magistrate judge's authority over the motion.
Bell-Flowers v. Progressive Ins. Co., 2005 U.S.
Dist. LEXIS 37198, *2 n.1 (W.D. Tenn. Dec. 13, 2005); see
also Nance v. Wayne County, 264 F.R.D. 331, 332 (M.D.
Tenn. 2009) (citing Bell-Flowers for the proposition
that “motions for sanctions premised on discovery
abuses are non-dispositive unless sanction includes dismissal
stated above, district courts reviewing a nondispositive
magistrate judge order apply the clearly erroneous or
contrary to law standard. “‘The clearly erroneous
standard applies only to the magistrate judge's factual
findings; legal conclusions are reviewed under the plenary
contrary to law' standard. . . . Therefore, the reviewing
court must exercise independent judgment with respect to the
magistrate judge's conclusions of law.”
Peterson v. Burris, 2016 WL 1458107, at *1 (E.D.
Mich. Apr. 14, 2016) (quoting Haworth, Inc. v. Herman
Miller, Inc., 162 F.R.D. 289, 291 (W.D. Mich. 1995)).
“An order is contrary to law when it fails to apply or
misapplies relevant statutes, case law, or rules of
procedure.” Id. (quoting Ford Motor Co. v.
United States, 2009 WL 2922875, at *1 (E.D. Mich. Sept.
has claimed throughout discovery that the $26 or $29 million
in unearned customer awards at issue “may or may not be
a separate claim under some legal theory, ” but has
never asserted the amount as belonging to a specific claim.
(Docket No. 500 at 4). Consequently, there is no claim to be
dismissed, nor is it functionally equivalent to dismissing a
claim as BSAM never articulated any claim regarding this
damage amount. (See Docket No. 500 at 24)
(“Accordingly, IBM's motion to preclude BSAM's
potential claim for unearned customer awards . . .
is GRANTED.”) (emphasis added). Furthermore, the Court
declines to allow a party to definitively assert a claim only
after sanctions have finally been issued against the party.
Such a holding would allow parties to recharacterize
magistrate judges' orders as they please by claiming that
an order is dispositive because it precludes claims they
thought about potentially bringing. The Magistrate
Judge's Order in this case is nondispositive, and the
Court will apply the clearly erroneous or contrary to law
Magistrate Judge considered two separate issues: “(1)
whether BSAM satisfied the Rule 26 initial disclosure
requirements as to this $29 or $26 million claim of unearned
customer awards and whether any failure was substantially
justified or harmless; and (2) whether BSAM complied with the
Court's January 12, 2016 discovery order concerning these
unearned customer awards.” (Docket No. 500 at 13). The