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December 28, 2017 Practice Points

Expansive Document Request That Overlapped Mandatory Disclosure Requirements Found to Be Overly Broad

The days of boilerplate, all-encompassing requests for documents or ESI as well as boilerplate objections are over.

By Robert J. Will

A litigant should refrain from a burdensome, generalized document request unmoored from any specific timeframe, where the opposing party already has an obligation to produce relevant documents under local federal rules. Mirmina v. Genpact LLC, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 90422 (D. Conn. June 13, 2017).

In this employment action, the court reaffirmed a cardinal principle underlying the 2015 amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure—that of proportionality—in rejecting overbroad discovery requests made by a plaintiff, while at the same time admonishing the defendant to assure the court that it had complied with a local rule in the district requiring compliance with certain initial discovery protocols that require automatic disclosure of certain items in any employment case alleging adverse action.

Here, the plaintiff sought “‘all documents which relate to, concern or reflect the decision to terminate Plaintiff’s employment with Defendant” and “all documents . . . sent by or to [two different individuals] which concern, refer to, or relate to Plaintiff.” The court found such expansive requests, not limited by time or by particular subject matters, to be patently overbroad and would result in a significant burden and expense in electronically stored information (ESI) searches for documents that may have little or no relevance to the claims at issue. Further, in this case, the district had established discovery protocols for employment cases such as the one at issue, which the court found covered the relevant items that were being sought through the aforementioned requests (such that they were effectively redundant of an automatic obligation to produce on the part of the defendant). The court was unable to determine whether the defendant had complied with this mandatory disclosure obligation and thus required the defendant to certify compliance with those requirements, while at the same time overruling the motion to compel (and denying what appeared to be an ill-advised and unnecessary motion to strike a reply brief that largely served to advise the court of the resolution of most of the pending discovery dispute).

Lessons to be learned from this case are to always be aware of both federal and local court rules on discovery, particularly mandatory disclosure obligations or discovery forms, and comply fully with such obligations. Avoid form discovery requests that either duplicate mandatory obligations in place or are not specific and limiting as to time and subject matter relevant to the issues in the case. The days of boilerplate, all-encompassing requests for documents or ESI as well as boilerplate objections are over, and courts will likely become increasingly intolerant of their continued use in contravention to the goals of proportionality enshrined in the 2015 amendments.

Robert J. Will is a member of Lewis Rice LLC in St. Louis, Missouri.

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