Case Law

Illinois State Court Leverages Proportionality Standards in FRCP 26(b)(1) to Determine if Forensic Imaging is too Intrusive


Carlson v. Jerousek, 2016 IL App (2d) 151248 (Ill. App. Ct. 2d Dist. 2016) In this personal injury case, the plaintiff appealed a contempt order for failing to submit his personal and work computers for forensic imaging. The defendants argued that they should be allowed to conduct forensic imaging because, in addition to electronic communications and internet search terms, the plaintiff’s computer activities could provide insight to the extent of his injuries, as well as verify the validity of his claims. The plaintiff argued that forensic imaging was too extensive and “intrusive” when the “computers were not the focal point of the case,” and the defendants could obtain this information by other means. The court agreed with the plaintiff, stating that constitutional privacy issues, as well as proportionality, limited forensic imaging as a discovery method. Noting that Ill. S. Ct. R. 201(c)(3) and FRCP 26(b)(1) both embrace proportionality, the court applied it to this case, holding that the privacy interests of the plaintiff outweighed the value of this extreme discovery. The court vacated the contempt order, holding that forensic imaging was not warranted here because “[a] request to search the forensic image of a computer is like asking to search the entire contents of a house merely because some items in the house might be relevant.”

Keywords: Discovery, Computers, Electronic, Metadata, Searches, Proportionality, Rule 26(b)(1)