Post Process

Everything to do with E-discovery & ESI

Archive for the ‘D. Kan.’ Category

Case Blurb: Mformation Technologies; Court discusses document dumps and the meaning of ‘maintained in the usual course of business’

Posted by rjbiii on November 29, 2009

Courts have struggled with the interpretation of Fed. R. Civ. P. 34 which allows production as documents are maintained in the usual course of the producing party’s business. In attempting to define the requirements that should be place on a producing party who chooses to produce documents in the manner they are normally maintained, the courts have attempted to balance the burden on the respective parties. Generally, courts have concluded that simply dumping a mass of documents on the requesting party may not satisfy the rule’s requirements, even though the undifferentiated mass of documents are in the same form as maintained by the producing party.

Espy v. Mformation Techs., 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 81832, 23-24 (D. Kan. Sept. 9, 2009)(citations removed).

Posted in 10th Circuit, Case Blurbs, D. Kan., Data Dump, Form of Production, FRCP 34, Magistrate Judge Donald W. Bostwick | Leave a Comment »

Case Summary: MFormation Technologies; Court looks at how data is ‘Ordinarily maintained’

Posted by rjbiii on November 27, 2009

Espy v. Mformation Techs., 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 81832 (D. Kan. Sept. 9, 2009)

Factual Background: Plaintiff (Brian Espy) brought this action to recover commissions for sales made while in the employ of defendant company (Mformation). Plaintiff resigned from the company because of disagreements over the method of calculating those commissions. There was also a dispute regarding the value of the accounts for which the commissions would be paid.

In late 2007 or early 2008, defendant company was positioning itself for sale. As part of that process, the company established a secure website to which it published much confidential financial information about itself. Items published included such things as articles of incorporation, board and stockholder meeting minutes, past financial statements, and future financial forecasts of revenues. Mformation limited access to this website to companies and individuals who obtained a secure password from Mformation. The website collected information as to who entered the website and when, not only as to the company that was making the contact, but more specifically the individuals who accessed the site.

Plaintiff contends that the company would have had to have include information on the value of the Clearwire account (the largest of Plaintiff’s accounts for which he sought commissions), and he sought to obtain names of prospective purchases who may have been privy to this information. During deposition, Mformation CEO Mark Edwards refused to provide this information, claiming that the information was privileged and confidential, and that the request was not made to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Defendants did, however, state that “all of the representations made to all the third parties are contained in a CD of the secure website which Defendants finally located and provided to the court for in camera inspection.”

Before the court were multiple motions by plaintiff to compel production, and a motion that sanctions be imposed for failure to produce documents.


Identity of Third Parties & continuation of Edwards’ deposition

Defendants represented to the court that all information provided to prospective third-party purchasers about the value of the company was located on the secure website, and that no further materials existed from follow-up discussions or meetings. Certain emails which were attached as exhibits convinced the court that these representations were false, despite defendants’ continued assertions that of the accuracy of those statements. In light of this, the court required defendants to produce to Plaintiff the CD containing the contents of the secure website and certain hard copy documents that were previously produced to the court for in camera inspection.

Defendants argued that because these materials were confidential and proprietary, they should be allowed to produce a redacted version of the material, or have a special master appointed at Defendants’ expense to govern this particular dispute. The court disagreed, however, saying that while it was understood that these materials were confidential, they were also dated, as none of the information includes current financial information or projections.

The court also granted Plaintiff the right to depose any prospective third party purchaser had any direct communications with Mformation or its representative. The court accepted defendant’s offer to produce its 30(b)(6) witness for a deposition, scheduled earlier but cancelled due to that witness’s illness. Finally, in light of the fact that it appeared that responsive data associated with third party prospective purchasers had not been produced by defendant, the court ordered defendant to go back and review its files and records and produce anything it missed first time around.


