eDiscovery Daily Blog

Court Rules Defendant’s Production Need Not Be Lost in Translation: eDiscovery Case Law

In NY Machinery v. The Korean Cleaners Monthly, No. 2:17-12269-SDW-ESK (D.N.J. Jan. 6, 2020), New Jersey Magistrate Judge Edward S. Kiel, noting that “Rule 34 does not address which party has the obligation to translate documents into English” denied the plaintiffs’ application seeking to compel the defendants to translate documents served as part of their document production.

Case Background

In this case involving allegations unfair competition, false advertising, defamation, false light and trade libel (among other allegations), the plaintiffs wrote to the defendants in April 2019 asserting various deficiencies in the defendants’ discovery responses, including this statement:

“Defendants’ document production contains numerous documents, including emails, that appear to be written in Korean or Japanese. Plaintiffs have incurred the expense of obtaining certified English translations of documents contained in their production. We expect Defendants to promptly produce certified translations of these documents.”

The parties continued to exchange correspondence relating to discovery disputes, which included the plaintiffs’ demand that the defendants provide certified translations of documents and a dispute about a telephone-status conference on September 6, 2019 and whether a judge ordered the defendants to provide certified translations of Defendants’ document production by September 22, 2019.

Judge’s Ruling

Judge Kiel noted: “The question before the Court is: Who bears the cost of translating foreign-language documents produced in response to a request for production of documents? There is no clear answer in the Third Circuit.”

But, Judge Kiel also stated: “The Court, however, finds the analysis and decision in Nature’s Plus Nordic A/S v. Natural Organics, Inc. 274 F.R.D. 437, 439 (E.D.N.Y. 2011) to be persuasive and adopts it herein.” {emphasis added}  Judge Kiel noted that ruling “held that Rule 34 ‘d[oes] not provide the district court with any authority to direct the party producing documents to translate them and that such orders violate the well-accepted principle that each party bear the ordinary burden of financing his own suit… and that each party … is expected to bear any special attendant costs.’…Thus, absent a showing of ‘prejudice to [the requesting party for] undue delay,’ the party responding to document demands has no obligation to provide translations to foreign-language documents.”

Noting that “Plaintiffs do not claim that the documents produced by Defendants in response to Plaintiffs’ discovery demands are irrelevant” and that “to satisfy their obligation under Rule 34, Defendants produced all documents responsive to Plaintiffs’ request, including the foreign-language documents at issue”, Judge Kiel denied the plaintiffs’ request to have the defendants translate the documents or shift any of the costs for translating the documents to the defendants.

So, what do you think?  Should parties be responsible for translating foreign language documents they produce?  Please let us know if any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Case opinion link courtesy of eDiscovery Assistant.

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