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Court Narrows Discovery Requests, Finding Information Sought “Not Reasonably Accessible” Because of Undue Burden

Posted in CASE SUMMARIES

Ameriwood Industries, Inc. v. Liberman, 2007 WL 496716 (E.D. Mo. Feb. 13, 2007)

 

In this case, plaintiff alleged that defendants improperly used confidential information while in plaintiff’s employ to sabotage plaintiff’s business relationships.  Defendants asserted that plaintiff’s lost sales were due to plaintiff’s own mismanagement and not defendants’ alleged misconduct.  Defendants requested all plaintiff’s documents and communications concerning the television stand business made during the relevant period, and identified six individuals who may have responsive information.  Plaintiff argued that the request was unduly broad and overly burdensome and that the documents, the majority of which were electronically stored, numbered in the hundreds of thousands.  Defendants moved to compel production of:  (1) its internal communications and documents regarding plaintiff’s original equipment manufacturer (“OEM”) television stand business, its customers, and its management for the period from October 2005 through March 2006; (2) plaintiff’s employees’ communications with customers regarding the OEM television stand business for the same period; and (3) documents relating to plaintiff’s 2006 Consumer Electronics show presentations.

Citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2), the court noted that the recently amended Federal Rules of Civil Procedure set forth a burden-shifting analysis for courts to use in deciding whether to compel production of electronically stored information: 

 

On motion to compel discovery …, the party from whom discovery is sought must show that the information is not reasonably accessible because of undue burden or cost.  If that showing is made, the court may nonetheless order discovery from such sources if the requesting party shows good cause, considering the limitations of Rule 26(b)(2)(C).  The court may specify conditions for the discovery.

 

2007 WL 496716, at *2.  The court observed that, for the six individuals identified by defendants, plaintiff had identified some 52,124 potentially responsive emails and 4,413 additional computer files, such as Microsoft Office files.  Based on this showing, the court found that the information was “not reasonably accessible” because the request was “unduly burdensome,” and turned to defendants for a showing of good cause.


The court stated it considered the factors laid out in the advisory committee’s note to Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2), namely:

 

(1) the specificity of the discovery request; (2) the quantity of information available from other and more easily accessed sources; (3) the failure to produce relevant information that seems likely to have existed but is no longer available on more easily accessed sources; (4) the likelihood of finding relevant, responsive information that cannot be obtained from other, more easily accessed sources; (5) predictions as to the importance and usefulness of the further information; (6) the importance of the issues at stake in the litigation; and (7) the parties’ resources.

The court found that defendants’ requests were not narrowly tailored to seek only information relevant to the affirmative defense.  It concluded that defendants failed to show good cause to order disclosure of the communications and documents, even if the court were to limit the request to the documents involving the six employees.

 

Accordingly, the court granted the motion in part and ordered plaintiff to produce documents responsive to categories two and three only.