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Court Orders Defendant to Produce Additional ESI Responsive to 78 “Unopposed” Search Terms: eDiscovery Case Law

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

In Venturdyne, Ltd. d/b/a Scientific Dust Collectors v. Carbonyx, Inc., d/b/a Carbonyx Carbon Technologies, et. al., No. 14-00351 (N.D. Ind., Nov. 15, 2016), Indiana District Judge John E. Martin ordered the defendant to produce additional ESI to the plaintiff to be retrieved via 78 “unopposed” search terms that neither party objected to during negotiation over the plaintiff’s original list of 126 search terms.

Case Background

In this breach of contract case, the parties agreed to use keywords to search the defendant’s electronically stored information (ESI) and the defendant turned over sample emails related to the case to help determine what keywords would be appropriate.  On February 25, 2016, the plaintiff’s counsel sent the defendant’s counsel a list of 126 keywords to use for retrieving ESI.  On March 10, the defendant’s counsel sent an email to the plaintiff striking 20 search terms from the list and, on April 28, the plaintiff’s counsel responded by voluntarily removing 28 additional terms, leaving 78 terms and also objecting to 7 of the 20 terms deleted by the defendant.  In all, neither party objected to 78 of the original 126 search terms during this negotiation.

The plaintiff’s counsel sent the defendant’s counsel follow-up emails on May 6, May 24, June 3, June 13, and June 30 and the defendant’s counsel did not respond to any of those emails, causing the plaintiff to file a Motion to Compel on July 12.

Judge’s Ruling

While noting that “Carbonyx contends that it has produced ‘more than 12,000 pages of documents, consisting of emails and their attachments, as well as paper documents’”, Judge Martin also noted that “these documents were generated using the search terms ‘Scientific Dust Collectors’ – the name Venturdyne does business under – and ‘Scientific.’” (those terms happen to be redundant, by the way, as the second term would would include the results of the first term – just sayin’)  But, he also noted that “Carbonyx’s assertion that the documents it has already produced…are completely responsive is not convincing.”

As a result, Judge Martin stated:

“Accordingly, Carbonyx must produce documents flagged by the 78 unopposed search terms contained in DE 48-7. Those terms appear ‘reasonably calculated to lead to discovery of admissible evidence’ in that the terms were based on sample emails related to this case and the parties already eliminated many generic words like ‘money.’”

Judge Martin also noted that “the court must, after giving an opportunity to be heard, require the party . . . whose conduct necessitated the motion, the party or attorney advising that conduct, or both to pay the movant’s reasonable expenses incurred in making the motion, including attorney’s fees.”  So, he ordered the plaintiff to file an itemization of its costs and fees, including attorney’s fees, incurred in making the Motion to Compel by November 21, with the defendant to file a response by December 5 and the plaintiff to file a reply to that by December 12.

So, what do you think?  Would the ruling have turned out differently if the defendant had continued to work with the plaintiff?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

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