Discovery of electronically stored information is now an integral part of civil litigation in federal courts. Although Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2)(B) and 34 address production of electronically stored information, they are silent on related procedures for searching and collecting ESI. For various business reasons, including burden and expense, some corporate litigants opt for more informal, “manual” collection methods (i.e., searches performed by individual records custodians, often without sophisticated data-collection software and hardware) when responding to ESI requests.

What happens when the requesting party challenges the results of a production based on manual collection methods or otherwise objects to the propriety of those methods? In Ford Motor Co. v. Edgewood Properties Inc., 257 F.R.D. 418 (D.N.J. 2009), the District of New Jersey analyzed whether manual collection methods (versus automated) are sufficiently reasonable to meet a party’s electronic discovery obligations. This article will address this evolving issue and the guidance provided by Ford and other relevant decisions.

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