UPS Successfully Argues High Burden to Reduce Discovery Demand in Billing Class Action
In Solo et. al. v. United Parcel Service Co., Case No. 14-12719 (E.D. Mich., Jan. 10, 2017), Plaintiffs allege that Defendant UPS breached its shipping contracts by overcharging for shipments with a declared value of over $300.00, incrementally increasing the charges based upon the value of the items being shipped. Plaintiffs served Interrogatories upon Defendant, seeking information about the number of such shipments from each state for various date ranges, plus quantification on a monthly basis of the shipments Defendant contends were not subject to the published pricing tables. Defendant objected on the basis that providing such information would be unduly burdensome “in terms of both time, manpower, and costs.” A senior program manager for Defendant certified that because Defendant’s billing system has such a large amount of data, the details requested by Plaintiffs are kept in a live format, i.e., electronically accessible format, for a limited period of time and then archived on backup tapes. Defendant argued to reduce discovery demand as culling the information would cost at least $120,000.00, exclusive of analysis of the data to answer the interrogatory. Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Compel.
The court focused on the purpose of the 2015 amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, noting that FRCP 26(b)(1) “emphasizes the principle of proportionality” and whether the burden of producing the information sought outweighed the benefit to the seeker. The court found that Defendants had effectively shown that producing the information as requested would be “extraordinarily burdensome.” The court found that Defendant had a valid business reason for maintaining a live billing system given the scope of its operations and the urgency required in its billing. Courts have held that information kept on backup systems is not “reasonably accessible,” and Rule 26(b)(2)(B) provides that a party need not produce ESI from sources that are not reasonably accessible. The court also found that the relevance of the information sought was not proportional to the needs of the case. However, the court did balance the parties’ needs by requiring Defendant to produce a statistical sampling in accordance with the protective order already in place. Therefore, the Motion was granted in part and denied in part.