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Level 2 Legal eDiscovery Solutions

"Reasonable Particularity" & Rule 34: Growing Momentum

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The so-called “dieselgate” litigation originated with the alleged installation of defeat devices and software in various diesel-powered Volkswagen automobiles. Regulators and plaintiffs from Europe to the United States – in both criminal and civil proceedings – claim such devices and software allow affected vehicles to skirt stringent emissions standards.

One such proceeding[1] recently yielded an interesting ruling on a significant limiting aspect of Rule 34 requests for production of documents. Since the latest amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in late 2015, there is growing momentum for courts to take seriously the “reasonable particularity” requirement included in Rule 34.

On a motion to compel before Judge Jacqueline Corley, the movants (a large group of Volkswagen dealers) sought to compel various Robert Bosch companies (which allegedly developed the defeat devices at issue) to produce “documents that Bosch previously provided to certain federal and state agencies that are investigating the [alleged] ‘clean diesel’ emissions fraud.” This request was in addition to the more traditional and specific requests for production of documents that movants made under Rule 34.

Judge Corley denied movants’ request for the omnibus production of documents previously provided to the federal and state agencies. Although movants “may obtain discovery of any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to their claims or defenses and that is proportional to the needs of their case,” [see Rule 26(b)(1)], Judge Corley went on to clarify that “[t]he traditional route for obtaining document discovery is to serve subject-matter-specific requests for production, which ‘must describe with reasonable particularity each item or category of items to be inspected.’” [See Rule 34(b)(1)(A)]

As the court noted, it would be easy and efficient to request all the documents produced as part of the federal and state investigations. But given the ongoing and confidential nature of the investigations – and without having access to the document requests or subpoenas issued – the reasonable particularity requirement of Rule 34 could not be met.

At Level 2 Legal, we work hard to help our clients bring “reasonable particularity” to all aspects of their discovery obligations. From initial consulting on search planning and protocols, to assistance with all aspects of Rule 26 conferences, to help in reasonably limiting the number of documents for review and production, our attorneys have one goal in mind – providing our clients with the greatest value and efficiency for the discovery aspects of their matters. It’s why were honored that they return to us for assistance time and again – and we’d be honored to include you among them.

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[1] See In re Volkswagen “Clean Diesel” Marketing, Sales Practices, and Products Liability Litigation, MDL No. 2672 CRB (JSC) (N.D. Cal. Apr. 24, 2018).