Pennsylvania Supreme Court Rewrites the Rules for Electronic Discovery
Electronic data discovery is constantly evolving in both the state and federal courts. Federal courts now have accumulated a large amount of eDiscovery case law (much of which is discussed in our blog). Many state court opinions turn to and cite federal jurisprudence and the amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure regarding electronically stored information (ESI) production.
One state, Pennsylvania, has recently taken a different approach. As is its right, Pennsylvania is writing its own civil procedure rules for electronic discovery. What are the main differences between federal law and the Pennsylvania rules, and what does it mean for plaintiffs and their trial lawyers?
First, the proposed civil procedure rules in Pennsylvania specifically reject federal jurisprudence regarding electronically stored information. Second, the rules contain the proportionality standard also used in federal courts, but they seem to emphasize the importance of limiting the scope and avoiding undue burdens and costs. Third, the rules do not contain any equivalent of Federal Rule 26(f), the meet-and-confer requirement before commencing discovery. The Pennsylvania committee felt that such meetings are unnecessary and may be a waste of time, although the committee does encourage litigants to have informal discovery meetings to work out issues.
It is unclear whether these new rules will help or hinder plaintiff electronic discovery productions and requests. Only time and state case law will truly determine the proper scope of electronic discovery in Pennsylvania, as the state’s rejection of federal case law creates a fairly clean slate for the issues. Our firm assists plaintiffs in consultations and strategy planning before the commencement of discovery based on our 25 years of experience, and we are more than equipped to handle all eDiscovery challenges, even when the rules are still being delineated.