The Fact That Search Terms May Yield A Large Production Does Not Mean The Search Terms Are Too Broad

23 Mar 2021

In Green v. Meeks, Case No. 20-cv-00463-SPM (S.D. Illinois. Jan. 15, 2021), Plaintiff moved for an entry of an ESI protocol allowing for use of search terms to applied to email accounts of 15 individuals employed by Defendant or the Illinois Department of Corrections. 

Defendants objected that the proposed search terms were too broad and would result in a collection of an unreasonably large number of unresponsive documents.  Specifically, Defendants claimed that a search of certain terms would result in 1700 emails which was an indication of the number of documents that could result if a search using broader terms was used. 

The Court disagreed and found that Defendants did not provide sufficient information to support their contention that the proposed search terms would yield a large number of irrelevant documents. “While searches using the proposed terms are likely to yield numerous results, the large production of documents, alone, is not an indication that the search terms are too broad or that the information produced from those terms will be unrelated to the case” stated the Court.   And since Plaintiff was alleging that the decedent died of a curable disease as a result of alleged widespread customs and practices, Plaintiff was entitled to broad discovery, not just of isolated events. 

However, the in adopting the ESI protocol, the Court also modified the “safety valve” provision of the protocol where if the search terms resulted in identification of over 5,000 documents, Defendants would notify Plaintiff and then conduct a review of a subject of documents to determine the percentage of relevant documents found by the search terms.