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Case Law Alert: Court Rules No to Re-Production of Investigatory Data in Volkswagen Clean Diesel Civil Case

Created on June 8, 2018


Director of Marketing at Exterro


In Re: Volkswagen "Clean Diesel" (N.D. Cal., April 24, 2018) reinforces the importance of requesting data "with reasonable particularity" under the amendments to FRCP 34, including when requesting data from prior cases and/or criminal investigations.

Overview

In this much publicized class action lawsuit, a large group of Volkswagen dealers (“Dealers”) allege that Bosch LLC (“Bosch”) and Volkswagen conspired to cheat vehicle emission tests.

The Dealers requested that Bosch produce documents which were previously produced to government agencies investigating the emissions fraud. Bosch objected, stating that the government investigations were not equivalent to the claims made in this civil lawsuit, making the request outside the scope for production.

Subsequently, dealers moved to compel production of these government documents.

Ruling

  • Dealers’ Request Denied. The court ruled that the dealers “are not entitled to complete access to Bosch’s prior government productions simply because there is some overlay between their claims and the government investigations.”
  • The Standard for Production Requests. In most cases, production requests under FRCP 34 must “describe with reasonable particularity each item or category of items to be inspected.” But when seeking discovery of data produced in other investigations or cases, the court will compare one case to another.
  • No Method in Determining Relevance of Investigation Data. Here, the court did not know what had and had not been produced in the Volkswagen investigations, making it extremely difficult to determine if all documents produced by Bosch in those investigations are relevant to this case. As a result, the court recommended the dealers make “subject-matter-specific-requests” instead of demanding a “wholesale reproduction of what Bosch produced in the government investigations.”

Expert Analysis from David Cohen, Partner and Chair of the Records & E-Discovery Group, Reed Smith LLP

This is another good example of a court faithfully restricting discovery to information that is relevant to the claims and defenses in the case. It seems to be part of a trend that we have seen, at least since the 2015 FRCP amendments, moving away from allowing unfettered discovery. 

Case Law Tip

Looking for techniques to create “subject-matter-specific-requests” when requesting documents? Download this Developing Search Criteria Checklist.