Noting Reliance Solely on Cost of Discovery, Court Rejects Proportionality Objection

Cargill Meat Solutions Corp. v. Premium Beef Feeders, LLC, No. 13-cv-1168-EFM-TJJ, 2015 WL 3937410 (D. Kan. June 26, 2015)

In this case the court addressed Defendants’ motion to compel and Plaintiff’s objection to discovery based on proportionality. Concluding that Plaintiff failed to adequately establish the alleged burden of the requested discovery, the court granted the motion to compel.

In this case, Defendants sought to compel production of relevant information related to Plaintiff’s “hedging and/or risk management strategies and/or policies for all cattle purchased” pursuant to the agreement at issue in the case. Plaintiff objected, arguing that “the discovery sought [was] not proportional and should not be compelled.” Specifically, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2)(C), Plaintiff argued that “the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweigh[ed] its likely benefit.”

“A party asserting an unduly burdensome objection to a discovery request has ‘the burden to show facts justifying [its] objection by demonstrating that the time or expense involved in responding to requested discovery is unduly burdensome” and must also show “‘not only undue burden or expense, but that the burden or expense is unreasonable in light of the benefits to be secured from the discovery.’” Per the court:

This imposes an obligation “to provide sufficient detail in terms of time, money and procedure required to produce the requested documents.” Any objection that discovery is unduly burdensome must contain a factual basis for the claim, and the objecting party must usually provide an “affidavit or other evidentiary proof of the time or expense involved in responding to the discovery request.”

In the present case, the court rejected Plaintiff’s argument that the discovery would be minimally important, cumulative and duplicative as “unsubstantiated” and noted that Plaintiff provided no evidentiary support for its claim that searching additional custodians would cost $4,000-$5,000 per custodian and Plaintiff’s failure to explain “what or how many custodians would be involved.”

The court concluded:

The Court finds that Plaintiff has not satisfied its burden to show that producing the requested documents would be unduly burdensome. Although Plaintiff articulates the issue as one of proportionality, the only factor Plaintiff mentions is the cost of the discovery. Plaintiff does not set forth what the relative cost of production would be as compared to the amount in controversy. The Court notes that both parties seek damages/setoff in excess of $2,000,000. Plaintiff’s unsupported estimate of $4,000 to $5,000 per custodian in discovery costs does not lead the Court to find that ordering the requested discovery violates proportionality, particularly given the history, scope, and nature of this case.

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

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