Court Orders Defendant VOIP Provider to Seek Responsive Emails from Google

30 May 2016

The pro se Plaintiff in Lucas v. Jolin, et. al., Case No. 15-108 (S.D. Ohio, May 16, 2016) sued Defendants for alleged illegal telemarketing activity. One of the Defendants is a VOIP provider, allowing customers to use the internet as a telephone service. During discovery, Plaintiff issued a subpoena to non-party Google seeking email correspondence between the VOIP provider and the individual defendant, Jolin.

Defendants filed a Motion to Quash and sought a protective order. Plaintiff alleged that Jolin was a CTO of the VOIP Defendant based upon Jolin’s LinkedIn account information. The VOIP Defendant argued that Jolin was not an employee and was an independent contractor from several years prior. Plaintiff sought Gmail records in an effort to establish a relationship between the VOIP Defendant and Jolin. Defendants produced a single email. The subpoena to Google sought all electronic communications sent to or from Defendant’s email domain in Jolin’s Gmail account, as well as any emails referencing specific search terms.

Defendants argued that the request was overbroad; the court held that the request sought relevant and discoverable information but that the timeframe for emails sought was overbroad. The court limited the request to a two-year period. With respect to the Motion to Quash, the court looked at the Stored Communications Act (SCA) which prohibits third-party providers like Google from releasing private communications to certain entities or individuals.

The court first noted that Defendants had standing to move to quash the subpoena even though it was directed at a third party. The court partially quashed the subpoena, finding that parts of the request ran afoul of the SCA. However, the court also held that Plaintiff could seek the emails through FRCP 34 directly rather than by subpoena. Therefore, the court ordered Defendants to seek those emails from Google and produce them to Plaintiff.

ILS – Plaintiff Electronic Discovery Experts