When you are litigating in a U.S. district court, one of the first things you should look at to determine the court’s approach to discovery and other pretrial issues is its local rules. In Rockwell Med., Inc. v. Richmond Bros, Inc., 17-10757 (E.D. Mich. Apr. 14, 2017), the plaintiff moved for a preliminary injunction to compel the defendants to supplement their responses to requests for production and for leave to conduct expedited discovery. The plaintiff sought the production of five documents from the defendants as well as four depositions on an emergent basis. The magistrate judge denied the motion. The plaintiff appealed.
The district judge, under the clearly erroneous standard set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A), affirmed the magistrate judge’s decision. The district judge looked to Rule 26(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which limits discovery based on the needs of the case. The district judge found that when weighing proportionality, the burden and expense of the discovery request “immensely and doubtlessly outweigh its likely benefit.” Furthermore, the district judge found that, even if all other proportionality factors listed in Rule 26(b)(1) favored the plaintiff, the requests for five “documents” as defined by the plaintiff (better described as categories of documents), was still exceedingly broad.
The district judge also considered the duplicative nature of the requests, which sought both originals and all copies of documents. The district judge found that, even ignoring Rule 34(b)(2)(E)(iii) which states that “a party need not produce the same electronically stored information in more than one form,” the requests were unduly burdensome. The district judge compared the breadth of the plaintiff’s requests with the procedures contemplated in the Eastern District of Michigan's Model ESI Order:
[R]equests for production of ESI and related responses should be reasonably targeted, clear, and as specific as practicable. Where the discovery request is potentially burdensome to the responding party, the parties should consider options such as staging discovery and sampling, in an attempt to reduce the costs of production. If the discovery request seeks marginally relevant information, the requesting party should expect some cost shifting to be imposed by the Court in the absence of an agreement between the parties.
Compared with the model order, the plaintiff’s requests were found to be overly broad, repetitive, costly, and irrelevant. Consequently, although some requests made by the plaintiff were consistent with the model rule, the request in its entirety was not.
Thus, it pays to know your court’s local rules, as well as the amended Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and to make your discovery requests in compliance with those rules.