eDiscovery Daily Blog

Plaintiffs’ Objections to Defendant’s Use of Keyword Search before Predictive Coding Rejected – eDiscovery Case Law

Is it possible to produce documents for discovery too early?  At least one plaintiff’s group says yes.

In the case In Re: Biomet M2a Magnum Hip Implant Products Liability Litigation (MDL 2391), thhttps://cloudnine.com/ediscoverydaily/ralph-losey-of-jackson-lewis-llp-ediscovery-trends-part-1/e Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee in a Multi District Litigation objected to the defendant’s use of keyword searching prior to performing predictive coding and requested that the defendant go back to its original set of 19.5 million documents and repeat the predictive coding without performing keyword searching.  Indiana District Judge Robert L. Miller, Jr. denied the request.

Defendant’s Discovery Efforts to Date

In this dispute over hip implant products, the defendant began producing documents in cases that were eventually centralized, despite (sometimes forceful) requests by plaintiffs’ counsel not to begin document production until the decision whether to centralize was made.  The defendant used keyword culling to reduce the universe of documents and attachments from 19.5 million documents to 3.9 million documents, and removing duplicates left 2.5 million documents and attachments. The defendant performed statistical sampling tests, with a 99 percent confidence rate, to determine that between .55% and 1.33% of the unselected documents would be responsive and (with the same confidence level) that between 1.37% and 2.47% of the original 19.5 million documents were responsive.  The defendant’s approach actually retrieved 16% of the original 19.5 million.  The defendant then performed predictive coding to identify responsive documents to be produced from the set of 2.5 million documents.

According to the order, the defendant’s eDiscovery costs “are about $1.07 million and will total between $2 million and $3.25 million.” {emphasis added}  The defendant “invited the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee to suggest additional search terms and offered to produce the rest of the non-privileged documents from the post-keyword 2.5 million”, but they declined, “believing they are too little to assure proper document production”.

Plaintiffs’ Objections

The plaintiffs’ Steering Committee objected, claiming that the defendant’s use of keyword searching “has tainted the process”, pointing to an article which “mentioned unidentified ‘literature stating that linear review would generate a responsive rate of 60 percent and key word searches only 20 percent, and [the defendants in the case being discussed] proposed that predictive coding at a 75 percent responsive rate would be sufficient.’” {emphasis added}  They requested that the defendant “go back to its 19.5 million documents and employ predictive coding, with plaintiffs and defendants jointly entering the ‘find more like this’ commands.”  In response to the defendant’s objections that virtually starting over would cost additional millions, the Steering Committee blamed the defendant for spending millions on document production despite being warned not to begin until the cases had been centralized.

Judge’s Ruling

Noting that “[w]hat Biomet has done complies fully with the requirements of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 26(b) and 34(b)(2)”, Judge Miller noted that “the Steering Committee’s request that Biomet go back to Square One…and institute predictive coding at that earlier stage sits uneasily with the proportionality standard in Rule 26(b)(2)(C).”  Continuing, Judge Miller stated:

“Even in light of the needs of the hundreds of plaintiffs in this case, the very large amount in controversy, the parties’ resources, the importance of the issues at stake, and the importance of this discovery in resolving the issues, I can’t find that the likely benefits of the discovery proposed by the Steering Committee equals or outweighs its additional burden on, and additional expense to, Biomet.”

Judge Miller also rejected the Steering Committee’s position that the defendant can’t rely on proportionality arguments because they proceeded with document production while the centralization decision was pending: “The Steering Committee hasn’t argued (and I assume it can’t argue) that Biomet had no disclosure or document identification obligation in any of the cases that were awaiting a ruling on (or even the filing of) the centralization petition.”  As a result, he ruled that the Steering Committee would have to bear the expense for “production of documents that can be identified only through re-commenced processing, predictive coding, review, and production”.

So, what do you think?  Was the judge correct to accept the defendant’s multimodal approach to discovery?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

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