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Portions of Plaintiff’s Motion to Compel eDiscovery Ruled as “Overbroad” and “Moot” Reaffirmed by District Court – eDiscovery Case Law
In Elkharwily v. Mayo Holding Co., 12-3062 (DSD/JJK), 2014 U.S. Dist. (D. Minn. Apr. 18, 2014), Minnesota District Judge David S. Doty overruled the plaintiff’s objection to a magistrate judge’s order that denied in part the plaintiff’s motion to compel discovery, labeling some requests as overbroad or moot, particularly after the defendant contended it had already produced the requested discovery materials.
This employment dispute was brought about when the plaintiff was terminated from the defendant’s employment. The plaintiff claims that after observing and reporting several instances of negligence and fraud in this medical setting, he was placed on administrative leave and asked to resign. When the plaintiff refused, the defendant terminated his employment. The resulting civil action filed by the plaintiff accuses the defendant of breach of contract and retaliation.
At issue here was an earlier order by a magistrate judge that denied in part the plaintiff’s Motion to Compel discovery of the defendant’s Electronically Stored Information (ESI). Specifically, the plaintiff sought to overturn the decision denying his motion to compel related to:
- Requests for Production 9 and 12 and Interrogatories 14, 15, 16, and 20
- Requests for Production 1, 2, and 10
- Requests for Production 4, 5, and 6
Regarding the Requests for Production 9 and 12 and Interrogatories 14, 15, 16, and 20, which sought in part “any communications between any [defendant’s] employee and any potential employer of [plaintiff],” it was initially determined that the requests were overbroad, as they “presented the opportunity to investigate other unpleaded claims.” These requests and interrogatories were deemed “unduly expansive and seek[ing] material well outside the boundaries of permissible discovery.” Judge Doty concluded that the initial ruling on these issues was “neither clearly erroneous nor contrary to law,” as the plaintiff contended.
Requests for Production 1, 2, and 10 sought discovery relevant to the case. Specifically, Production 1 sought “[a]ll documents…maintained by [defendant] or any employee or agent of [defendant], relating to [plaintiff],” Production 2 sought “[a]ll email and text messages sent or received on [plaintiff’s work assigned] email and text messaging accounts,” and Production 10 sought “[all] documents, notes, communications, emails and text messages relating to [plaintiff] or to any of the claims or defenses in this action prepared, sent or received by [defendant],” all of which were initially denied as being overbroad and moot. In response to this, the defendant noted that it had already produced responsive documents to these Requests for Production, with redactions and assertions of privilege subject to future consideration. Therefore, Judge Doty noted that the plaintiff appeared to have no persisting objection to the initial ruling.
With regard to Requests for Production 4, 5, and 6, which had initially been overruled as moot, the plaintiff cited the initial order and argued that “(1) the order does not explicitly require [defendant] to include in its log otherwise-responsive documents not produced due to an asserted privilege and (2) the order does not compel production of patient files.” The defendant responded that it had already produced all responsive and non-privileged documents, had provided the plaintiff with a privilege log which logged all withheld documents, and further that the requested documents did not “reference, rely upon or incorporate patient files.”
In this final issue, Judge Doty noted that the court “must accept, at face value, a party’s representation that it has fully produced all materials that are responsive to a discovery request,” and that Rule 26 “provides adequate protection to ensure that, if [d]efendants are found to be deficient in their document production, appropriate sanctions will be leveled and [the plaintiff] will not suffer undue prejudice.” Therefore, the plaintiff’s objection to the portion of the objection relating to those requests for production was also overruled.
So, what do you think? Should any of the plaintiff’s objections have been considered more seriously? Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.
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