Sedona Conference Finalized 2016 Commentary – "Possesion, Custody or Control"

This Commentary is intended to provide practical, uniform, and defensible guidelines regarding when a responding party should be deemed to have “possession, custody, or control” of documents and all forms of electronically stored information (hereafter, collectively referred to as “Documents and ESI”) subject to Rule 34 and Rule 45 requests for production.
Principle 1: A responding party will be deemed to be in Rule 34 or Rule 45 “possession, custody, or control” of Documents and ESI when that party has actual possession or the legal right to obtain and produce the Documents and ESI on demand.
Principle 2: The party opposing the preservation or production of specifically requested Documents and ESI claimed to be outside its control, generally bears the burden of proving that it does not have actual possession or the legal right to obtain the requested Documents and ESI.
Principle 3(a): When a challenge is raised about whether a responding party has Rule 34 or Rule 45 “possession, custody, or control” over Documents and ESI, the Court should apply modified “business judgment rule” factors that, if met, would allow certain, rebuttable presumptions in favor of the responding party.
Principle 3(b): In order to overcome the presumptions of the modified business judgment rule, the requesting party bears the burden to show that the responding party’s decisions concerning the location, format, media, hosting, and access to Documents and ESI lacked a good faith basis and were not reasonably related to the responding party’s legitimate business interests.
Principle 4: Rule 34 and Rule 45 notions of “possession, custody, or control” should never be construed to override conflicting state or federal privacy or other statutory obligations, including foreign data protection laws.
Principle 5: If a party responding to a specifically tailored request for Documents or ESI (either prior to or during litigation), does not have actual possession or the legal right to obtain the Documents or ESI that are specifically requested by their adversary because they are in the “possession, custody, or control” of a third party, it should, in a reasonably timely manner, so notify the requesting party to enable the requesting party to obtain the Documents or ESI from the third party. If the responding party so notifies the requesting party, absent extraordinary circumstances, the responding party should not be sanctioned or otherwise held liable for the third party’s failure to preserve the Documents or ESI.