You work as a clerk for a judge who sits on the US District Court for the District of Rhode Island. The judge has asked you to write a memo explaining whether the Court should grant a party’s request for discovery documents. You should look at both the threshold question of whether the party’s request for discovery documents meets the statutory requirements of 28 U.S.C § 1782, and assuming that it does meet the threshold requirements, should the Court grant the request.
Wal-Co, a US company headquartered and incorporated in Providence, RI, is a manufacturer of a synthetic material, SyntheWal, that is commonly used in building construction. SyntheWal sells for considerably less than similar products. Because of its low cost, Wal-Co sells SyntheWal to construction companies around the world, including to Expert Builders, a company based in Northden, a small country in Europe. Previously, Expert Builders had used a natural material produced by a competitor of Wal-Co, but in an effort to save money, they decided to try out SyntheWal.
Two years ago, Expert Builders signed a contract with Wal-Co for ninety tons of SyntheWal. In the contract, the two parties agreed to arbitrate disputes under the rules of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in Paris. Unfortunately, it soon became clear that SyntheWal could not withstand the cold winters in Northden, and buildings using the SyntheWal product began cracking and collapsing.
Expert Builders demanded that Wal-Co refund them the cost of the SyntheWal and allow them to return the remaining product. Wal-Co refused. According to the arbitration clause in the contract, Expert Builders filed a complaint with the ICC, seeking to resolve the dispute with Wal-Co.
Expert Builders’ lawyers have learned that Wal-Co has been sued many times in the past in US courts and they want to review information from Wal-Co’s prior lawsuits to gain a better understanding of Wal-Co’s manufacturing process, product, and sales contracts. The lawyers have learned of a US law, 28 U.S.C § 1782, that may assist them in obtaining company documents from Wal-Co. Under this statute, Expert Builders has filed a request with the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island to obtain “all documents related to previous lawsuits against Wal-Co regarding its SyntheWal product,” including “any communication between Wal-Co and their attorneys with advice regarding potential problems with the sales contract terms.” The documents would be submitted to Expert Builders as well as the ICC for consideration. The ICC has not opposed Expert Builders’ discovery request in the U.S. district court. Additionally, the ICC rules on evidence are broad, and the ICC arbitral panel may request additional materials from either party at any time during the proceedings. There are no specific limitations as to what types of evidentiary materials may be requested by the arbitral panel.
Should the Court grant the request for discovery documents? You are expected to do outside research to answer the question.
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