Western District of Michigan Declines to Reconsider Magistrate Judge’s Three Discovery Orders
In the consolidated case of Stryker Corp. et. al. v. Ridgeway et. al., Case Nos. 13-1066 and 14-889 (W.D. Mich., Jul. 20, 2015), Defendant Ridgeway appealed three unfavorable discovery orders entered by the magistrate judge.
The first order required Defendant to pay a portion of Plaintiffs’ discovery costs, including paying for the costs Plaintiffs incurred in searching their emails for references to Defendant’s non-compete agreement. Upon review, the court agreed with the magistrate judge, holding that although the responding party typically bears the cost of responding to discovery, a court has the discretion to order another party to pay the expense if such expense creates an undue burden upon the responding party. The court found that the magistrate had properly reviewed the evidence and had not erroneously ordered the cost shifting. The court also found that the lower court had not erred when it denied Defendant’s request for production of electronic and hard-copy non-compete agreements dating back four years, finding that the magistrate judge had properly reviewed the evidence and determined that Plaintiffs had satisfied the request.
In the second order, the lower court denied Defendant’s request for in camera review of certain documents withheld by Plaintiffs. The reviewing court held that the lower court did not err by declining to conduct a discretionary in camera review, noting that the court had no obligation to review documents in camera simply because Defendant requested it.
Finally, upon review of the third order, wherein the magistrate judge had denied Defendant’s request to retain a privileged email thread that Plaintiffs had inadvertently produced, the court likewise affirmed the lower court’s decision that the emails did not fall outside the attorney/client privilege because of the crime-fraud exception regarding communications that advance a criminal enterprise or fraud. The court found that the Defendant had not met the burden for this exception, and the reviewing court agreed.