eDiscovery Daily Blog
Court Rejects Search Terms by Both Sides as Overly Inclusive: eDiscovery Case Law
Monday, I asked for a call for key eDiscovery case law cases in 2018 to cover. While this one wasn’t overtly suggested, it was covered by Ralph Losey in his excellent e-Discovery Team® blog the same day, so that works too… :o)
In Am. Municipal Power, Inc. v. Voith Hydro, Inc., No. 2:17-cv-708 (S.D. Ohio June 4, 2018), Ohio Magistrate Judge Elizabeth A. Preston Deavers ruling on the parties’ arguments from a May discovery conference, concluded that search terms proposed by both parties in the case were overly inclusive.
The parties provided extensive letter briefing for a discovery conference on May 24, 2018 regarding discovery disputes relating to the production of ESI and other documents, with the parties’ dispute centered around two ESI-related issues: (1) the propriety of a single-word search by Project name proposed by the defendant which it sought to have applied to the plaintiff’s ESI and (2) the propriety of the plaintiff’s request that the defendant run crafted search terms which the plaintiff proposed that were not limited to the Project’s name.
After careful consideration of the parties’ letter briefing and their arguments during the discovery conference, Judge Deavers concluded as follows with regard to the defendant’s proposed search terms:
“Voith’s single-word Project name search terms are over-inclusive. AMP’s position as the owner of the power-plant Projects puts it in a different situation than Voith in terms of how many ESI “hits” searching by Project name would return. As owner, AMP has stored millions of documents for more than a decade that contain the name of the Projects which refer to all kinds of matters unrelated to this case. Searching by Project name, therefore, would yield a significant amount of discovery that has no bearing on the construction of the power plants or Voith’s involvement in it, including but not limited to documents related to real property acquisitions, licensing, employee benefits, facility tours, parking lot signage, etc. While searching by the individual Project’s name would yield extensive information related to the name of the Project, it would not necessarily bear on or be relevant to the construction of the four hydroelectric power plants, which are the subject of this litigation. AMP has demonstrated that using a single-word search by Project name would significantly increase the cost of discovery in this case, including a privilege review that would add $100,000 — $125,000 to its cost of production. The burden and expense of applying the search terms of each Project’s name without additional qualifiers outweighs the benefits of this discovery for Voith and is disproportionate to the needs of even this extremely complicated case.”
Judge Deavers also concluded this with regard to the plaintiff’s proposed search terms:
“AMP’s request that Voith search its ESI collection without reference to the Project names by using as search terms including various employee and contractor names together with a list of common construction terms and the names of hydroelectric parts is overly inclusive and would yield confidential communications about other projects Voith performed for other customers. Voith employees work on and communicate regarding many customers at any one time. AMPs proposal to search terms limited to certain date ranges does not remedy the issue because those employees still would have sent and received communications about other projects during the times in which they were engaged in work related to AMP’s Projects. Similarly, AMP’s proposal to exclude the names of other customers’ project names with “AND NOT” phrases is unworkable because Voith cannot reasonably identify all the projects from around the world with which its employees were involved during the decade they were engaged in work for AMP on the Projects. Voith has demonstrated that using the terms proposed by AMP without connecting them to the names of the Projects would return thousands of documents that are not related to this litigation. The burden on Voith of running AMP’s proposed search terms connected to the names of individual employees and general construction terms outweighs the possibility that the searches would generate hits that are relevant to this case. Moreover, running the searches AMP proposes would impose on Voith the substantial and expensive burden of manually reviewing the ESI page by page to ensure that it does not disclose confidential and sensitive information of other customers. The request is therefore overly burdensome and not proportional to the needs of the case.”
So, what do you think? Are these parties overreaching, do they need a course in search best practices or do they need a TAR approach? Please share 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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