Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Lawson v. Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

October 31, 2019

KRISTOPHER LAWSON, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
LOVE'S TRAVEL STOPS & COUNTRY STORES, INC., Defendant.

          Conner Chief Judge.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Martin C. Carlson United States Magistrate Judge.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         This case is a Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) collective action brought on behalf of current and former Operations Managers (OMs) employed at various Love's Travel Stops. (Doc. 1). The plaintiffs allege that they were misclassified as exempt managerial employees under the FLSA, 29 U.S.C. § 201, et seq., and accordingly were not paid overtime as required by federal law. (Id.)

         The parties are engaged in discovery in this case and are embroiled in a number of discovery disputes. Included among these discovery disputes is a disagreement between the parties regarding whether the collective plaintiffs have fulfilled their responsibilities to seek out, retain, and disclose electronically stored information (ESI). Dissatisfied with the plaintiffs' ESI production to date, the defendant has moved to compel further measures by the collective plaintiffs. (Doc. 193). Specifically, Love's urges us to direct the collective plaintiffs to take the following five steps in order to comply with their ESI production obligations: (1) engage an eDiscovery vendor at their own expense; (2) use that vendor to search for and collect responsive ESI; (3) provide hit reports for search terms Defendant specifies; (4) produce all responsive documents to Defendant's document requests dated July 20, 2018, including associated metadata; and (5) provide a detailed description of the sources of ESI searched, how that ESI was searched, and when the source containing the ESI was used by the opt-in Plaintiff.

         Thus, the instant motion calls upon us to consider the reciprocal obligations of parties to search for and retain ESI in FLSA collective actions. We consider these questions against the following factual backdrop: On February 16, 2018, the court entered an order conditionally granting the plaintiffs' motion for class and collective certification in this case. (Doc. 68). Following the entry of this order, approximately 400 current and former Love's OMs opted into this conditionally certified class, and the parties engaged in a course of reciprocal discovery involving the defendants and a selected group of discovery Opt-in plaintiffs. In connection with this reciprocal discovery, Love's propounded a series of documentary discovery demands upon the discovery Opt-in plaintiffs and specified that with respect to any ESI, the defense was seeking the ESI along with any associated metadata.[1]

         The plaintiffs responded to these initial demands by producing a limited body of ESI, which did not consistently include the metadata sought by the defense. The plaintiffs also provided a general description of the scope of the ESI searches undertaken by individual plaintiffs and indicated that these initial searches had uncovered no further responsive records. The defense was dissatisfied with this response and their dissatisfaction grew when they deposed Richard Lynch, one of the discovery Opt-in plaintiffs, on April 16, 2019. Both parties have provided us with excerpts from Mr. Lynch's deposition. (Docs. 193-6, 207-4). With respect to the ESI search issues raised in this motion, it appears that at around the time of his deposition, Lynch produced some additional documents. Lynch also testified that he had produced everything in his possession that was responsive to the defendant's discovery demands. (Id.) However, Lynch's testimony reflected a certain degree of uncertainty on his part regarding the precise provenance of various items of ESI, since Lynch could not identify with precision which electronic devices in his possession may have yielded specific items. Lynch also acknowledged that older text messages may have been deleted and could not describe efforts that he had taken to preserve ESI. (Id.)

         Lynch's uncertainty on these issues inspired additional rounds of consultation and conferral between the parties concerning the plaintiffs' ESI preservation and production obligations. As a result of this process, in July of 2019, the plaintiffs' counsel provided the defendant with some additional details concerning the ESI collection process undertaken by the discovery Opt-in plaintiffs. (Doc. 207-5). In particular, as to these discovery Opt-in plaintiffs, counsel provided a general description of the devices search, (“cell phone, laptop, desktop”), and the data reviewed (“e-mails and text messages”). Plaintiffs' counsel also identified any social media searched by the discovery Opt-in plaintiffs as well as any job networking sites searched by the plaintiffs. Further, according to the plaintiffs' counsel, the searches were conducted using variations of the terms “Love's” as well as co-workers' names. In addition, the supplemental responses stated whether these searches revealed any further responsive documents. (Id.) Finally, with regard to Love's concerns that it had not received requested metadata, the plaintiffs' counsel agreed to produce these records in their native format.[2]

         Dissatisfied with this response, Love's filed the instant motion to compel plaintiffs' production of ESI, (Doc. 193), which seeks an order directing the following five forms of relief: an order directing the plaintiffs (1) to engage an eDiscovery vendor at their own expense; (2) use that vendor to search for and collect responsive ESI; (3) provide hit reports for search terms Defendant specifies; (4) produce all responsive documents to Defendant's document requests dated July 20, 2018, including associated metadata; and (5) provide a detailed description of the sources of ESI searched, how that ESI was searched, and when the source containing the ESI was used by the opt-in Plaintiff. The motion is fully briefed by the parties and is now ripe for resolution.

         For the reasons set forth below, the motion will be granted, in part, and denied, in part, as follows: The defendant's request that we order plaintiffs to undertake the expense of hiring and using an outside eDiscovery vendor is DENIED. To the extent that the defendant seeks access to available metadata on produced records, the motion is GRANTED IN PART, in that the plaintiffs shall produce records in their native format. Further, to the extent that the defendant is dissatisfied with the clarity of the plaintiffs' responses regarding the procedures and protocols employed in the ESI search in this case, the motion is GRANTED IN PART and the defendant may propound up to five interrogatories of the discovery Opt-in plaintiffs seeking further details regarding this search methodology. Finally, with respect to the scope of the search terms used in this search, the motion is GRANTED IN PART, and the parties are ordered to consult, confer and attempt to agree upon no more than ten carefully tailored, relevant search terms to use when examining the plaintiffs' ESI. If the parties are unable to come to an agreement on these search terms, they shall notify the court.

         II. Discussion

         A. Guiding Principles

         Rulings regarding the proper scope of discovery are matters consigned to the court's discretion and judgment. A court's decisions regarding the conduct of discovery will be disturbed only upon a showing of abuse of that discretion. Marroquin-Manriquez v. I.N.S., 699 F.2d 129, 134 (3d Cir. 1983). This far-reaching discretion also extends to rulings by United States Magistrate Judges on discovery matters. In this regard:

District courts provide magistrate judges with particularly broad discretion in resolving discovery disputes. See Farmers & Merchs. Nat'l Bank v. San Clemente Fin. Group Sec., Inc., 174 F.R.D. 572, 585 (D.N.J. 1997). When a magistrate judge's decision involves a discretionary [discovery] matter . . ., “courts in this district have determined that the clearly erroneous standard implicitly becomes an abuse of discretion standard.” Saldi v. Paul Revere Life Ins. Co., 224 F.R.D. 169, 174 (E.D. Pa. 2004) (citing Scott Paper Co. v. United States, 943 F.Supp. 501, 502 (E.D. Pa. 1996)). Under the standard, a magistrate judge's discovery ruling “is entitled to great deference and is reversible only for abuse of discretion.” Kresefky v. Panasonic Commc'ns and Sys. Co., 169 F.R.D. 54, 64 (D.N.J. 1996); see also Hasbrouck v. BankAmerica Hous. Servs., 190 F.R.D. 42, 44-45 (N.D.N.Y. 1999) (holding that discovery rulings are reviewed under abuse of discretion standard rather than ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.