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Though it was “Switching Horses in Midstream”, Court Approves Plaintiff’s Predictive Coding Plan – eDiscovery Case Law

In Bridgestone Americas Inc. v. Int’l Bus. Mach. Corp., No. 3:13-1196 (M.D. Tenn. July 22, 2014), Tennessee Magistrate Judge Joe B. Brown, acknowledging that he was “allowing Plaintiff to switch horses in midstream”, nonetheless ruled that that the plaintiff could use predictive coding to search documents for discovery, even though keyword search had already been performed.

In this case where the plaintiff sued the defendant for a $75 million computer system that it claimed threw its “entire business operation into chaos”, the plaintiff requested that the court allow the use of predictive coding in reviewing over two million documents.  The defendant objected, noting that the request was an unwarranted change to the original case management order that did not include predictive coding, and that it would be unfair to use predictive coding after an initial screening had been done with keyword search terms.

Judge Brown conducted a lengthy telephone conference with the parties on June 25 and, began the analysis in his order by observing that “[p]redictive coding is a rapidly developing field in which the Sedona Conference has devoted a good deal of time and effort to, and has provided various best practices suggestions”, also noting that “Magistrate Judge Peck has written an excellent article on the subject and has issued opinions concerning predictive coding.”  “In the final analysis”, Judge Brown continued, “the uses of predictive coding is a judgment call, hopefully keeping in mind the exhortation of Rule 26 that discovery be tailored by the court to be as efficient and cost-effective as possible.”

As a result, noting that “we are talking about millions of documents to be reviewed with costs likewise in the millions”, Judge Brown permitted the plaintiff “to use predictive coding on the documents that they have presently identified, based on the search terms Defendant provided.”  Judge Brown acknowledged that he was “allowing Plaintiff to switch horses in midstream”, so “openness and transparency in what Plaintiff is doing will be of critical importance.”

This case has similar circumstances to Progressive Cas. Ins. Co. v. Delaney, where that plaintiff also desired to shift from the agreed upon discovery methodology for privilege review to a predictive coding methodology.  However, in that case, the plaintiff did not consult with either the court or the requesting party regarding their intentions to change review methodology and the plaintiff’s lack of transparency and lack of cooperation resulted in the plaintiff being ordered to produce documents according to the agreed upon methodology.  It pays to cooperate!

So, what do you think?  Should the plaintiff have been allowed to shift from the agreed upon methodology or did the volume of the collection warrant the switch?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

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