Archive: July 31, 2008

Court Denies Motion to Compel Production of Email from Backup Tapes

Court Denies Motion to Compel Production of Email from Backup Tapes

Young v. Pleasant Valley Sch. Dist., 2008 WL 2857912 (M.D. Pa. July 21, 2008)

In this case, plaintiffs had requested that they be allowed to search the defendants’ backup tapes in an attempt to discover whether other complaints were made to the district about the teacher who was at the center of the case.  After examining the relevant case law, the court concluded that it lacked sufficient information on the process of recovering deleted emails, the time required to do so, and the potential costs of that recovery.  As a result, the court ordered defendants to supply the information and delayed a decision on plaintiffs’ motion until it had the information.

Defendants complied with the court’s request, and provided the following information:

(1) the district already possessed the equipment necessary to gain access to materials preserved on the backup tapes;
(2) the cost of the search would be a minimum of $10,000;
(3) a week would be needed to rebuild and restore the e-mail program, and additional time would be needed to access the emails;
(4) there were easily millions of emails stored on the server, and a precise number could not be reported until the server was rebuilt; and
(5) once the emails were restored, they could be searched by date, recipient, sender, subject or keywords.

The court concluded that the burden and expense of rebuilding the district’s email system in order to provide the requested discovery, along with the additional and less expensive means available for plaintiffs to get this material, made the plaintiffs’ discovery request impractical.  Accordingly, the court denied plaintiffs’ motion.

The court rejected plaintiffs’ offer to have their own expert search the tapes: 

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