New York’s Commercial Division has continuously taken the lead as an innovative forum, proposing rule changes that are aimed at increasing efficiency and overall effectiveness of the litigation process. In the past several years, discovery challenges surrounding electronically stored information (“ESI”) have taken center stage in a majority of cases before the Commercial Division. Understanding these challenges, on September 7, 2021, the Commercial Division Advisory Council (“CDAC”) published a proposal, that includes several new amendments to the current e-discovery rules. Specifically, the CDAC advised that “[t]he goal of the revisions is to address e-discovery in a more consolidated way, modify the rules for clarity and consistency, expand the rules to address important ESI topics consistent with the CPLR and caselaw, and to provide further detail in Appendix A – Proposed ESI Guidelines than is practical in the Commercial Division Rules.”
One significant modification by the CDAC’s proposal revolves around several distinct changes to Rule 11-c concerning discovery of ESI. First, the proposal seeks to consolidate all ESI discussion from the current version of Rule 8 into Rule 11-c, including directing parties to confer on electronic discovery topics prior to the Preliminary Conference. Second, the proposed revisions entirely remove Rule 11-e(f), which discusses using efficient means to identify ESI for production, including technology-assisted review (“TAR”), and move the substance of the rule into Rule 11-c(e). Third, the proposal includes noteworthy additions to Rule 11-c on the issue of cost efficiency for parties and non-parties in producing ESI. The proposed changes include cost-sharing directives requiring that (a) “[t]he costs and burdens of ESI shall not be disproportionate to its benefits;” and (b) “[t]he requesting party shall defray the reasonable expenses associated with a non-party’s production of ESI, in accordance with Rules 3111 and 3122 (d) of the CPLR.” Fourth, the proposed revisions draw on rules / topics from the Nassau County Commercial Division ESI Guidelines, such as the inadvertent or unintentional production of ESI documents that are subject to attorney-client privilege, and a requirement that a party take reasonable steps to preserve ESI documents that it has a duty to preserve.
In addition, the CDAC’s proposal includes material changes to Appendix A to Commercial Division Rule 11-c. For starters, the revised Appendix A would substitute the current non-party ESI Guidelines with “new guidelines to cover all aspects of ESI, from parties and non-parties alike.” Further, the proposed ESI Guidelines, which the CDAC acknowledges are advisory rather than mandatory, include a comprehensive list of e-discovery topics that are not addressed by the current non-party ESI Guidelines, including but not limited to:
- Reminding counsel of the importance of technical competence in handling e-discovery;
- Guidance on the defensible preservation and collection of ESI sources;
- Information on the selection of appropriate procedures and technologies for producing ESI, including TAR;
- Setting forth a process for parties to address ESI that is not reasonably accessible due to undue burden or cost; and
- Protection against waiver for privileged ESI that is inadvertently produced.
Recognizing that e-discovery law is constantly changing, the CDAC believes that the proposed ESI Guidelines can be updated on a continuing basis without requiring any amendments to the Commercial Division Rules themselves. Persons who wish to comment on this proposal should e-mail their submissions to email@example.com or write to: Eileen D. Millett, Esq., Counsel, Office of Court Administration, 25 Beaver Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10004. Comments must be received no later than November 8, 2021.