eDiscovery Daily Blog

2016 eDiscovery Case Law Year in Review, Part 1

Court Denies Defendant’s Motion to Overrule Plaintiff’s Objections to Discovery Requests

It’s that time again!  Time for our annual review of eDiscovery case law!  Once again, we had plenty of sanctions granted and denied, as well as disputes over admissibility of electronically stored information (ESI) and even a few landmark cases regarding technology assisted review.  So, as we have done for the last five years, let’s take a look back at 2016!

Last year, eDiscoveryDaily published 74 posts related to eDiscovery case decisions and activities over the past year, covering 62 unique cases!  We’ve had over 500 lifetime case law posts, covering over 380 unique cases since our inception back in 2010.  And, believe it or not, we still didn’t cover every case that had eDiscovery impact.  Sometimes, you want to cover other topics too.

Nonetheless, for the cases we did cover, we grouped them into common subject themes and will review them over the next few posts (a few of them could be categorized in more than one category, so we took our best shot).  Perhaps you missed some of these?  Now is your chance to catch up!


This year, there were more disputes than ever about data being produced and not being produced and whether the costs to do so are overly burdensome.  Here are sixteen cases related to admissibility of ESI and the proportionality for preserving and producing that ESI:

Motion to Compel Denied for Employees’ Personal Emails, Granted for Third Party Hosted Data: In Matthew Enterprise, Inc. v. Chrysler Group, LLC, California Magistrate Judge Paul S. Grewal denied the defendant’s motion to compel production from personal email accounts of the plaintiff’s employees because the plaintiff did not have legal control of the emails.  However, he granted the defendant’s motion to compel production from the plaintiff’s customer communications database operated by a third party vendor, noting that the plaintiff did have control of that data, having already produced data from this source.

Citing Proportionality Concerns, Court Grants Plaintiff’s Motion for Protective Order: In Noble Roman’s, Inc. v. Hattenhauer Distrib. Co., Indiana Magistrate Judge Debra McVicker Lynch, citing proportionality concerns, granted the plaintiff’s motion for a protective order and ordered that the defendant was prohibited from obtaining the discovery sought by the defendant’s subpoenas from a major shareholder of the plaintiff.

Merely Stating That ESI Request Is Not Relevant Or Proportional Is Not Sufficient, Court Rules: In Digital Ally, Inc. v. Utility Associates, Inc., Kansas Magistrate Judge Gwynne E. Birzer granted the plaintiff’s motion to compel discovery, overruling the defendant’s objections that the request was neither relevant nor proportional to the issues in this case, because the defendant “has not expounded on its objections to relevance or proportionality under Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1)”.

Plaintiffs Ordered to Produce a Copy of Access Database for Forensic Analysis: In Thorne Research, Inc. et. al. v. Atlantic Pro-Nutrients, Inc., Utah Magistrate Judge Paul M. Warner determined that, because the parties had competing affidavits regarding whether a Microsoft Access database created by the plaintiffs’ co-inventor stores metadata and that metadata (if present) was clearly relevant, the defendant should be allowed the opportunity to conduct a forensic analysis as to whether or not the metadata exists in the native format of the Access database.

Court Limits Scope of Search Terms Requested by Plaintiff: In AVM Technologies, LLC v. Intel Corp., Delaware Magistrate Judge Mary Pat Thynge granted in part the plaintiff’s request for the defendant to perform a database search of four terms and their synonyms, but limited the scope of that search to one specific defendant database, not the variety of sources requested by the plaintiff to be searched.

Defendant Ordered to Issue Litigation Hold, Respond to Discovery Requests: In Bruner v. American Honda Motor Co., Alabama Magistrate Judge Katherine P. Nelson granted the plaintiffs’ motion to compel response to discovery requests for email, to perform additional searches, and to implement a litigation hold on the email accounts for relevant individuals to the case.

Court Orders Non Party to Preserve Some, But Not All, Information Requested by Plaintiff: In Swetlic Chiropractic & Rehabilitation Center, Inc. v. Foot Levelers, Inc., et. al., Ohio Magistrate Judge Elizabeth A. Preston Deavers ruled that the plaintiff had satisfied its burden to demonstrate a real danger that relevant evidence in a non-party’s possession would be destroyed absent a court order and ordered WestFax, the non-party, “to preserve any transmission report or other documents and ESI that identify fax numbers that received Defendants’ advertising faxes.”  However, noting that the requested scope of the preservation order “appears overly broad”, she permitted WestFax to file objections to the Order within 14 days if unable to extrajudicially resolve any such objection with the plaintiff.

