Court Denies Access to Hard Drives as Unwarranted “Fishing Expedition”

Balfour Beatty Rail, Inc. v. Vaccarello, 2007 WL 169628 (M.D. Fla. Jan. 18, 2007)

Plaintiff sued two former employees who left to form a competing business (“ARS”), alleging among other things that defendants undertook to cover up their actions by destroying information stored on plaintiff’s computers. In discovery, plaintiff sought and moved to compel the hard drive of any computer used by the defendants for ARS or Balfour Beatty business purposes at any time during 2005 and 2006. The defendants objected on confidentiality grounds to producing the hard drives used for ARS and stated that they did not have the hard drive they used for Balfour Beatty business. Plaintiff argued that the parties’ protective order should provide sufficient protection to any confidential information, and that defendants’ objections based on confidentiality should be disregarded.

The court disagreed. It noted that plaintiff’s requests simply sought computer hard drives, and that plaintiff did not provide any information about what it sought to discover from the hard drives, nor did it contend that defendants had somehow failed to provide any responsive information contained on the hard drives. The court observed that Rule 34 permits a party to request documents, but it does not give the requesting party the right to conduct the actual search. It found that plaintiff had made no showing which would justify granting access to the defendants’ hard drives. “Indeed, allowing Plaintiff to gain access to Defendant’s hard drive in this case would permit Plaintiff to engage in a fishing expedition.” The court therefore denied the motion to compel.

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