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Motion to Compel Dismissed after Defendant Agrees to Conditional Meet and Confer – eDiscovery Case Law

In Gordon v. Kaleida Health, No. 08-CV-378S(F) (W.D.N.Y. May 21, 2013), New York Magistrate Judge Leslie G. Foschio dismissed (without prejudice) the plaintiffs’ motion to compel the defendant to meet and confer to establish an agreed protocol for implementing the use of predictive coding software after the defendants stated that they were prepared to meet and confer with the plaintiffs and their non-disqualified ESI consultants regarding the defendants’ predictive coding process.

For over a year, the parties unsuccessfully attempted to agree on how to achieve a cost-effective review of the defendants’ 200,000 to 300,000 emails using a keyword search methodology.  Eventually, in June 2012, the court expressed dissatisfaction with the parties’ lack of progress toward resolving the issues and pointed to the availability of predictive coding, citing its approval in Da Silva Moore v. Publicis Groupe & MSL Group, No. 11 Civ. 1279 (ALC) (AJP) (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 24, 2012) (much more on that case here).

In a September 2012 email, after informing the plaintiffs that they intended to use predictive coding, the defendants objected to the plaintiffs’ ESI consultants participating in discussions with Defendants relating to the use of predictive coding and establishing a protocol.  Later that month, despite the plaintiffs’ requests for discussion of numerous search issues to ensure a successful predictive coding outcome, the defendants sent their ESI protocol to the plaintiffs and indicated they would also send a list of their email custodians to the plaintiffs.  In October 2012, the plaintiffs objected to the defendants’ proposed ESI protocol and filed the motion to compel, also citing Da Silva Moore and noting several technical issues “which should be discussed with the assistance of Plaintiffs’ ESI consultants and cooperatively resolved by the parties”.

Complaining that the defendants refused to discuss issues other than the defendants’ custodians, the plaintiffs claimed that “the defendants’ position excludes Plaintiffs’ access to important information regarding Defendants’ selection of so-called ‘seed set documents’ which are used to ‘train the computer’ in the predictive coding search method.  The defendants responded, indicating they had no objection to a meet and confer with the plaintiffs and their consultants, except for those consultants that were the subject of the defendants’ motion to disqualify (because they had previously provided services to the defendants in the case). With regard to sharing seed set document information, the defendants stated that “courts do not order parties in ESI discovery disputes to agree to specific protocols to facilitate a computer-based review of ESI based on the general rule that ESI production is within the ‘sound discretion’ of the producing party” and noted that the defendants in Da Silva Moore weren’t required to provide the plaintiffs with their seed set documents, but volunteered to do so.

Because the defendants stated that “they are prepared to meet and confer with Plaintiffs and Plaintiffs’ ESI consultants, who are not disqualified”, Judge Foschio ruled that “it is not necessary for the court to further address the merits of Plaintiffs’ motion at this time” and dismissed the motion without prejudice.  It will be interesting to see if the parties can ultimately agree on sharing the protocol or if the question regarding sharing information about seed set documents will come back before the court.

So, what do you think?  Should producing parties be required to share information regarding selection of seed set documents?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

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