Understand What You’re Asking for Before You Ask

All That Glitters is NOT Gold

Plaintiffs asked Defendants for documents to be scanned and produced as searchable PDFs.  Defendants did exactly that.  So, there’s no problem, right?  Wrong.  Plaintiffs felt a little slighted, to say the least, after receiving the unorganized files.  If only they asked for hardcopies instead.

The court found that the term “documents” as defined in FRCP 34(b)(2)(E)(i) does not include ESI, so the rule’s requirement that documents be produced either in the usual course of business or labeled to correspond to categories in the request does not apply to ESI.  Once the parties agreed to transfer hard copy documents in an electronic form, that means of production is governed by the rules for ESI, and Plaintiffs in this case met their obligations under this rule without organizing or labeling the disclosed ESI.

Plaintiffs wanted Defendants to identify the particular discovery request to which each document responds, but to be fair, Defendants already went through the effort of scanning the approximately 20,000 documents.  Plaintiffs tried to argue that Defendants’ storage of the documents in hard copy meant that scanning the documents in order to produce them for discovery should not abdicate Defendants’ responsibility to produce them as organized in the ordinary course of business.  It may seem surprising this argument was unsuccessful, but is it really?

The court found that the parties stipulated out of FRCP 34(b)(2)(E)’s default provisions when the Plaintiffs’ requested items in scanned electronic form, and that Plaintiffs technically received exactly what they asked for.  Another hang-up for the Plaintiffs was FRCP 34(b)(2)(E)(iii) not requireing a party to produce the same electronically stored information in more than one form, which includes hardcopies.

Beyond the facts and the ruling, this case should stand for the proposition that blindly requesting ESI is ill-advised.  Parties should know enough to know exactly what they need from a discovery request, and how to make that request as accurately and effectively as possible.  This decision may not exist if Plaintiffs simply asked for the documents to be scanned and produced in the usual course of business.  While Defendants may not have eagerly acceded to such a request, the request’s denial would have raised some red flags for Plaintiffs and forecasted what would be their eventual dissatisfaction if they merely asked for the documents to be scanned as searchable PDFs.

Samuel is in the Seton Hall University School of Law Class of 2015 pursuing the Intellectual Property concentration. He received his master’s from the Rutgers Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and became a registered patent agent prior to entering law school.

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