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Finding Categorical Privilege Log to Be Inadequate, Court Orders Plaintiff to Provide a Metadata Log: eDiscovery Case Law
In Companion Property and Casualty Insurance Company v. U.S. Bank N.A., No. 15-01300 (D. S.C., Nov. 3, 2016), South Carolina District Judge J. Michelle Childs determined that the plaintiff’s categorical Privilege Log was inadequate and ordered the plaintiff to provide to the defendant a metadata log for all documents withheld or redacted, affidavit(s) from the person(s) with knowledge regarding the privileged third party and common interest parties and a list of anticipated litigation(s) for the documents withheld on the basis of work product protection.
In this case where the plaintiff alleged breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty over the substantial decrease in value of trusts associated with use of the plaintiff’s insurance program, the defendant initially moved for an order compelling the plaintiff to produce a more-detailed “document-specific privilege log of redacted and withheld documents” which pre-date February 14, 2014 and also requested that “with respect to any work product claims,” the plaintiff should provide information regarding “what litigation it anticipated, when the litigation was anticipated, the facts that caused . . . [Plaintiff] to anticipate the litigation, and how that anticipation drove the creation of the withheld document.”
In responding, the plaintiff argued it submitted a categorical privilege log, which the parties “expressly” agreed was acceptable and that the parties had agreed that privilege logs did not need to identify redacted documents in which the asserted privilege was evident on the face of the document. The defendant then changed the requested relief in its Motion to Compel to request a metadata log of each withheld document, including dates of communications, date created, document custodian, to/from/cc information, and subject lines for emails and certain specific communications from a key third party. The plaintiff agreed to produce the metadata log, but was adamant that all communications with a key third party were protected by the attorney-client privilege. The defendant accepted that proposal in part, but asked the court to require production of the agreed-upon information earlier than the plaintiff proposed, review certain communications from the key third party to determine if privilege had been properly withheld and require the plaintiff to attach to the list of anticipated litigations “an affidavit stating the point in time it anticipated such litigation, the facts that caused it to anticipate such litigation and describe the categories and types of documents that were created in anticipation of such litigation”.
Judge Childs noted that “To comply with the requirements set forth in Rule 26(b)(5)(A), a party seeking protection from producing documents must produce a privilege log that ‘identifies each document withheld, information regarding the nature of the privilege/protection claimed, the name of the person making/receiving the communication, the date and place of the communication, and the document’s general subject matter.’” With that in mind, Judge Childs ruled:
“Upon review of the Categorical Privilege Log in the context of Defendant’s complaints, the court finds that Plaintiff’s log does not allow Defendant or the court to test the applicability of the attorney-client privilege and/or work product protection as to each document sought to be withheld. Accordingly, the court concludes that Plaintiff’s Categorical Privilege Log is inadequate.”
As a result, Judge Childs ordered the plaintiff to provide to the defendant on or before November 18, a metadata log for all documents withheld or redacted dated before February 14, 2014, affidavit(s) from the person(s) with knowledge regarding the privileged third party and common interest parties and a list of anticipated litigation(s) for the documents withheld on the basis of work product protection dated before February 14, 2014.
So, what do you think? Are categorical privilege logs generally sufficient enough to communicate to parties what it being withheld and why? Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.
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