Gareth Evans: Texas Supreme Court Rejects Overbroad Discovery of Cell Phone Data

Extract from Gareth Evans’s article “Texas Supreme Court Rejects Overbroad Discovery of Cell Phone Data”

Discovery overbreadth and the resulting excessive litigation costs are particularly common in multidistrict and other complex litigation. The Texas Supreme Court addressed this problem with respect to cell phone data in In re Kuraray America, Inc., — S.W.3d —, 2022 WL 17542911 (Tex. Dec. 9, 2022). The court held that discovery of cell phone data must be limited to information that the requesting party demonstrates is relevant to the case.

Had the court not done so, it would have cost the defendant $3.8 million to identify and produce the cell phone usage data of just five employees, based on the mere speculation of plaintiffs’ counsel that cell phone distraction could have been a causal factor in an industrial accident.

Kuraray pertains to an industrial accident in 2018, in which ethylene released at a chemical plant caught fire, resulting in multiple injuries and lawsuits. Plaintiffs sought cell phone data on the devices of three plant control room board operators and two supervisors, with no limitation on time period. Plaintiffs argued that the data was needed to determine whether employees in the control room might have been distracted by their phones when they should have been alert to changing plant conditions that led to the ethylene release.

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