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Magistrate Judge Explains Why Discovery Sanctions Against Defendant Were Not Warranted

Posted in CASE SUMMARIES

Williams v. Sprint/United Mgmt. Co., 2007 WL 214320 (D. Kan. Jan. 23, 2007)

Previously, Chief District Judge John W. Lungstrum had remanded this matter to the Magistrate Judge for factual findings concerning and an explanation of the reasons for the denial of plaintiffs’ motion for sanctions. This opinion sets out Magistrate Judge David J. Waxse’s explanation of why he denied plaintiffs’ motion to the extent it sought to impose sanctions upon defendant for its alleged failure to produce all spreadsheet materials in native format, its failure to timely produce the spreadsheet materials that were produced, and its conduct in re-producing spreadsheet materials in non-native format that had already been produced in native format.

First, the Magistrate Judge listed several reasons why it found that defendant should not be sanctioned for initially producing certain spreadsheets in .tif format rather than native format. Two of the reasons were that none of plaintiffs’ original discovery requests for the RIF spreadsheets specified that the spreadsheets should be produced in their native format rather than as .tif images, which was the parties’ original agreement, and that defendants ultimately produced all the spreadsheets it had in native format.

Second, the Magistrate Judge found that, while defendant did take a long time to produce the spreadsheets at issue, it offered detailed explanations that demonstrated the delays were neither willful nor motivated by a desire to obtain a tactical advantage.

Third, the Magistrate Judge found no evidence that defendant intentionally or negligently re-produced duplicate documents in bad faith or otherwise acted in any manner inconsistent with a good faith effort to produce documents in response to all the discovery orders and plaintiffs’ discovery requests. He found that the mere production of duplicate documents, without any evidence of bad faith or improper motive, did not constitute sanctionable conduct. The Magistrate Judge noted that plaintiffs were aware that defendant was producing documents in response to multiple requests and court orders, and they should have therefore expected a certain amount of duplication. Furthermore, the Magistrate Judge found that plaintiffs’ own actions in making repeated requests that documents be reproduced in different formats also contributed to the duplicate production.