Documents presented to board of directors concerning Clearwire contract

The court noted that it appeared that documents associated with the Clearwire contract not necessarily involving representations to third parties. The court stated that such documents presented to it for in camera review, in the form of a presentation made to the board of directors during a meeting of that group. Defendants argue that they produced any relevant documents in this category, but the judge noted that they presumably did not produce this document, due to its presence in the in camera review. The court ordered the defendants to produce any such documents that might have been missed in previous productions.

Financial records of Mformation and receipt of payments from contracts booked by Plaintiff

Plaintiffs requested that all documents related to the financial condition of Mformation between the months of December 2007 through May 2009. Defendant’s objected that this request was overly broad and burdensome, and not calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Plaintiffs argued that it was entitled to the information because of Defendant’s position (either explicit or implied) that it cannot pay certain commissions. The court agreed with Defendants that the request was extremely broad and could encompass a substantial volume of records, and concluded that plaintiffs reason were not sufficient to mandate a production of all documents encompassed in the request. The court decided to require all financial information concerning the receipt of payments from all contracts for which Plaintiff is seeking commissions. The rub here is that Defendant claimed that it had already produced these documents. The court seemed to express its concern about being able to identify these documents within the large document collection already produced to plaintiff.

Plaintiff complained that defendant’s documents were produced in electronic format, without bates stamps and not categorized in response to the specific requests or interrogatories and that this caused Plaintiff difficulty in accessing and reviewing these records. Defendants responded to this complaint by representing that the documents were produced in the manner in which they are stored and kept in the usual course of the business.

The court then discussed the interpretation of FRCP 34, which allows production as documents are maintained in the usual course of the producing party’s business. The court noted that in attempting to define the requirements that should be place on a producing party who chooses to produce documents in the manner they are normally maintained, the courts have attempted to balance the burden on the respective parties. Generally, courts have concluded that simply dumping a mass of documents on the requesting party may not satisfy the rule’s requirements, even though the undifferentiated mass of documents are in the same form as maintained by the producing party. The court concluded that Defendants should be required to specifically identify, by index or otherwise, those specific financial records that relate to receipts of payments from all contracts for which Plaintiff is seeking commissions, and to specify, by index or otherwise, any financial records of Mformation, from December 2007 through May 2009, that specifically relate to treatment of those contracts, specifically including the Clearwire contract. The court also ordered Defendants to produce documents associated with a separated, but related, request to produce certain financial records not previously provided, some of which were unavailable at the time of the request.

Plaintiff’s Request for Sanctions
The court then turned its attention to Plaintiff’s two motions for sanctions. First, Plaintiff requested that he be reimbursed for all costs associated with discovery from Clearwire, including costs for service of a subpoena to Clearwire and the costs for any deposition of Clearwire, including travel to Seattle, court reporter fees and attorneys fees at $ 250 per hour. Plaintiff also sought all expenses associated with the continuation of the depositions of [Mformation CEO] Mark Edwards and the Rule 30(b)(6) deposition of Defendant , including travel to Defendant’s location in New Jersey, court reporter costs and attorneys fees.

In its second motion, Plaintiff repeated its earlier requests, Plaintiff also sought an order striking Defendants’ responsive pleadings and entering judgment in Plaintiff’s favor and the costs associated with the filing of pleadings concerning the discovery dispute.

The court reiterated its determination that that Defendant be required to produce Mark Edwards for the continuation of his deposition and to produce Mformation’s Rule 30(b)(6) witness for deposition, were to be taken at Defendants’ cost, and that all travel and court reporter’s expenses for both of these depositions were the responsibility of Defendants. The court also ordered Defendants to pay attorneys’ fee for the time spent in completing the deposition of Mark Edwards, capped at $1,250.

The court, however, did not grant Plaintiff’s its request for attorneys fee for conducting the Rule 30(b)(6) deposition of Mformation, as this deposition was merely delayed due to the witness’s illness. This is especially true when one considers that Defendants have voluntarily offered to bring the 30(b)(6) witness to Kansas City for deposition. The court also ordered Defendants to pay he costs and attorneys fees required to file such motions. The court denied the request for all other expenses, without prejudice for renewal in the future.

