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Ball v. Manalto Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

May 5, 2017

CRAIG M. BALL, Plaintiff,
v.
MANALTO, INC., a Virginia corporation, and ANTHONY OWEN, an individual, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO COMPEL

          RICARDO S. MARTINEZ CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff Craig Ball's Motion to Compel. Dkt. #18. Mr. Ball moves the Court for an order compelling the Defendants to fully answer certain electronically stored information (“ESI”) discovery requests with specific search terms, See Dkt. #18-1.[1] Defendants Manalto, Inc. and Anthony Owen oppose this Motion, arguing that Plaintiff's requested discovery is overbroad, that they have acted consistent with their discovery obligations, and that the Court should “reject Plaintiff's fishing expedition.” See Dkt. #26. For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion.

         II. BACKGROUND

         A full background of this case is not necessary for the purposes of this Motion. Defendant Manalto hired Mr. Ball in February 2015, allegedly agreeing to pay him a base salary plus commissions to be determined. Dkt. #1-2 at 3. Mr. Ball's job involved negotiating transactions on Manalto's behalf. He secured contracts with three customers and was allegedly in the “late stages of negotiations” with respect to other customers. Id. at 4. Mr. Ball contends he was not paid promised commissions for these deals. Mr. Ball's employment was terminated on July 5, 2016. Dkt. #19 at 1. On September 9, 2016, Mr. Ball filed a Complaint in state court asserting claims for failure to pay wages in violation of RCW 49.52, promissory estoppel, unjust enrichment, and wrongful discharge in violation of public policy against Defendants. Dkt. #1-2. This matter was removed on September 29, 2016. Dkt. #1.

         On November 1, 2016, Plaintiff served the discovery requests at issue in this case. Dkt. #20-4. At issue in this Motion are: (a) Request for Production (“RFP”) No. 1, which seeks “All documents regarding Manalto's employment of Craig Ball, including but not limited to […] documents that mention Craig Ball, and email messages that mention Craig Ball;” (b) RFP No. 2, which seeks “All email messages to or from Craig Ball;” (c) RFP No. 3, which seeks “All documents regarding Manalto's relationship or contract with Telstra;” (d) RFP No. 4, which seeks “All documents regarding Manalto's relationship or contract with Globe;” (e) RFP No. 5, which seeks “All documents regarding Manalto's relationship or contract with ReadySpace;” (f) RFP No. 6, which seeks “All documents regarding Manalto's relationship or contract with Telenor;” (g) RFP No. 7, which seeks “All documents regarding Manalto's relationship or contract with CenturyLink;” and (h) RFP No. 8, which seeks “All documents regarding Manalto's relationship or contract with Dnet/SiteDart.” Id. That same day, the parties held the Rule 26(f) conference and declined to enter the Court's model ESI agreement. See Dkt. #20 at 2. The Defendants' responses to Ball's discovery requests were due December 1, 2016.

         On November 30, 2016, Plaintiff's counsel spoke with counsel for Defendants and granted Defendants an extension to respond to these discovery requests. Dkt. #20 at 3. In that call, counsel for Defendants indicated that they would propose search terms for producing responsive emails. Id. Defense counsel gave the impression that Defendants would produce all responsive documents by the new deadline of December 15, 2016. Id. Through early December, 2016, the parties exchanged proposed search terms, with Defendants proposing narrow terms and Plaintiff suggesting broader terms. Defense counsel informed Plaintiff's counsel it would take “approximately 340-380 attorney hours and would cost Manalto approximately $100, 000-$120, 000 in attorneys' fees to review [the ESI based on Plaintiff's requested set of search terms] for responsiveness, privilege, and confidentiality prior to production.” Dkt. #20-9 at 13. Defendants refused to produce the ESI at issue until the parties agreed on search terms, even if that meant missing the deadline of December 15, 2016. Dkt. #27 at 4. Continued discussions made clear that the parties would be unable to agree on search terms. Counsel for the parties then agreed that Defendants would complete its ESI review according to its search protocol, and Plaintiff would thereafter determine whether to seek court intervention. Id. at 5.

         On December 15, 2016, Manalto served its Answers and Objections to Plaintiff's First Set of Interrogatories and Requests for Production. Id. at 5. On December 19, 2016, Defense counsel provided to Plaintiff the search terms they intended to use to supplement those Answers with more ESI. Id. Utilizing these search terms, counsel began review of potentially responsive ESI in late December 2016. Id. Review and production took longer than Defendants anticipated.

         Plaintiff filed an initial Motion to Compel on February 2, 2017. Dkt. #13. Defendants then quickly wrapped up their review of the ESI in question and produced emails (narrowed by Defendants objections) to Plaintiff on a rolling basis, ending on February 17, 2017. Accordingly, Plaintiff agreed to withdraw his first Motion to Compel. Dkt. #16.

         After reviewing the produced ESI, Plaintiff discovered certain discrepancies and inadequacies necessitating the instant Motion. On March 14, 2017, counsel for the parties met and conferred and continued to dispute reasonable ESI search terms. Dkt. #27 at 7. On March 24, 2017, Plaintiff filed the instant Motion.

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Legal Standard

         “Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case, considering the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties' relative access to relevant information, the parties' resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). Information within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable. Id. “District courts have broad discretion in determining relevancy for discovery purposes.” Surfvivor Media, Inc. v. Survivor Prods., 406 F.3d 625, 635 (9th Cir. 2005) (citing Hallett v. Morgan, 296 F.3d 732, 751 (9th Cir. 2002)). If requested discovery is not answered, the requesting ...


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