Electronically Stored Information: Balancing Free Discovery With Limits on Abuse

By: Patricia Groot

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (the Rules) have long sought to limit abuses that developed under the traditional presumption favoring free discovery. The 2006 amendments to the Rules are specifically aimed at curbing abuses associated with electronically stored information (ESI), which has become the basic medium of business communications and has provided businesses with overall productivity benefits. The 2006 amendments introduce a new category of electronic evidence that is “not reasonably accessible” and allow a court to shift the related costs of discovery to the party requesting the information. Cost-shifting, however, creates an incentive for businesses to shelter sensitive data by making it “not reasonably accessible.” This iBrief argues that the current tests created by the courts for cost-shifting should be reassessed and should include a benefit-shifting component that offsets business savings from using ESI as a storage medium. Rather than treating ESI as exceptional, the Rules should adopt a uniform approach that curbs abuses of all discovery.

Cite: 2009 Duke L. & Tech. Rev. 002

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