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Discovery of Privileged Documents and Form of Production Addressed in Ruling on Second Motion to Compel – eDiscovery Case Law


In RPM Pizza LLC v. Argonaut Great Central Insurance Co., No. 10-684-BAJ-SCR, 2013 U.S. Dist. (M.D. La. Nov. 15, 2013), Louisiana Magistrate Judge Stephen C. Riedlinger delivered a partial ruling on a Second Motion to Compel the Production of Documents and Interrogatory Responses filed by the plaintiffs, who filed the motion in effect to renew their previous motion to compel, to which the defendant did not respond in a timely manner. Largely due to the delayed response, Judge Reidlinger ruled in favor of the plaintiff on several aspects of the motion.

In both the original and second motion to compel, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant’s production of discovery documents was deficient in multiple ways. First, the defendant produced 555 documents in response to discovery requests, of which 520 had already been provided to the plaintiff. Second, the documents produced did not provide answers to the interrogatories posed in discovery, and those which answered three of the 17 Requests for Production were highly unlikely to include all of the documents that were responsive to those requests. Finally, the plaintiff objected to the quality and format of the production—specifically, that the defendant had provided PDF files without metadata instead of TIFF with metadata.

The defendant not only opposed the motion, but also sought an award for expenses and fees they had incurred to oppose. The defendant stated that the motion should be denied, since the response was supplemented voluntarily upon the Second Motion to Compel, and a privilege log was produced.

The plaintiff contested the form of production for the privilege log, asserting that it did not contain enough detail to determine whether the documents were in fact privileged. The supplied log indicated that the plaintiff had withheld documents that were “‘NRC’ (not reasonably calculated), or ‘CPTS’ (confidential, proprietary and/or trade secret)” rather than privileged. Furthermore, the plaintiff asserted, the defendant’s statement that it would rely on an advice-of-counsel defense for discovery responses meant that the defendant had waived the attorney-client privilege.

While the defendant acknowledged that its privilege log lacked the required detail, it asserted that there was insufficient time to prepare, since it had reviewed “thousands of documents on short notice” in response to the plaintiff’s “unreasonably broad discovery requests.” Furthermore, the defendant claimed that it experienced “unexpected technical issues with electronic discovery” and requested a time extension for completing the privilege log.

In his decision, Judge Reidlinger agreed that the defendant had waived the claim of privilege over withheld documents, and found the defendant’s justification for the deficiencies and delays in producing the privilege log to be “vague, unsupported, and unpersuasive.” Additionally, Judge Reidlinger dismissed the excuses of tight deadlines and time constraints because, according to the record, “the cause of Argonaut having to review and produce thousands of documents on short notice and in a short period of time is Argonaut’s own failure to take prompt, appropriate actions when it was served with the plaintiff’s discovery requests on April 19, 2013.” The 555 pages of mostly duplicate documents were not produced by the defendant until six weeks after the plaintiff’s first motion to compel was filed.

Finally, the defendant’s general objection to document production in a “particular format or matter” was overruled, due to the plaintiff’s right under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 34(b)(2)(E) to specify a form of production without the need to prove why a specific form was necessary—and due to the defendant’s failure to specifically object to the form of production until its delayed supplemental response. The defendant was ordered to produce the documents in the requested format, with metadata.

So, what do you think? Should a delayed response result in stricter enforcement of discovery responses? How much does document format matter? Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

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