Everyday parties file discovery requests asking their opponent to produce data. What we are seeing more and more is how courts are encouraging parties to work together to identify proportional, cost-effective terms. The result? Quickly finding relevant evidence to determine the just outcome of a case.
In this slip and fall case at one of the defendant's gyms, the plaintiff filed an objection to the magistrate judge's ruling around what should be considered proportional e-discovery parameters.
At the beginning of e-discovery, the plaintiff requested "information about similar accidents at LA Fitness (defendant) locations on a nationwide basis for a five-year period." The district court referred the motion to the magistrate judge for ruling. The magistrate judge asked parties to meet and confer and identify proportional discovery parameters.
The two sides could not reach mutually agreeable terms, the plaintiff narrowed their request to four states from the last five years while the defendant wanted to only produce data from within one state from the last three years. The magistrate judge found "Plaintiff's position was reasonable in terms or temporal and geographic scope and that Plaintiff's proposal was proportional."
The defendant objected to the magistrate judge's ruling based on the plaintiff's request no being proportional and that the magistrate judge "misconstrued relevant authority."
• Objection Overruled in Part. The court was "unpersuaded" by the defendant's objection, noting that "information need not be admissible as evidence to be discoverable" and that scoping down the plaintiff's request from 102 fitness clubs instead of the original request of 753 was proportional.
• One Area of Contention. The district court did modify the scope of production to only tiled areas within locker rooms, instead of producing accidents to tiled floors in any area within the fitness facility.
Download the PDF version of this case law alert here.
As a former Magistrate Judge, it was good to see the District Judge note that there is a "heavy burden" to show that a Magistrate Judge abused discretion. It is hard to tell from the opinion, but it looks like the defendant did not do a good job explaining the burden and cost of finding accident reports of slips in the other club locations, and comparing that cost to the amount at issue in the case. That is what defendant should have done (and before the Magistrate Judge) to begin with.