eDiscovery Daily Blog

Predictive Coding is Officially Approved in First English Case: eDiscovery Case Law

Last month, in Pyrrho Investments Ltd v MWB Property Ltd [2016] EWHC 256 (Ch), citing the landmark DaSilva Moore case (among other authorities), Master Matthews approved the use of predictive coding, due to the “enormous” expense of manually searching through the three million electronic documents associated with the case.  This is the believed to be the first time an English court has approved the use of predictive coding.

In this case, the parties, through several rounds of correspondence, “agreed on the (automated) method to be employed”, which “involves ‘predictive coding’”, and “also the scope of the keywords to be employed”.  Citing DaSilva Moore, Master Matthews referenced several comments in Judge Peck’s decision nearly four years earlier, including:

“The decision to allow computer-assisted review in this case was relatively easy – the parties agreed to its use (although disagreed about how best to implement such review). The Court recognises that computer-assisted review is not a magic, Staples-easy-Button, solution appropriate for all cases. The technology exists and should be used where appropriate, but it is not a case of machine replacing humans: it is the process used and the interaction of man and machine that the court needs to examine…The goal is for the review method to result in higher recall and higher precision than another review method, at cost proportionate to the ‘value’ of the case… Computer-assisted review appears to be better than the available alternatives, and thus should be used in appropriate cases.”

Master Matthews also referenced Irish Bank Resolution Corporation Ltd v Quinn, where the Irish High Court also endorsed the use of predictive coding.  In that case, the process was proposed by the plaintiffs and approved by the court over the objections by the defendants.

In approving the use of predictive coding in this case, Master Matthews provided these factors in favor of the decision {emphasis added}:

(1)          Experience in other jurisdictions, whilst so far limited, has been that predictive coding software can be useful in appropriate cases.

(2)           There is no evidence to show that the use of predictive coding software leads to less accurate disclosure being given than, say, manual review alone or keyword searches and manual review combined, and indeed there is some evidence (referred to in the US and Irish cases to which I referred above) to the contrary,

(3)           Moreover, there will be greater consistency in using the computer to apply the approach of a senior lawyer towards the initial sample (as refined) to the whole document set, than in using dozens, perhaps hundreds, of lower-grade fee-earners, each seeking independently to apply the relevant criteria in relation to individual documents.

(4)           There is nothing in the CPR or Practice Directions to prohibit the use of such software.

(5)           The number of electronic documents which must be considered for relevance and possible disclosure in the present case is huge, over 3 million.

(6)           The cost of manually searching these documents would be enormous, amounting to several million pounds at least, hr my judgment, therefore, a full manual review of each document would be “unreasonable” within paragraph 25 of Practice Direction B to Part 31, at least where a suitable automated alternative exists at lower cost.

(7)           The costs of using predictive coding software would depend on various factors, including importantly whether the number of documents is reduced by keyword searches, but the estimates given in this case vary between £181,988 plus monthly hosting costs of £15,717, to £469,049 plus monthly hosting costs of £20,820. This is obviously far less expensive than the full manual alternative, though of course there may be additional costs if manual reviews still need to be carried out when the software has done its best.

(8)           The ‘value’ of the claims made in this litigation is in the tens of millions of pounds. In my judgment the estimated costs of using the software are proportionate.

(9)           The trial in the present case is not until June 2017, so there would be plenty of time to consider other disclosure methods if for any reason the predictive software route turned out to be unsatisfactory.

(10)         The parties have agreed on the use of the software, and also how to use it, subject only to the approval of the Court.”

In approving the use of predictive coding in this case, Master Matthews also stated that “There were no factors of any weight pointing in the opposite direction.”  And, saving us the trouble of checking to see if there were any previous English cases that approved predictive coding, he noted that “a search of the BAILII online database for ‘predictive coding software’ returned no hits at all, and for ‘predictive coding’ and ‘computer-assisted review’ only the Irish case referred to above.”

In his blog, eDisclosure Information Project, Chris Dale (whose thought leader interview on this blog was published last Friday), posted his reaction to the decision and referenced several other blogs and publications with their coverage of the decision as well.

So, what do you think?  Will this case become the “DaSilva Moore” for English courts?  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.