One Out of Two Objections Is Enough for Defendant to Convince Court to Deny Plaintiff’s Motion to Compel: eDiscovery Case Law

In Nahum v. Boeing Co., No.: 19-cv-01114-BJR (W.D. Wash. July 24, 2020), Washington District Judge Barbara J. Rothstein denied the plaintiff’s motion to compel discovery, disagreeing with the defendants’ argument that the plaintiff’s motion was procedurally defective because he failed to exhaust the meet and confer requirement, but accepting their argument that the defendants had complied with their discovery obligations.

Case Background

In this this employment discrimination action against Boeing and one of its managers, the plaintiff alleged that the defendants’ initial document production was insufficient and the parties held a meet and confer conference to discuss the plaintiff’s concerns in April 2020 where the plaintiff identified additional materials that he wanted the defendants to produce.  While the defendants alleged that the plaintiff’s request for additional material was overbroad, unduly burdensome, and irrelevant, they still “search[ ] for and collect[ ] [the] additional documents”, producing “all work files uploaded by Plaintiff to his team’s shared folders, all bar charts in the shared folder from both Plaintiff and the preceding analyst in his role, Line of Balance files, PPCR authoritative documents, and additional email correspondence regarding Plaintiff’s work product.”  

Despite that, the parties still disagreed on whether the defendants had produced all ESI responsive to the plaintiff’s discovery requests, leading to the plaintiff’s motion to compel.  The defendants objected on two grounds: 1) That the motion was procedurally deficient because the plaintiff failed to exhaust the meet and confer requirement specified in Local Civil Rule 37(a)(1) (“LCR 37(a)(1)”) and the Court Standing Order; and 2) That they had fully complied with their discovery obligations and produced material far in excess of such obligations in order to work cooperatively with the plaintiff.

Judge’s Ruling

Judge Rothstein addressed the arguments as follows:

Procedurally Deficient: Beginning by saying “The Court will dispose of the easiest argument first”, Judge Rothstein stated: “As for Defendants’ claim that Plaintiff failed to comply with the meet and confer requirement under LCR 37(a)(1), the Court disagrees. Both parties admit that they met at least three times in an effort to resolve Plaintiff’s concerns about Defendants’ document production. Indeed, these meeting resulted in the additional production of documents. The Court appreciates the effort demonstrated by Defendants’ counsel to work cooperatively with Plaintiff (as evidenced by the email correspondence cited in Defendants’ opposition to the instant motion) and agrees it would have been more productive had Plaintiff continued to meet with counsel. Nevertheless, the Court concludes that Plaintiff has sufficiently exhausted the meet-and-confer requirement under LCR 37(a)(1) to move forward with the instant motion.”

Complying with Discovery Obligations: Noting that “Plaintiff bears the burden of informing the Court which discovery requests are the subject of the motion to compel and why Defendants’ responses are insufficient”, Judge Rothstein stated: “Plaintiff provides none of the required information in his motion to compel. Plaintiff does better in his reply brief where he sets forth for the first time the specific documents he claims Defendants have refused to provide him…However, Plaintiff still fails to identify which specific discovery such documents would be responsive to, nor state what Defendants’ objection is to producing such documents. Furthermore, given that Plaintiff provides this detail for the first time in his reply brief, Defendants did not have a chance to respond.”  Noting that “it appears from the record that Defendants have complied with Plaintiff’s discovery requests” and that “it is clear to the Court that Defendants have complied with their discovery obligations” Judge Rothstein stated “Plaintiff’s motion to compel must be denied.”

Also, just a reminder that, on Wednesday, August 19th, HaystackID will conduct the webcast On the Case? eDiscovery Case Law Update for the First Half of 2020 at noon ET (11am CT, 9am PT).  In this presentation, I will be covering key case law developments during the first half of 2020 – along with Ashish Prasad, Vazantha Meyers, Todd Haley and Seth Curt Schechtman of HaystackID – to identify important rulings that may impact how you conduct discovery going forward.  Don’t miss it!

So, what do you think?  Could the plaintiff have gotten a different result if he had been more specific in his motion to compel?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Case opinion link courtesy of eDiscovery Assistant.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by my employer, my partners or my clients. eDiscovery Today is made available solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Today should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

Leave a Reply