Case Law

Discovery “Cautionary Tale” Leads to Recommendations of Default Judgment Against Defendants: eDiscovery Case Law

In Abbott Laboratories, et al. v. Adelphia Supply USA, et al., No. 15 CV 5826 (CBA) (LB) (E.D.N.Y. May 2, 2019), New York Magistrate Judge Lois Bloom, noting that the plaintiff’s motion for case ending sanctions against H&H Wholesale Services, Inc., its principal, Howard Goldman, and its marketing manager and Mr. Goldman’s wife, Lori Goldman (“H&H Defendants”) for wide-scale discovery misconduct “presents a cautionary tale about how not to conduct discovery in federal court” recommended that the plaintiffs’ motion be granted, and that the Court should enter a default judgment against the H&H Defendants.

This case (covered here by Law360, subscription required; report and recommendation linked here) involves trademark and trade dress infringement, unfair competition, trademark dilution and other claims associated with the illegal sale of Abbott’s FreeStyle blood glucose test strips in the US.  Judge Bloom began the report and recommendations document with this statement:

“This motion presents a cautionary tale about how not to conduct discovery in federal court.”

Among the discovery issues according to Judge Bloom (and plaintiff allegations):

  • The documents the H&H defendants originally produced were printed “in hard copy, scanning them all together, and producing them as a single, 1941-page PDF file”;
  • H&H used search terms it knew wouldn’t turn up results (“such as ‘International’ and ‘FreeStyle,’ whereas H&H’s internal systems used item numbers and other abbreviations such as ‘INT’ and ‘INTE’ for International and ‘FRL’ and ‘FSL’ for FreeStyle”) and specifically removed other damning documents – particularly those involving Howard Goldman and Lori Goldman – and provided numerous false excuses for these omissions;
  • The testimony from H&H’s general manager regarding the discovery woes was “clearly inconsistent if not perjured from his deposition” opposing the sanctions motion, Howard Goldman’s testimony was “evasive and self-serving at best” and H&H’s corporate representative’s testimony was “clearly perjured”;
  • “H&H would have gotten away” with its fraud if not for Abbott being allowed to seize H&H’s computers as part of a related counterfeiting case, which allowed previously withheld documents to come to light.

“H&H only complied with the court’s orders and their discovery obligations when their backs were against the wall,” Judge Bloom wrote. “Their email server had been seized. There was no longer an escape from responsibility for their bad faith conduct … But for being caught in a web of irrefutable evidence, H&H would have profited from their misconduct.”

She added that the lies were part of a “calculated pattern of pervasive misconduct that started early on and continued even after defendants were caught red handed,” meaning the case must be ended with a victory handed to Abbott.

H&H had previously been sanctioned for its discovery misconduct, with Judge Bloom in 2018 blocking the supplier from raising attorney-client or work-product privilege defenses for a certain set of discovery production.

Even other companies that Abbott had also sued had gone after H&H and Kerr Russell for letting Goldman listen to remote depositions of other parties, in violation of a protective order.

In recommending that the plaintiffs’ motion for sanctions be granted and a default judgment being issued against the H&H defendants, Judge Bloom stated:

“The Court finds that the H&H defendants have committed a fraud upon the court, and that the harshest sanction is warranted. Therefore, plaintiffs’ motion for sanctions should be granted and a default judgment should be entered against H&H Wholesale Services, Inc., Howard Goldman, and Lori Goldman.”

So, what do you think?  Do you agree with the harsh sanction recommendations?  Please let us know if any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Sponsor: This blog is sponsored by CloudNine, which is a data and legal discovery technology company with proven expertise in simplifying and automating the discovery of data for audits, investigations, and litigation. Used by legal and business customers worldwide including more than 50 of the top 250 Am Law firms and many of the world’s leading corporations, CloudNine’s eDiscovery automation software and services help customers gain insight and intelligence on electronic data.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

Court Orders Plaintiff to Share in Discovery Costs of Non-Party: eDiscovery Case Law

In Lotus Indus., LLC v. Archer, No. 2:17-cv-13482 (E.D. Mich. May 24, 2019), Michigan Magistrate Judge Anthony P. Patti granted in part and denied in part without prejudice non-party City of Detroit Downtown Development Authority’s (DDA) motion for protective order in connection with the Court’s order granting in part and denying in part the plaintiff’s motion to compel documents requested by subpoena, ordering the plaintiff to pay some of DDA’s discovery costs, but not as much as DDA requested.

Case Background

In this civil RICO and First Amendment retaliation case associated with redevelopment of property in Detroit, the Plaintiff filed a motion to compel production of documents requested in his September 2018 subpoena to nonparty DDA in January 2019.  A hearing was held on the plaintiff’s motion on March 26, 2019, after which the Court entered an order granting in part and denying in part Plaintiff’s motion, ordering DDA to produce, by April 26, 2019, documents responsive to Request Nos. 4-6 of Plaintiff’s subpoena for the November 19, 2016 to present time period, and to produce a privilege log for any documents withheld on the basis of privilege.

