Plaintiff ESI and Email at Issue in CA Business Case
Matthew Enterprise, Inc. v. Chrysler Group, LLC, Case No. 13-04236 (N.D. Cal., December 10, 2015) is a case of a dealer suing a manufacturer that resulted in a dispute over Plaintiff ESI. Plaintiff operated a car dealership that bought and sold cars from Defendant. Plaintiff sued Defendant alleging that Defendant had denied it certain sales incentives that it had offered to other dealerships in the area, which also allegedly received better prices on the vehicles. Defendant propounded interrogatories and requests for production of documents and found Plaintiff’s responses unsatisfactory, thus filing a Motion to Compel.
With regard to the request for production, Defendant requested production of certain Plaintiff ESI, including employee corporate email accounts and financial documents. Defendant averred that Plaintiff produced only three emails from the relevant timeframe and used inadequate search parameters to locate responsive emails. Defendant also averred that Plaintiff did not query all relevant custodians to search for documents. Further, Defendant sought Plaintiff’s employees’ personal emails and emails from the customer database.
The court found that Plaintiff did not show undue burden or cost with regard to corporate emails and financial records. Although Plaintiff argued that it already made reasonable efforts in good faith to comply with the request, the court found that the evidence showed otherwise. The court ordered Plaintiff to search for and produce ESI from the alleged time period and coordinate the search with employees, requiring their cooperation and using a broader set of search terms. The court also ordered Plaintiff to turn over the emails from its customer database.
The court denied Defendant’s motion, however, with regard to personal emails. The court held that Plaintiff had no control over its employees’ personal email accounts, because it did not have the legal right to demand turnover of those emails from the employees.