Court Allows Plaintiff to “switch horses in midstream” and Use Predictive Coding to Review Documents Initially Screened with Search Terms

Bridgestone Americas, Inc. v. Int. Bus. Machs. Corp., No. 3:13-1196 (M.D. Tenn. July 22, 2014)

In this case, the court approved plaintiff’s request to use predictive coding in reviewing over two million documents, despite defendant’s objections that the request was an “unwarranted change in the original case management order” and that it would be unfair to allow the use of predictive coding “after an initial screening has been done with search terms.”

In deciding to allow plaintiff to utilize predictive coding, the court reasoned:

Predictive coding is a rapidly developing field in which the Sedona Conference has devoted a good deal of time and effort to, and has provided various best practices suggestions. Magistrate Judge Peck has written an excellent article on the subject and has issued opinions concerning predictive coding. Certainly, this Magistrate Judge could try to write an extensive opinion, going into various cases which have allowed and denied predictive coding. In the final analysis, the uses of predictive coding is a judgment call, hopefully keeping in mind the exhortation of Rule 26 that discovery be tailored by the court to be as efficient and cost-effective as possible. In this case, we are talking about millions of documents to be reviewed with costs likewise in the millions. There is no single, simple, correct solution possible under these circumstances.

The Magistrate Judge will permit Plaintiff to use predictive coding on the documents that they have presently identified, based on the search terms Defendant provided.

The Magistrate Judge believes that he is, to some extent, allowing Plaintiff to switch horses in midstream. Consequently, openness and transparency in what Plaintiff is doing will be of critical importance. Plaintiff has advised that they will provide the seed documents they are initially using to set up predictive coding. The Magistrate Judge expects full openness in this matter.

The court went on to note that the defendant was a “sophisticated user of advanced methods for integrating and reviewing large amounts of data,” and indicated that the court expected the parties to communicate “through their attorneys and experts and companies doing the work, on a frequent and open basis.” The parties were further instructed to seek the court’s intervention upon reaching a “sticking point.”

Notably, although the defendant had advised the court that “they [were] somewhere between one-third and one-half completed with their manual review of their documents set,” the court closed its opinion by indicating that “[n]othing in this order is intended to prohibit Defendant from switching to predictive coding if they believe it would in the end be more efficient, given the Magistrate Judge’s order to allow the Plaintiff to use predictive coding.”

A full copy of the court’s order is available here.

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