Why Were Search Terms for Both Sides Rejected by an Ohio Magistrate Judge?

22 Jun 2018

In a recent ruling from Ohio Magistrate Judge Elizabeth A. Preston Deavers, search terms from both the plaintiff and defendant were found to be too broad in scope. If these terms were left to pass, they could incur massive e-discovery costs for both sides. This makes the terms too burdensome for either party or for the purposes of litigation.

In the case of Am. Municipal Power, Inc. v. Voith Hydro, Inc. (United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division.) (June 4, 2018), there was a dispute over the construction of four hydroelectric power plants. A discovery conference was scheduled for May 24, 2018, at which point, both parties submitted letter briefings outlining issues with discovery related searches of ESI.

In the first issue brought to the judge, the defendant requested a single-word search by project name to seek out relevant documents. However, upon examination of the issue and evidence provided by the plaintiff, Judge Deavers determined this search would be too burdensome on the plaintiff. She also did not believe the search would provide enough fruitful information for the court. An estimated cost of production between $100,000 and $125,000 was provided by AMP, which played a part in the judge’s decision.

On a similar note, when looking at the plaintiff’s request to search terms outside the project names of the projects under scrutiny, the judge also ruled that the terms would cause too much of a burden. After showing that AMP’s search terms outside the project names would produce hundreds of thousands of results, Voith emphasized it would have to manually review those documents to ensure confidential information was properly redacted. According to Judge Deavers, this placed an unreasonable burden upon the defendant.

Both sides of this dispute will now have to reevaluate their search term paradigms when it comes to e-discovery for this case.