Shifting E-Discovery Costs to the Plaintiff in a Potential Class Action: a Pennsylvania Federal Court Tells Plaintiffs' Counsel to "Make the Investment in Discovery"

by Cozen O'Connor
Contact

In what could be a significant opinion for federal class action defendants seeking to limit their e-discovery costs, a court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania recently held in Boeynaems v. LA Fitness International, LLC, No. 10-2326, No. 11-2644 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 16, 2012), that plaintiffs who were seeking broad discovery regarding class certification issues – including extensive ESI requests -- should share in the costs of the defendant’s discovery production.   

Recognizing that the potential for a class action suit “dramatically increases the economic pressure on the defendant” and that the economic burden of discovery production regarding certification often falls primarily on the defendant, Judge Michael Baylson wrote, “[D]iscovery burdens should not force either party to succumb to a settlement that is based on the cost of litigation rather than the merits of the case.”  Where there is a substantial discovery dispute prior to class certification, Judge Baylson held, “economic motivation and fairness are relevant factors in determining cost-shifting of disputed discovery burdens.” 

In Boeynaems, the five individual plaintiffs had asserted deception and breach of contract actions relating to their attempts to cancel their gym memberships with the defendant.  In the process of seeking class certification for what they anticipated would be a very large class, the plaintiffs sought extensive discovery from defendants.  After the defendant had already provided some discovery  to the plaintiffs, substantial disputes arose between the parties about the scope of remaining discovery to be provided by the defendant.  Among other things, the plaintiffs sought “millions of items” of ESI (electronically stored information).  The cost of production of that ESI, the court noted, was “a significant factor in the defense of the litigation.”

In determining how to allocate discovery costs between the parties, the court focused on the specific circumstances of the case.  Discovery in the case was called “asymmetrical,” in that discovery production and its attendant expenses were rather small for the plaintiffs, and potentially huge for the defendant.   The court noted while class determination requires a “searching inquiry” and “very detailed analysis,” the plaintiffs had already amassed a very large set of documents that were potentially probative of the class action issue.  With that in mind, the court held that the plaintiffs should bear the economic responsibility of any future discovery efforts in regard to class determination:

The Court is persuaded, it appearing that Defendant has borne all of the costs of complying with Plaintiffs’ discovery to date, that the costs burden must now shift to Plaintiffs, if Plaintiffs believe that they need additional discovery.  In other words, given the large amount of information Defendant has already provided, Plaintiffs need to assess the value of additional discovery for their class action motion.  If Plaintiffs conclude that additional discovery is not only relevant, but important to proving that a class should be certified, then Plaintiffs should pay for that additional discovery from this date forward, at least until the class action determination is made.

Remarkably, in arriving at its decision, the court took into consideration the economic resources of the plaintiffs’ counsel.  The court observed that the plaintiffs’ counsel was a “very successful and well regarded” firm, and reasoned that if that firm “believes that this case is meritorious, it has the financial ability to make the investment in discovery[.]”  The court further noted that while the discovery costs were likely not recoverable from the defendant in the event of  plaintiff victory,[1] the court would likely allow the firm’s “out-of-pocket costs to be deductible from any award to a class, assuming a class was certified.”

Although federal rules have allowed the courts to shift discovery costs for years, Boeynaems appears to be the first instance in which a federal court has  addressed the shifting of discovery costs in a pre-class determination setting.  Judge Baylson’s analysis in Boeynaems should present a useful resource to a defendant who is facing the prospect of class action litigation and seeking to limit the potential for extensive e-discovery costs.


[1] For this proposition, the court cited to the recent, major e-discovery case Race Tires America v. Hoosier Racing Tire Corp., 674 F.3d 158 (3d Cir. 2012).  You can find our analysis of the Race Tires opinion here.

 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Cozen O'Connor | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Cozen O'Connor
Contact
more
less

Cozen O'Connor on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.