S.D. Ohio decision on search terms.


On June 4, 2018, Judge Elizabeth A. Preston Deavers issued an order in Am. Mun. Power v. Voith Hydro, Case No. 2:17-cv-708, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 93714 (S.D. Ohio June 4, 2018), settling a dispute between the parties on what terms should be used to search the Plaintiff's ESI.

The Defendant requested that the search of the AMP ESI and its own ESI be limited to the names of the four hydroelectric projects at issue in the case (Cannelton, Smithland, Willow and Meldahl). AMP wished to omit the project names and instead use multiple search terms (including employee names and terms specific to construction and hydroelectricity) with Boolean connectors.

Judge Deavers ruled that a search for the project names would be over-inclusive. A search for the project names would not necessarily be relevant to the construction of the dams and the cost of discovery would increase greatly including by more than $100K for privilege review. “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.” Id. at 3-4.

However the Court also found that AMP’s proposed terms would return a high amount of confidential data and be overboard and not proportional to the needs of the case. “AMP's proposal to exclude the names of other customers' project names with ‘AND NOT’ phrases is unworkable because Voith cannot reasonably identify all the projects from around the world with which its employees were involved during the decade they were engaged in work for AMP on the Projects.” Id. at 4-5.