eDiscovery Daily Blog

Court Settles Dispute Between Parties on Number of Custodians to Search and Produce: eDiscovery Case Law

In Family Wireless #1, LLC et. al. v. Automotive Technologies, Inc., No. 15-01310 (D. Conn., May 19, 2016), Connecticut Magistrate Judge Sarah A. L. Merriam partially granted the plaintiff’s motion to compel the defendant to search and produce ESI from additional custodians, finding that “three of the six proposed custodians’ files are likely to include information relevant to this matter, and defendant has not met its burden of showing that inclusion of these three individuals would be unduly burdensome”.

Case Background

In this action for breach of contract, misrepresentation, unjust enrichment, and unfair trade practices between a franchisor and its franchisee, the parties met and conferred multiple times over the course of this litigation in an effort to come to a mutually agreeable list of ESI search terms and custodians.  The parties agreed to the search of the electronic files of seven custodians, but failed to agree on six additional custodians, leading to the plaintiff’s motion to compel.

The plaintiffs requested the inclusion of six additional custodians in the ESI search, arguing that, even though they were lower level employees, they “are believed to have been involved in both decision making and day to day operations relevant to the claims and defenses raised in the litigation”.  The defendants argued that a search of the emails of these individuals was duplicative and would not produce any relevant information that has not already been exchanged and that searching the files of the additional custodians would be overly burdensome, resulting in tens of thousands of additional documents and hours of costly review, partly based on a test search of two of the proposed custodians that “captured 51,583 e-mail family hits” to be reviewed for relevance.

Judge’s Ruling

Judge Merriam stated that she was “not persuaded that the addition of the six proposed custodians would be unduly burdensome for defendant. As defendant acknowledged during the conference, limitations on search parameters can be implemented so as to exclude the production of duplicative emails, addressing the concern that this production would consist of many emails that had been previously produced through the prior searches of the higher-level custodians. Using ‘de-duplication’ measures to limit the search should alleviate some of the cost and time concerns that defendant raises.”  Judge Merriam also was not swayed by the defendant’s arguments regarding relevance, indicating that “[t]he mere fact that many documents have already been produced is not sufficient to establish that there are no other relevant materials to be found.”

However, while Judge Merriam found “that plaintiffs have established good cause for expanding the ESI search to include three additional custodians”, she found that “no showing of good cause has been made by plaintiffs to search the ESI of the other three proposed custodians” during the in-person Discovery Conference the Court held to discuss the issues.  Therefore, Judge Merriam partially granted the plaintiff’s motion to compel the defendant to search and produce ESI from three additional custodians.

So, what do you think?  Should the court have ordered production from all six custodians?  Or was a partial production appropriate?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.