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Handloser v. HCL America, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division

January 7, 2020

GREGORY HANDLOSER, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
HCL AMERICA, INC., et al., Defendants.

          ORDER RE DISCOVERY DISPUTE NO. 3 RE ESI CUSTODIANS AND SEARCH TERMS RE: DKT. NO. 62

          VIRGINIA K. DEMARCHI UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiffs seek an order requiring defendants HCL America, Inc. and HCL Technologies Ltd. (collectively, “HCL”) to identify relevant custodians and conduct searches for responsive electronically stored information (“ESI”). HCL opposes this request on the ground that plaintiffs have identified too many custodians and unreasonably broad search terms. Each side faults the other for not cooperating in the selection of custodians and search terms.

         As recounted in their joint discovery dispute submission and accompanying status report, the parties and the Court have discussed discovery of ESI custodians on several occasions. The Court deems the present dispute suitable for resolution without oral argument. Civ. L.R. 7-1(b).

         ESI Custodians

         Plaintiffs contend that HCL has not identified the individual employees who are likely to have discoverable information, and as a result, plaintiffs have been unable to identify all relevant ESI custodians. Based on the information they have, plaintiffs have proposed a list of over 30 custodians, identified by name or by position. Dkt. No. 56-1. HCL suggests that this list should be limited to seven custodians.

         On November 25, 2019, pursuant to the parties' stipulation, the Court ordered HCL to identify individuals who may have information relevant to this case, as follows:

HCL will produce organizational charts that identify the senior manager for the Immigration, TAG, WPC, and HR departments, as well as any other relevant department, those manager's direct reports, and all executives above the senior managers in the reporting chain. If organizational charts are not available, HCL will otherwise identify these individuals. HCL will produce these materials and/or identify relevant individuals by December 9, [2019].

Dkt. No. 55 at 3 (emphasis in original).[1] HCL concedes that it has not fully complied with this order, as it now proposes to identify the U.S. heads[2] of the Immigration, HR, TAG, WPC, and HR departments from 2014 forward by January 17, 2020-more than a month after it was required to provide this information. Dkt. No. 62 at 7. HCL does not explain its failure to comply with the order. However, it does object that plaintiffs' list of more 30 potential custodians is disproportionate to the needs of the case.

         The Court agrees that 30 custodians is an unusually large number of custodians, but HCL bears significant responsibility for the length of plaintiffs' custodians list because it failed to timely provide information that might have permitted the parties to narrow the list. To resolve this portion of the parties' dispute, the Court orders as follows:

1. HCL must identify all the U.S. heads of the Immigration, HR, TAG, WPC, and HR departments from 2014 forward by January 9, 2020.
2. Plaintiffs may identify the following custodians whose records will be searched by HCL for responsive ESI:
a. Any person who was the U.S. head of the Immigration, HR, TAG, WPC, and HR departments from 2014 forward; and
b. Up to 10 additional individual custodians, identified by name or position, as to whom plaintiffs have a factual basis to believe that the custodian has relevant and responsive information.
3. Absent agreement of the parties, HCL will not be required to search for responsive ESI in the files of any additional custodian unless plaintiffs can show specifically that such additional custodian has relevant ESI and that requiring HCL to search that custodian's ESI is proportional to the needs of the case. In evaluating any such further ...

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