eDiscovery Daily Blog

Court Sides with Defendant in Dispute over Predictive Coding that Plaintiff Requested – eDiscovery Case Law

In the case In re Bridgepoint Educ., Inc., Securities Litigation, 12cv1737 JM (JLB) (S.D. Cal. Aug. 6, 2014), California Magistrate Judge Jill L. Burkhardt ruled that expanding the scope of discovery by nine months was unduly burdensome, despite the plaintiff’s request for the defendant to use predictive coding to fulfill its discovery obligation and also approved the defendants’ method of using search terms to identify responsive documents for the already reviewed three individual defendants, directing the parties to meet and confer regarding the additional search terms the plaintiffs requested.

In this case involving several discovery disputes, a telephonic discovery conference was held in the instant action on June 27, during which, the Court issued oral orders on three of four discovery disputes.  As to the remaining dispute, the Court requested supplemental briefings from both parties and issued a ruling in this order, along with formalizing the remaining orders.

The unresolved discovery dispute concerned the plaintiffs’ “request for discovery extending beyond the time frame that Defendants have agreed to” for an additional nine months.  In their briefing, the defendants (based on the production efforts to date) claimed that expanding the scope of discovery by nine months would increase their review costs by 26% or $390,000.  The plaintiffs’ reply brief argued that the defendants’ estimate reflected the cost of manual review rather than the predictive coding system that the defendants would use – according to the plaintiffs, the cost of predictive coding was the only cost relevant to the defendants’ burden, estimating the additional burden to be roughly $11,279.

Per the Court’s request, the defendants submitted a reply brief addressing the arguments raised by the plaintiffs, arguing that predictive coding software “does not make manual review for relevance merely elective”.  The defendants argued that the software only assigns a percentage estimate to each document that reflects the assessment of the probability that the document is relevant, but the software is not foolproof and that attorney review is still required to ensure that the documents produced are both relevant and not privileged.

Judge Burkhardt, citing the “proportionality” rule of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 26(b)(2)(C), denied expanding the scope of discovery by nine months, finding that “Defendants have set forth sufficient evidence to conclude that the additional production would be unduly burdensome”.

The plaintiffs, claiming that the defendants “unilaterally-selected search terms” to identify the original production, also argued discovery produced from three Individual Defendants should be added to the Defendants’ predictive coding software.  But, Judge Burkhardt, formalizing the oral order, stated “[t]he Court approved Defendants’ method of using linear screening with the aid of search terms to identify responsive documents with regard to the emails already reviewed for the three Individual Defendants. The parties were directed to meet and confer regarding the additional search terms Plaintiffs would like Defendants to use.”

So, what do you think?  Was the additional discovery scope unduly burdensome or did the plaintiff have a point about reduced discovery costs?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

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