Motions for additional sanctions were denied.

Posted in 10th Circuit, Case Summary, D. Kan., Data Dump, Discovery Requests, FRCP 30(b)(6), FRCP 34, Magistrate Judge Donald W. Bostwick, Objections to Discovery Requests, Overly Broad Request, Relevance, Sanctions | Leave a Comment »

Guidelines (D. Kan.) for topics to discuss at 26(f) meet and confer

Posted by rjbiii on October 4, 2007

During the [26(f)] conference, the parties should confer regarding the following matters:

  • [ESI] in general. Counsel should attempt to agree on steps the parties will take to segregate and preserve [ESI] in order to avoid accusations of spoliation.
  • E-mail information. Counsel should attempt to agree on the scope of e-mail discovery and e-mail search protocol.
  • Deleted information. Counsel should attempt to agree on whether responsive deleted information still exists, the extent to which restoration of deleted information is needed and who will bear the costs of restoration.
  • Embedded data and metadata. Embedded data typically refers to draft language, editorial comments, and other deleted matter retained by computer programs. Metadata typically refers to information describing the history, tracking, or management of an electronic file. The parties should discuss at the [conference] whether embedded data and metadata exist, whether it will be requested or should be produced, and how to handle determinations regarding privilege or protection of trial preparation materials.
  • Back-up and archival data. Counsel should attempt to agree on whether responsive back-up and archival data exists, the extent to which back-up and archival data is needed, and who will bear the cost of obtaining such data.
  • Format and media. Counsel should attempt to agree on the format and media to be used in the production of [ESI].
  • Reasonably accessible information and costs. The volume of, and ability to search, [ESI] means that most parties discovery needs will be satisfied from reasonably accessible sources. Counsel should attempt to determine if any responsive [ESI] is not reasonably accessible, i.e., information that is only accessible by incurring undue burdens or costs. If the responding party is not searching or does not plan to search sourced containing potentially responsive information, it should identify the category or type of such information. If the requesting party intends to seek discovery of [ESI] from sources identified as not reasonably accessible, the parties should discuss:
    • The burdens and costs of accessing and retrieving the information;
    • The needs that may establish good cause for requiring production of all or part of the information, even if the information sought is not reasonably accessible; and
    • Conditions on obtaining and producing this information such as scope, time and allocation of cost.
  • Privileged or trial preparation materials. Counsel should attempt to reach an agreement regarding what will happen in the event privileged or trial preparation materials are inadvertently disclosed. If the disclosing party inadvertently produces privileged or trial preparation materials, it must notify the requesting party of such disclosure. After the requesting party is notified, it must return, sequester, or destroy all information and copies and may not use or disclose this information until the claim of privilege or protection as trial preparation materials is resolved.
    • The parties may agree to provide a “quick peek,” whereby the responding party provides certain requested materials for initial examination w/o waiving any privilege or protection.
    • The parties may also establish a clawback agreement, whereby materials that are disclosed w/o intent to waive privilege or protection are not waived and are returned to the responding party, so long as the responding party identifies the materials mistakenly produced
    • Other voluntary agreements should be considered as appropriate. The parties should be aware that there is an issue of whether such agreements bind third parties who are not parties to the agreements.
  • Duty to meet and confer when requesting [ESI] from non-parties (Fed. R. Civ. P. 45). Parties issuing requests for electronically stored information from non-parties should attempt to informally meet and confer with the non-party (or counsel, if represented). During this meeting, counsel should discuss the same issues with regard to requests for [ESI] that they would with opposing counsel as set forth ..above.

