United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
HONORABLE JOHN C. COUGHENOUR JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on the parties' joint
submission pursuant to Western District of Washington Local
Civil Rule 37(a)(2) (Dkt. No. 72). Plaintiffs seek an order
requiring Defendants Allstate Insurance Company and Allstate
Fire and Casualty Insurance Company to produce several
documents in unredacted form. (See id. at 1.) Having
thoroughly considered the parties' briefing and the
relevant record, the Court finds oral argument unnecessary
and hereby GRANTS Plaintiffs' request for the reasons
bring a putative class action suit on behalf of Washington
insureds against Defendants, asserting a variety of state law
claims arising from Defendants' alleged erroneous
valuations of total loss vehicles. (See generally
Dkt. No. 50.) The Court has entered a protective order
restricting the use of confidential information, including
documents containing “proprietary or competitive
business information regarding business practices and/or
policies” or “financial and/or valuation
information, ” produced in this action. (See
Dkt. No. 32.)
have served Defendants with two requests for production
seeking documents related to Defendants' valuation of
total loss claims. (See Dkt. No. 72 at
4-5.) Defendants objected to both requests for
production, arguing that they were overly broad, were not
relevant or reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of
admissible evidence, or sought proprietary business
information. (See id.) Defendants have not asserted
a claim of privilege as to the documents. (Id.)
Ultimately, Defendants produced heavily redacted documents in
response to Plaintiffs' requests for production.
(Id. at 2; see Dkt. Nos. 73-5, 73-6.)
Defendants have provided Plaintiffs with a redaction log
stating the grounds for each redaction. (See Dkt.
assert that they have redacted portions of the documents that
“deal strictly with repairable vehicle claims” or
are “non-responsive, irrelevant, and commercially
sensitive as they pertain to financial information and
personnel that have no bearing on the claims at issue in this
suit.” (See Dkt. Nos. 72 at 3-4, 74 at 1-2.)
Defendants further argue that, although a protective order
has been entered in this action “and that documents
produced herein are not to be used outside this litigation,
” it should not be required to produce
“irrelevant, non-responsive, yet commercially sensitive
information to a nationwide class action plaintiffs'
firm[, which] simply provides potential fodder for other
unsubstantiated claims in the future.” (Dkt. No. 72 at
seek an order compelling Defendants to produce unredacted
versions of the documents. (See id. at
The parties certify that they have met and conferred in good
faith pursuant to Western District of Washington Local Civil
Rule 37(a)(2)(H) but remain at an impasse. (See id.
motions are strongly disfavored. The Court has broad
discretion in controlling discovery. See Little v. City
of Seattle, 863 F.2d 681, 685 (9th Cir. 1988).
“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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). Under Rule 26, the
concept of relevance “has been construed broadly to
encompass any matter that bears on, or that reasonably could
lead to other matter that could bear on, any issue that is or
may be in the case.” Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v.
Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 351 (1978). If the parties are
unable to resolve their discovery issues, the requesting
party may move for an order to compel. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(1).
courts appear split on the issue of whether a party may
unilaterally redact material the party considers
nonresponsive or irrelevant from an otherwise responsive
document. See Bonnell v. Carnival Corp., 2014 WL
10979823, slip op. at 3 (S.D. Fla. Jan 2014). But the Court
agrees with courts in this district that have disapproved of
the practice. See, e.g., Doe v. Trump, 329
F.R.D. 262, 275-76 (W.D. Wash. 2018); Krausz Indus., Ltd.
v. Romac Indus., No. C10-1204-RSL, Dkt. No. 165 at 4-5
(W.D. Wash. 2011). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 34
concerns the discovery of “documents, ” not
portions thereof, and “[i]t is the rare document that
contains only relevant information; and irrelevant
information within an otherwise relevant document may provide
context necessary to understand the relevant
information.” Trump, 329 F.R.D. at 275-76.
“Redaction is generally an inappropriate tool for
excluding information that a party considers to be irrelevant
or nonresponsive from documents that are otherwise responsive
to a discovery request.” Id. at 275
(collecting cases). Moreover, redaction may render disclosed
documents confusing or difficult to use, and lead to
“the litigation of collateral issues and the needless
expenditure of resources.” Id. at 276 (citing
In re Medeva Sec. Litig., 1995 WL 943468, slip op.
at 3 (C.D. Cal. 1995)). The entry of a protective order
limiting the use of sensitive or confidential information
minimizes the potential harm of disclosing allegedly
irrelevant information not subject to a claim of privilege.
See id.; Krausz Indus., C10-1204-RSL, Dkt.
No. 165 at 5 (citing Evon v. Law Offices of Sidney
Mickell, 2010 WL 4554767, slip op. at 2 n.1 (E.D. Cal.
a claim of privilege, Defendants' assertion that the
material at issue is irrelevant to this litigation is
insufficient to justify their unilateral redactions of
material from otherwise responsive documents. Defendants have
not established that the redacted material cannot meet the
low bar of relevance under the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure in light of Plaintiffs' claims in this matter.
See Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1); Oppenheimer
Fund, 437 U.S. at 351; (see generally Dkt. Nos.
50, 72). Further, even assuming the material does not meet
this low bar, the extensive nature of the redactions deprives
the responsive documents of both context and clarity. See
Trump, 329 F.R.D. at 275-76; (see, e.g., Dkt.
No. 73-5). Finally, despite Defendants' concerns about
the nature of Plaintiffs' retained counsel, the Court is
satisfied that the protective order entered in this case
contains sufficient procedural safeguards to protect
Defendants' confidential information from improper use
beyond this litigation. See Trump, 329 F.R.D. at
276; Krausz Indus., C10-1204-RSL, Dkt. No.
165 at 5; (Dkt. No. 32.)
foregoing reasons, Plaintiffs' request for an order
compelling Defendants Allstate Insurance Company and Allstate
Fire and Casualty Insurance Company to produce unredacted
forms of the responsive documents at issue (Dkt. No. 72) is
GRANTED. Defendants Allstate Insurance Company and Allstate
Fire and Casualty Insurance Company shall provide Plaintiffs
with unredacted versions of ...