eDiscovery Daily Blog

eDiscovery Case Law: Court Denies Plaintiff Request For Additional Searches for Acronyms


In the case In Re: National Association of Music Merchants, Musical Instruments and Equipment Antitrust Litigation, MDL No. 2121 (Dec. 19, 2011), U.S. Magistrate Judge Louisa S. Porter considered a motion by the plaintiffs seeking to compel the defendants to run document searches containing abbreviations and acronyms identified during discovery.  Ruling that the plaintiffs had “ample opportunity” to obtain this discovery earlier in the case, the court denied the motion.

The defendants notified the plaintiffs that they intended to use keyword searches to find relevant documents to plaintiffs’ discovery requests and asked the plaintiffs to provide search terms.  However, the plaintiffs indicated that they could not provide the terms, lacking sufficient information at that point to construct meaningful searches. So, the defendants created their own list of search terms, which they then reviewed with the plaintiffs, who protested that the terms were too restrictive and were unlikely to capture some highly relevant documents. As a result, both sides sat down and negotiated a list of agreed-upon search terms, including several terms specifically targeted to capturing defendant-to-defendant communications.

The defendants began to produce documents based on the agreed-upon terms. Through review of those produced documents, the plaintiffs discovered the frequent use of abbreviations and acronyms and filed a motion seeking to compel the defendants to run document searches containing these abbreviations and acronyms.

While the court noted that keyword searching should be “a cooperative and informed process” and emphasized the importance of “a full and transparent discussion among counsel of the search terminology”, the court chastised the plaintiffs, noting:

“Here, the Court finds Plaintiffs had ample opportunity to obtain discovery regarding abbreviations and acronyms of Defendant companies, and the burden or expense to Defendants in having to comply with Plaintiffs’ request regarding abbreviations and acronyms outweighs its likely benefit. … First, Plaintiffs had two separate opportunities to suggest that Defendants search for abbreviations and acronyms of the Defendant companies; initially, before Defendant’s produced documents; and second, during negotiations between the parties on agreed-upon expanded search terms. In the spirit of the conclusions made at the Sedona Conference, and in light of the transparent discussion among counsel of the search terminology and subsequent agreement on the search method, the Court finds it unreasonable for Defendant to re-search documents they have already searched and produced.

Second, after meeting and conferring with Plaintiffs, and relying on their agreement with Plaintiffs regarding search terms, Defendants have already searched and produced a significant number of documents, thereby incurring significant expenses during this limited discovery period. Further, as articulated by Defendants, the new search terms Plaintiffs have proposed would require some Defendants to review tens of thousands of additional documents that would likely yield only a very small number of additional responsive documents. Therefore, the Court finds a re-search of documents Defendants have already searched and produced is overly burdensome.”

As a result, the court denied the plaintiffs’ request to “run document searches containing abbreviations and acronyms for agreed-upon search terms concepts”.

So, what do you think?  Should the plaintiffs’ have been able to anticipate the abbreviations and acronyms during negotiations or should their motion have been granted to add them later?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

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