This browser is not actively supported anymore. For the best passle experience, we strongly recommend you upgrade your browser.
Welcome to Reed Smith's viewpoints — timely commentary from our lawyers on topics relevant to your business and wider industry. Browse to see the latest news and subscribe to receive updates on topics that matter to you, directly to your mailbox.
| 1 minute read

Narrow search terms lead to sanctions in COVID-19 case

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.


search terms, frcp, 26, 34, ediscovery, covid-19, discovery, litigation, e-discovery