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For eDiscovery production, less is certainly more

searching through legal supplies

Overproduction is a problem—and a big, tiresome, expensive one at that. Let’s break it down.

The Situation

Imagine your organization is engaged in litigation regarding a recently completed construction project. You provide a detailed set of search parameters in your request to the defendant. In response, they provide their request: a single-word search by project name.

The problem is, this search could pull up millions of irrelevant documents detailing everything from employee benefits to parking lot signage.

The Ruling

When this matter was brought before an Ohio district court last month, the court found the defendant’s single-word search unnecessary and costly in nature. The presiding judge concluded that:

AMP has demonstrated that using a single-word search by Project name would significantly increase the cost of discovery in this case, including a privilege review that would add $100,000 — $125,000 to its cost of production. The burden and expense of applying the search terms of each Project's name without additional qualifiers outweighs the benefits of this discovery for Voith and is disproportionate to the needs of even this extremely complicated case.

The Parties

Discovery conferences set the stage for many a messy semantic dispute. Going into one unprepared is simply not an option.

A failure to understand your organization’s relevant electronically stored information (ESI) could put you on either side of the above dispute. Voith Hydro, the defendant, did not understand the scope of existing documentation. Were other circumstances in the case different, Voith’s misguided request and failure to remediate it in conference could have been deemed a violation of FRCP Rule 37.

American Municipal Power (AMP), the plaintiff, understood the results various search terms would provide. As such, they were able to provide the court ample information to deny Voith’s request.

The Technology

While it may seem obvious that a single-word search would be too broad for a complex case, AMP provided the court with more than intuition; they had figures. To conclude that the proposed terms would result in at least $100,000 in additional production costs, they would have to understand what the correct parameters would cost to produce.

Contrarily, firms often spend significant amounts of billable time coming up with what they believe to be the most correct and specific terms only to yield no usable results. Having an efficient process and the requisite technology is imperative for striking the proper balance between efficient and prepared.


ZL Technologies is proud to help attorneys around the world simplify their early case assessment process with fast granular search. See how our award-winning eDiscovery software can help your organization today.

As a content and events specialist at ZL, I work to bring the glamorous allure of information governance to the world. As a native Virginian and temporary Tennessean turned Californian, I’m permanently fascinated by life on the west coast. Although I miss SEC football and four distinct seasons, I’m in love with redwood forests and bubble tea on every corner.