In the Eyes of the Court, What Is the Difference Between the Words “Related To” Verses “Concerning” in Discovery Requests?

In the Eyes of the Court, What Is the Difference Between the Words “Related To” Verses “Concerning” in Discovery Requests?

The District Court for Massachusetts held that “the use of broad terms such as ‘relate to’ or ‘relating to’ provides no basis upon which an individual or entity can reasonably determine what documents may or may not be responsive.” In doing so, the court ordered the defendants to produce documents responsive to a request and that request calls for documents “related to” a topic, the court modified the requests to strike the language “related to” and replacing it with “concerning.”

This holding comes in response to the plaintiff’s Motion to Compel defendants Reposes to Document Requests and Production of all documents. The plaintiff in this case is the previous employer of the two defendants, husband and wife.  The defendants were both employed by the plaintiff in different sectors for several years. The company now disputes that trade secrets developed by both parties were the sole property of them. Keep in mind, one of the defendants now works with a competitor company, so you can see the importance of these trade secrets. The plaintiffs brought claims alleging violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”), conversion, misappropriation of trade secrets, and breach of fiduciary duty. Soon thereafter, the defendants offered responses to the first set of Requests for Document Production.

In summary, there are limits to the scope of discovery under Rule 26(b). They are: (1) unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or is obtainable from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive; (2) the party seeking discovery has had ample opportunity by discovery in the action to obtain the information sought; or (3) the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit, taking into account the needs of the case, the amount in controversy, the parties’ resources, the importance of the issues at stake in the litigation, and the importance of the projected discovery in resolving the issues. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2)(C).

The defendant former employees objected to discovery on the grounds that the requests were overly broad and unduly burdensome. The court agreed in the finding that the requests were overly broad, specifically because they call for documents “related to” a topic. Use of the word “concerning” would be the correct qualifying language.

To see video of the morning session at court on this case, click here.

Amanda is a third-year student at Seton Hall University School of Law, where she is pursuing a J.D. with a certificate in Health Law. Prior to law school, she was a 2011 magna cum laude graduate of Seton Hall University, where she earned Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a minor in Philosophy. Presently, she is a law clerk at a small firm handling real estate and bankruptcy matters. After graduation this native New Yorker hopes to work at a mid-sized firm in the Big Apple.  

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