Earlier this year, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled on a case involving the adequacy of search terms in concordance with Federal Rules 26 and 34. The plaintiffs in Gardner-Alfred v. Federal Reserve Bank of New York, No. 22-CV-01585 (LJL) (S.D.N.Y. May 17, 2023) claimed that they were improperly denied religious accommodations under COVID-19 vaccination requirements of their employer.
During discovery, the plaintiffs missed multiple discovery deadlines during a contentious document production period, which included the plaintiffs running very narrow search terms that were not agreed upon by the parties. The case discusses the plaintiffs’ discovery obligations under Federal Rules 26 and 34, and the court’s reasoning for imposing sanctions upon them for their discovery violations.
Agreeing on search terms can be one of the most contentious elements of litigation. Despite these tensions, it’s important that parties apply reasonable search terms to fulfill their independent obligations to Federal Rules 26 and 34, or they may be at risk of sanctions. For additional discussion of the case, see the Exterro Case Law Alert, including commentary by David Cohen.