Court Determines Granting Defendant’s Motion to Request Overseas Documents is ‘Futile’: In Al-Ameri et. al. v. Johns Hopkins Hospital, Maryland Magistrate Judge Stephanie A. Gallagher denied the defendant’s motion to compel on the basis that compelling the discovery sought would be futile.

Court Settles Dispute Between Parties on Number of Custodians to Search and Produce: In Family Wireless #1, LLC et. al. v. Automotive Technologies, Inc., Connecticut Magistrate Judge Sarah A. L. Merriam partially granted the plaintiff’s motion to compel the defendant to search and produce ESI from additional custodians, finding that “three of the six proposed custodians’ files are likely to include information relevant to this matter, and defendant has not met its burden of showing that inclusion of these three individuals would be unduly burdensome”.

Court Rejects Plaintiff’s Request for Fee Reimbursement in Responding to Motion: In Gade v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., Vermont Chief District Judge Christina Reiss denied the plaintiff’s motion for an order requiring the defendant to pay expenses and fees that she incurred in opposing the defendant’s motion to compel production of an Excel spreadsheet from the plaintiff’s expert.

Court Grants Discovery on Individual Defendants’ Personal Computers and Email: In Sunderland v. Suffolk County et. al., New York Magistrate Judge A. Kathleen Tomlinson, determining that the plaintiff’s request for individual defendants to search for and produce certain documents from their personal computers and email accounts was not “unduly intrusive or burdensome” because the request was limited in time frame and the parties had agreed to search terms, granted the plaintiff’s motion to compel.

Court Rules Government’s Use of Stingray to Locate Suspect Was Unwarranted: In United States v. Lambis, New York District Judge William H. Pauley, III granted the defendant’s motion to suppress evidence obtained by law enforcement agents in connection with a search of his apartment because the apartment was located via the use of a “Stingray” cell-site simulator to identify the location of the defendant’s phone without a warrant.

Court Rejects Discovery for Additional Time Period, But Grants Additional Discovery on Termination Plan: In Blodgett et. al. v. Siemens Industry, Inc., New York Magistrate Judge A. Kathleen Tomlinson denied the plaintiff’s motion to compel the defendant to respond to the first two requests in its third request for production, but granted the motion regarding the plaintiff’s third request for ESI regarding a division-wide reduction-in-force plan.

Defendant Not Required to Produce All Documents Responsive to Search Terms: In Bancpass, Inc. v. Highway Toll Administration, LLC, Texas Magistrate Judge Andrew W. Austin (no relation) denied the plaintiff’s Motion to Enforce Discovery Agreements with regard to the plaintiff’s request for the defendant to produce all non-privileged documents responsive to search terms agreed to over email.

If Plaintiff Wants Discovery on Defendant’s Backup Tapes, Court Rules He Must Pay for Them: In Elkharwily v. Franciscan Health Sys., Washington District Judge Robert J. Bryan, finding that the defendant had met its burden to show that retrieving electronically stored information on backup tapes “would result in an undue burden and cost to Defendant”, that the plaintiff “has not met his burden to show good cause” to overcome the defendant’s undue burden and cost argument, and that “the archived emails are ‘discoverable’ under Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1)”, ordered the defendant to “facilitate access to the discovery”, but “only at Plaintiff’s expense, payable in advance”.

Court Orders Forensic Examination of Key Custodian Computers: In Davis v. Crescent Electric Company et. al., South Dakota District Judge Lawrence L. Piersol ruled that a non-disclosure agreement would sufficiently protect any and all confidential and/or privileged information of the defendant that may be uncovered during the forensic examination for key custodians and that the information being requested by the plaintiff was relevant and not overly broad.

We’re just getting started!  Tomorrow, we will cover cases related to cooperation, disputes about discovery, eDiscovery cost reimbursement, form of production disputes and the ubiquitous Apple v. Samsung case.  Stay tuned!

Want to take a look at cases we covered the previous five years?  Here they are:

So, what do you think?  Did you miss any of these?  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.