U.S. Dist. Cts. (Kan), Guidelines for Discovery of Electronically Stored Information. [pdf]

Posted in 10th Circuit, D. Kan., FRCP 26(f), Meet and Confer | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Case Summary: Benton v. Dlorah, Inc., 2007 WL 2225946 (D. Kan. Aug. 1, 2007); Court denies motion to compel production of hard drive

Posted by rjbiii on September 26, 2007

In this employment discrimination case, Magistrate Judge Gerald Rushfelt denied defendant’s request to compel the plaintiff to “produce the hard drive of her personal computer for inspection and copying.” In response to defendants’ discovery requests, some of which sought correspondence between plaintiff and defendant National American University or her students at the university, plaintiff produced one e-mail. After defendant informed plaintiff that it believed her responses to the discovery requests were deficient, and after agreeing to supplement those responses, Ms. Benton declared that all e-mails from her students had been deleted, and therefore could not produced. She also resisted producing her hard drive, as requested by defendants.

Defendants argued that Ms. Benton failed to “produce[] any e-mail communications that took place after February 2007,” and that they believe she had been deleting those emails relating to her employment since that date. Defendants contended that because Ms. Benton had admitted to deleting some emails, and because she had only produced one e-mail dated after February 2007, she must have destroyed other relevant documents.

The court disagreed. Defendants were speculating as to the whether plaintiff complied with their discovery requests, and have not met their burden to support their contentions of spoliation. The court refused to assume the plaintiff’s failure to comply. Therefore, the court denied the motion, and any calls for sanctions, without prejudice to any future motion should further discovery show that plaintiff did, in fact, fail to produce responsive documents or had spoliated relevant evidence.

Benton v. Dlorah, Inc., 2007 WL 2225946 (D. Kan. Aug. 1, 2007)

K&L Gates has the full text of the opinion here, as well as their own summary here.

Posted in 10th Circuit, Case Summary, D. Kan., Discovery, Discovery Requests, Form of Production, Magistrate Judge Gerald L. Rushfelt, Motion to Compel | Leave a Comment »

Case Summary: Kraft Foods N. Am.; Discovery request for documents over a 7 year period not overly broad

Posted by rjbiii on September 11, 2007

Court ruled that a discovery request seeking documents from January 1, 1999 to [April 7, 2006] did not represent an overly broad temporal scope. Although the “last discriminatory act” for the purposes of the action at bar would have occurred in April 2004, information from the two-years and three-months prior to the April 2002 liability period may be relevant to demonstrate the pattern and practice of discriminatory conduct alleged by Plaintiffs. Moreover, defendants provided no evidence that production of documents for this twenty-seven month period would impose any burden on defendants.

Court ruled “not overly broad” in departmental or organizational scope discovery requests seeking documents relating to “sales representatives” and “region managers” in the Kraft Sales Organization over the objection of the responding party. Responding party had argued that because no plaintiffs had ever held the position of regional manager, individuals in those positions were not similarly situated to Plaintiffs, making the documents irrelevant to the matter at hand. The court disagreed, finding that the requests were not overly broad on their face; that defendant’s lack of assertion to demonstrate that discovery would impose a burden; and that although the title of “region manager” no longer exists, responding party should produce documents of the position regardless of its new title.

Court ruled discovery requests seeking documents for the “Kansas City Region” were not overly broad in geographic scope, because the motives behind employment decisions made by managers at the regional level were relevant to the matter at hand. Because the some of the wrongdoing was alleged to have occurred at a regional level within defendant’s organizational structure, the court found defining the geographic scope of the requests as the Kansas City region is reasonable. Johnson v. Kraft Foods N. Am., Inc., 238 F.R.D. 648 (D. Kan 2006).

Posted in 10th Circuit, Case Summary, D. Kan., Discovery Requests, Duty to Produce, Magistrate Judge David J. Waxse, Overly Broad Request, Scope of Discovery | Leave a Comment »

Guideline (D. Kan): Form of Production

Posted by rjbiii on August 29, 2007

Parties and counsel are reminded that, under Fed. R. Civ. P. 34, if the requesting party has not designated a form of production in its request, or if the responding party objects to the designated form, then the responding party must state in its written response the form it intends to use for producing electronically stored information. U.S. Dist. Cts. (Kan), Guidelines for Discovery of Electronically Stored Information.

Posted in 10th Circuit, D. Kan., Discovery Requests, Form of Production, FRCP 34 | Leave a Comment »