Court Declines to Shift Cost of Restoring and Searching A Single Backup Tape, But Limits Scope of Search

Semsroth v. City of Wichita, 239 F.R.D. 630 (D. Kan. 2006)

In this employment discrimination suit, the plaintiffs requested information relating to emails sent to or by other officers within the Wichita Police Department.  Through negotiations, the parties narrowed that request to copies of emails from 117 different supervising officers to the extent that such emails existed on a back-up tape of July 23, 2004.  The city moved for a protective order that would shift the cost of searching the backup tape to the plaintiffs, estimating the cost to be between $1,950 and $2,625.

Citing the Zubulake decisions, the court declined to conclude that cost of restoring and searching the email backup tape was such as to render that back-up tape "not reasonably accessible because of undue burden or cost."  However, it found that limits on the scope of the discovery were nonetheless appropriate under Rule 26(b)(2).  Accordingly, the court limited the scope of the discovery in two respects:  (1) It struck several search terms proposed by plaintiffs because it concluded that they were common enough that they might well result in identification of a significant volume of irrelevant email; and (2) It reduced the number of mailboxes to be searched from 117 to 50.  Plaintiffs would be allowed to choose which 50 mailboxes would be searched.

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