Is Testimony Concerning Improper Redactions a Sufficient Remedy in Discovery?
Redactions have become a point of contention in litigation, as leaving sensitive information or removing too much can lead to negative consequences for both counsel and clients alike. In Donna Craig v. Bridges Bros. Trucking LLC, et al., Case No. 2:12-cv-954 (S.D. Ohio August 1, 2014), the court answered the question of whether testimony concerning improper redactions was a sufficient remedy as opposed to reproducing unredacted versions.
Plaintiff contended that she was fired for not willing to take part in what she believed to be fraud on the part of her employer. As such, Plaintiff initiated an employment action against Defendants under both federal and state law.
Plaintiff’s original discovery request sought “documentation related to Defendant Bridges Bros. Trucking profit/loss and/or income from 2009 through present.”
Defendants produced redacted balance sheets and profit and loss statements from 2012 and 2013. Plaintiff agreed to review the documents to see if they would provide sufficient information, though they ultimately did not.
Concerning the redactions, Defendants testified:
1. At least one of the redactions should not have been made;
2. The document would make sense but for the redaction; and
3. Defendants testified to what it was assumed the number that was redacted would be.
However, the court reasoned:
1. While Defendants’ accountant might have concluded as to what the assumed number was, Defendants’ accountant did not testify to personal knowledge of the number; and
2. In response to similar requests, courts have determined that financial reports, information relating to net worth, tax returns, balance sheets, and revenue or earnings projections/results are discoverable.
Accordingly, the court summarized by saying, “In light of the relevance of the documents, Defendants’ uncorrected and admitted error in redacting, and the absence of any valid objection to producing unredacted versions of the documents, the Court concludes that Defendants should produce unredacted versions of Bridges Bros.’s 2012 and 2013 profit and loss statements and balance sheets.”