On April 19, 2019, DDA filed the instant motion for protective order, seeking an extension of time to produce responsive documents and requesting that the plaintiff pay DDA its share of the expenses of production before being obligated to begin to comply with the Court’s order, contending that the volume of potentially responsive documents was substantially larger than anticipated (48.5 GB of data) and would impose a significant expense on DDA to produce and require far more time to complete than allowed by the Court’s order.  DDA initially anticipated the total expense of production at $127,653.00, which included $21,875.00 in costs to upload the data and approximately $105,778.00 in attorney’s fees in connection with a privilege review. DDA requested Plaintiff pay the $21,875 in costs and 25% of the anticipated attorney’s fees ($26,444.50); in response, the plaintiff opposed that motion and questioned why the costs were so high.

At the May 8, 2019 hearing on the motion, the parties agreed on new search terms to further refine the number of responsive documents and the Court scheduled a status conference for May 23, 2019 to discuss the results of that search. On May 22, 2019, DDA submitted a supplemental brief explaining that the revised search yielded 8.5 GB of data that must be reviewed for privilege, at a cost of $2,125.00 to upload the data to counsel’s eDiscovery platform and anticipated costs of $44,705.00 in attorneys’ fees to conduct a privilege review, so it sought an order for the plaintiff to pay DDA $2,125.00 in costs and $11,176.25 in attorneys’ fees (still 25% of the total attorneys’ fees anticipated).

Judge’s Ruling

Judge Patti found that “DDA has sufficiently established that it will be forced to incur $2,125.00 in fixed costs to upload the 8.5 GB of data to its third-party e-discovery platform in order to review it for production, and that it anticipates incurring $44,705 in attorneys’ fees to conduct a privilege review, prepare a privilege log and prepare the non-privileged documents for production.”

He also noted that “DDA has demonstrated that it has no interest in the outcome of this litigation, as it is not a party and Plaintiff’s prior case against it was dismissed as a sanction for Plaintiff’s ‘repeated misrepresentations’ and ‘failures to comply with discovery orders — despite warnings and the imposition of less severe sanctions…While DDA may more readily bear the expense of production than Plaintiff, that factor alone does not dictate that Plaintiff is relieved of the obligation to pay for some of the expense of production, particularly where this litigation has no particularized public importance and considering the ‘unusual circumstances’ in this case, including that Plaintiff’s prior lawsuit against the DDA was dismissed as a sanction, and he and his clients have been at the receiving end of multiple sanction awards in related and unrelated litigation, significant portions of which this particular plaintiff and his counsel have apparently failed to pay…In addition, the subpoena was directed in part at the general counsel for DDA, and Plaintiff should have anticipated that production of documents in response would require a robust privilege review prior to production, especially given the litigation history between Plaintiff and the DDA.”

As a result, DDA’s motion was granted in part and denied in part without prejudice and Judge Patti ordered that:

  1. “Plaintiff must pay to DDA the sum of $4,360.25, which constitutes the $2,125.00 in costs to upload the 8.5 GB of data to DDA’s counsel’s e-discovery platform, and $2,235.25 in attorneys’ fees (5% of the anticipated attorneys’ fees to conduct a privilege review, prepare a privilege log and prepare the non-privileged documents for production).
  2. Plaintiff must deliver the $4,360.25 check payable to City of Detroit Downtown Development Authority (although the check can be delivered to counsel for DDA) on or before 5:00 p.m. Monday, June 3, 2019. Plaintiff shall also promptly certify such payment to the Court, and include a copy of the check.
  3. DDA need not continue further efforts to produce documents until it is paid in full. Once paid, DDA shall have 45 days from that date to produce responsive documents, and a privilege log for any documents withheld on the basis of privilege.”

So, what do you think?  Do you agree with the distribution of costs?  Please let us know if any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Case opinion link courtesy of eDiscovery Assistant.

Sponsor: This blog is sponsored by CloudNine, which is a data and legal discovery technology company with proven expertise in simplifying and automating the discovery of data for audits, investigations, and litigation. Used by legal and business customers worldwide including more than 50 of the top 250 Am Law firms and many of the world’s leading corporations, CloudNine’s eDiscovery automation software and services help customers gain insight and intelligence on electronic data.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

With No Showing of Prejudice, Court Denies Spoliation Sanctions Against Defendant: eDiscovery Case Law

In Mafille v. Kaiser-Francis Oil Co., No. 18-CV-586-TCK-FHM (N.D. Okla. May 21, 2019), Oklahoma Magistrate Judge Frank H. McCarthy, finding that the plaintiffs “have not demonstrated they have been prejudiced” by the loss of the plaintiff former employee’s work computer, denied the plaintiffs’ motion for sanctions “without prejudice to reassertion of the motion if through discovery it is determined that some specific evidence is beyond Plaintiffs’ reach” for the defendant’s “clear failure” to preserve the computer.

