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Case Law Alert: Defendant Ordered to Produce 30,000 Slack Messages

Created on February 11, 2022


Vice President, E-Discovery

Slack, an internal messaging communications app used by thousands of businesses, is one of the many new data repositories where important and most likely relevant evidence can reside. Because of that, be prepared to produce that data with software that can collect, process, and review Slack data in a cost-effective manner, as the case ruling in Benebone LLC v. Pet Qwerks, Inc. requires.

Overview

In this case, the defendant motioned to compel the plaintiff to produce communications stored in Slack. The plaintiff argued that producing this data would be unduly burdensome.

During discovery conferences, the defendant wanted the plaintiff to produce their Slack messages, since this was the plaintiff’s tool for internal communications. The court ruled that the Slack messages were relevant, but the court didn’t have enough information to determine if producing the messages were proportional to the needs of the case.

As a result, the plaintiff produced evidence that the Slack account held around 30,000 messages and the cost to review that information would cost $110,000 - $255,000 based on a $400 per hour attorney review rate. The defendant countered, arguing that their vendor could extract, process, and review the Slack data for $22,000 using currently available software tools.

Ruling

  • Court Grants Defendant’s Motion to Compel Slack Messages. The court granted defendant’s motion to compel Slack messages to certain discovery requests, based on the amount of injunctive relief the plaintiff was requesting was in the millions of dollars in sales and that the production would be “a focused search and production.”
  • Proportionality was the Key Issue. Since there was no dispute of the relevancy of this data, proportionality was the key factor in determining production. The judge found the testimony from the defendant’s e-discovery vendor more credible than arguments from the plaintiff’s attorney.
  • Inflated Rates. The judge also noted that the $400 was “substantially inflated."

Expert Analysis from Hon. Andrew Peck (Ret.), Senior Counsel, DLA Piper

Substantively, as entities use newer communication tools, including Slack, they likely will have to be searched for responsive information. The issue then turns to whether the cost and burden of the search exceed the likely relevance of the information. Procedurally, the parties need to present facts (metrics) to the court, not just boilerplate claims that “it’s hard” or burdensome or expensive. When one side presents such information and the other side presents nothing, it’s easy to see how the court will rule.

Case Law Tip

Case Law Tip: Have questions on how the FRCP applies to e-discovery? Download this FRCP E-Discovery Quick Guide to get all your questions answered.