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Oxbow Carbon & Minerals LLC v. Union Pacific R.R. Co.

United States District Court for the District of Columbia
322 F.R.D. 1 (D.D.C. 2017)


Facts

Oxbow Carbon & Minerals LLC and four related coal and petroleum mining companies (collectively, Oxbow) (plaintiffs) sued, alleging that Union Pacific and BNSF Railway Company (defendants) violated antitrust laws. Oxbow claimed the railroads conspired to fix fuel rates and surcharges at anticompetitive levels and maintain a monopoly. Oxbow claimed it paid $50 million in illegal fuel charges as a result and sought treble damages plus lost profits. During discovery, Oxbow produced documents from 19 records custodians. However, the railroads sought the records of William Koch, Oxbow’s founder, CEO, and principal. The railroads claimed Koch had unique information that would show market forces—not the alleged railroad conspiracy—caused increasing rail freight costs and Oxbow’s losses. Oxbow resisted the discovery as unduly burdensome, expensive, and duplicative of the documents already produced by its 19 records custodians. However, Oxbow willingly conducted a sample search to determine the relevant percentage. A vendor searched almost half a million documents from Koch’s physical and electronic files, at a cost of $57,000. About 12 percent returned as responsive, and Oxbow produced about 1,300 records from that sampling. But Oxbow estimated that searching, reviewing, and producing the remainder would cost another $85,000 and objected to production as unduly burdensome and costly. Alternatively, Oxbow asked the court to shift the production costs to the railroads.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Harvey, J.)

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