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Case Law Alert: A Called Off Wedding + Potentially Missing Text Messages

Created on September 24, 2021


Vice President, E-Discovery

Gross v. Chapman (E.D. Ill. July 28, 2020) showcases that even though you might not trust your opponent, you need proof to call into question your opponent’s discovery processes. Without that proof, the court will reject your request for additional discovery actions.

Overview:

In this couples’ dispute over a botched wedding and who pays the costs of it, the plaintiffs motion to compel additional discovery over defendants’ emails and text messages.

The dispute between the soon-to-be bride’s family and groom’s family arose around whether the wedding would be “adults only.” As tempers flared, the wedding was called off and the plaintiffs (the bride’s family) was out over $100,000. Subsequently, the plaintiffs sued the defendants over these wedding costs.

Within discovery, the defendants produced 5,000 text messages based on multiple requests for text messages from the plaintiffs. Unsatisfied with the information produced, the plaintiffs wanted to serve multiple interrogatories and depose the defendants’ vendor around the process and searches taken to find relevant text messages.

Ruling:

  • Motion for Additional Discovery Rejected. The court rejected the plaintiffs request to conduct a “discovery on discovery” investigation stating, “It should be obvious that given what this case is about, and that a large volume of ESI has already been produced at significant expense to the defendants, discovery on discovery with no basis other than plaintiffs' hopeful guess that there must be more texts about an engagement breakup is substantially out of proportion to the needs of the case.”
  • Proportionality is Key. The judge re-emphasized that the plaintiffs’ discovery request was not proportional to the needs of the case. The plaintiffs’ compared their situation to a multi-million-dollar bankruptcy case, which the judge said was not analogous to the facts in this breakup dispute.
  • No Proof of More Relevant Texts. The court noted that the plaintiffs could only speculate that there were additional text messages about the breakup. The court required that the requesting party must prove that there is a “specific discovery deficiency in the responding party’s production.”

Expert Opinion by Hon. Andrew Peck (Ret.), Sr. Counsel, DLA Piper 

The Court wisely referenced Sedona Principle 6, and cautioned that “there must be more” and “I want more and all” generally is not a basis for, in the Court’s words, “going down the rabbit hole of discovery on discovery.” The Court also reminded the parties that discovery is limited by proportionality principles, and defendants’ production was more than proportional when considered under common sense.

Case Law Tip:

Download this guide to understand the rules and requirements for e-discovery practices under the FRCP.