District of Connecticut Reduces Search Terms for ESI Production in Class Action Case
Strauch et. al. v. Computer Sciences Corp., Case No. 14-956 (D. Conn., Nov. 24, 2015) is a Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) case involving a number of discovery disputes over search terms filed by both Plaintiffs and Defendant. Each party filed a Motion to Compel in addition to numerous other motions, and the court, after being forced to “micro manage” most aspects of the litigation, ordered that the parties file letters describing the discovery issues.
Plaintiffs filed a letter indicating 103 proposed search terms for Defendants to use to find responsive ESI, and Defendants objected to the proposal as overly burdensome. Plaintiffs proposed an alternative whereby Defendant would either 1) produce small samples of documents followed by “an iterative analysis” to “hone in” on search terms; 2) provide all the documents, through which Plaintiffs could search; or 3) produce everything that each search term hits upon and then “claw back” any documents produced inadvertently that are irrelevant or privileged.
Defendant advised the court that of the 1 million items in its database, Plaintiff search terms produced over 960,000 responsive documents, far more than Defendant argued was reasonable to review. After further negotiation, Plaintiffs suggested that Defendants review only those documents whose search terms hit less than 10,000 documents plus a statistical sample of the remaining documents. After more back and forth, the parties ended up before the magistrate judge.
The judge found that because of the number of plaintiffs (over 1,000), Defendant could not argue proportionality. However, the court held that Defendant should not have to produce irrelevant documents just to “hone” in on search terms. As a result, the court ordered that Defendant use its own search terms as set forth in its negotiations with Plaintiffs and be permitted to remove documents that are privileged or “undeniably” irrelevant.