Law of Cards: Court Fines J&T Hobby in Upper Deck Matter

Law of Cards: Court Fines J&T Hobby in Upper Deck Matter

Discovery is the time-consuming, most expensive part of litigation. Basically, it's where each side asks the other side questions and for documents, and then the other side, allegedly, answers those questions and produces those documents.

Unfortunately, too often discovery breaks down into games of hiding the ball. The most common objections from parties (sometimes merited) during discovery is, "I didn't understand your question, so I can't answer it" or "I have no idea what document you're looking for so I can't give you anything."

The Pirozzi/J&T Hobby v. McWilliam/Upper Deck matter recently entered the discovery portion of the case. The parties exchanged discovery requests, and then a discovery dispute promptly broke out.

From the docket, it appears Pirozzi/J&T Hobby (together, J&T Hobby) allegedly did not understand a lot of Upper Deck's questions and requests, so they didn't produce all documents and answer all questions.

Upper Deck then filed motions to compel.

Legal translation: Your honor, tell these guys to give us what we asked for.

In response, J&T Hobby provided a little more information, but still maintained some of their objections.

Last Friday, the judge ruled on Upper Deck's motions. In his order, he told J&T Hobby to answer the questions and produce the documents. Then he sanctioned J&T Hobby for $3,175.

Legal translation: J&T Hobby, you were wrong. Not only that, you were so wrong, you need to pay Upper Deck's attorneys' fees for bringing these motions and wasting everyone’s time.

Why were they fined? Well, one of J&T Hobby's objections was it did not understand what the word "YOU" meant.

I am not kidding…this is J&T Hobby's actual objection (made multiple times):

"YOU" is in all capitalized letters in the request, meaning it is a defined term, but from the papers Defendants have submitted, it is impossible to tell the definition.

Really? You don't know who "YOU" are? They have psychiatrists for that, right?

J&T Hobby also objected to the phrase "and/or." Here's that objection:

The "and/or" makes the request compound because it demands answers as to two separate entities, Edgeman and Vintage. The preceding "or" also makes the request compound because it strings together separate inquiries as to rumors about who owned, controlled, dominated, used, or managed the entities…."And/or" is inherently ambiguous such that Plaintiffs cannot simply answer "admit" or "deny" as the answer is subject to change as to whether "and" or "or" is meant.

I love this objection because I faced the same issue in court about five years ago. Not only is it a stupid objection, unfortunately, it's a common objection.

In my case, the judge's response was, "My second grade son knows what that word means," so, I won.

Here, I guess fining J&T Hobby over $3,000 on the same issue is basically the same answer. With more teeth.

What does this mean for the case? Discovery matters are really tangential to the case, so whether you win or lose in discovery does not mean you will win or lose the case. BUT, being sanctioned by a judge is never good.

What happens if an issue that actually matters arises and it's a 50/50 issue? Which way do you think the court is going to decide? With the side that played games and had to be sanctioned? Or with the other guys?

I think YOU'll agree that this is a good early victory for Upper Deck AND/OR McWilliam.

The information provided in Paul Lesko's "Law of Cards" column is not intended to be legal advice, but merely conveys general information related to legal issues commonly encountered in the sports industry. This information is not intended to create any legal relationship between Paul Lesko, the Simmons Browder Gianaris Angelides & Barnerd LLC or any attorney and the user. Neither the transmission nor receipt of these website materials will create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the readers.

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Paul Lesko is a shareholder at Simmons Hanly Conroy and the chair of its Intellectual Property Department (http://www.simmonsfirm.com). Don’t hold the fact that Paul is a lawyer against him, he’s also a rabid baseball and college basketball fan, and an avid baseball card collector. Paul can be found on Twitter @Paul_Lesko and Google+.

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