Case Background

In this employment discrimination action filed by a former employee of the defendant who was terminated on July 5, 2018 for alleged performance issues, the plaintiff submitted an EEOC charge of discrimination on August 1, 2018 and issued a Right to Sue letter on August 15, 2018.  The plaintiffs commenced the action in October 2018 and the action was removed to federal court in November 2018.  On October 29, 2018, defendant’s counsel sent an email to plaintiffs’ counsel instructing them about plaintiffs’ obligation to preserve data on all electronic media and lectured plaintiffs about their duty to preserve evidence in a subsequent email.

However, an IT supervisor for the defendant stated in his deposition, that (the former employee) Mrs. Mafille’s computer was given to a charitable organization with other retired computers on November 3, 2018 and as a result the data contained on the computer was not preserved and presumably destroyed.  While Mrs. Mafille stated that she was “unaware of the extent of information that might have been on her [work] computer”, the plaintiffs nonetheless asserted that Mrs. Mafille’s workplace computer was willfully and intentionally destroyed, that it may have provided a “treasure trove” of information concerning her work performance over the entire term of her employment, and that as a result the plaintiffs had been irretrievably prejudiced.

Judge’s Ruling

Judge McCarthy stated: “In defense of its failure to preserve the computer, Defendant makes what the court views as an ill-considered assertion that if Plaintiffs had made a request for the computer earlier than they did, the computer could have been pulled and saved…As evidenced by the emails from Defendant’s attorney lecturing Plaintiffs about their obligation to preserve electronically stored evidence, it is abundantly clear that counsel was aware of Defendant’s own responsibility in this regard. The duty to preserve the electronically stored evidence exists independent of a specific request that the evidence be preserved. It is exceedingly poor form, and beyond zealous advocacy, for Defendant to attempt to blame Plaintiffs for its own obvious failing. The court finds that Mrs. Mafille’s work computer should have been preserved and further that Defendant is solely and entirely at fault for failing to take reasonable steps to preserve the computer.”

However, Judge McCarthy also observed that “Defendant asserts that sanctions are not appropriate because Plaintiffs have not demonstrated they have been prejudiced by the loss of Mrs. Mafille’s work computer. According to Defendant, a policy was in place requiring that materials be uploaded to Defendant’s LAN Server daily. As a result, there should not have been relevant materials on the subject computer that are not also accessible on the LAN Server. Defendant also asserts that it has requested Plaintiffs to identify what items were on Mrs. Mafille’s computer so an attempt can be made to recover the items from the LAN Server, but Plaintiffs have not identified any such items.”

Stating “[b]efore an order of sanctions may be entered, there must be a showing of prejudice”, Judge McCarthy denied the plaintiffs’ Motion for Sanctions “without prejudice to reassertion of the motion if through discovery it is determined that some specific evidence is beyond Plaintiffs’ reach because of what the court views as Defendant’s clear failure to preserve Mrs. Mafille’s work computer.”

So, what do you think?  Did the defendant get lucky there?  Please let us know if any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Case opinion link courtesy of eDiscovery Assistant.

Sponsor: This blog is sponsored by CloudNine, which is a data and legal discovery technology company with proven expertise in simplifying and automating the discovery of data for audits, investigations, and litigation. Used by legal and business customers worldwide including more than 50 of the top 250 Am Law firms and many of the world’s leading corporations, CloudNine’s eDiscovery automation software and services help customers gain insight and intelligence on electronic data.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

Court Upholds Decision Not to Compel Plaintiff to Produce Unredacted Narrative of Events: eDiscovery Case Law

In Kratz v. Scott Hotel Group, LLC, No. 4:17-cv-00212-TWP-DML (S.D. Ind. Apr. 29, 2019), Indiana District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt, stating “[t]o invoke schoolyard vernacular: no do-overs”, denied the defendant’s objections to the Magistrate Judge’s decision not to compel the plaintiff to produce versions of an unredacted narrative of events associated with his hotel stays and interactions with hotel staff.

Case Background

In this class action lawsuit against the defendant alleging violation of the Indiana Consumer Protection Act, breach of contract and misrepresentation, the plaintiff revealed during a deposition that he had created a narrative of events in a Microsoft Word file to document his hotel stays and interactions with hotel staff.  Later, the plaintiff produced a redacted version of the narrative in PDF format and claimed work product privilege over the redactions, to which the defendant objected.

In October 2018, the parties convened for a discovery conference with the Magistrate Judge, who, under the impression that only one (redacted) version of the narrative existed, denied the defendant’s request to require the plaintiff to produce the unredacted version of the narrative.  The defendant filed an Objection to the ruling in November 2018, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(a).  However, the Magistrate Judge subsequently discovered that the plaintiff’s counsel misrepresented the facts at that discovery conference and that the plaintiff had sent the earliest, native (unredacted) version of the document to his attorney in September 2017.  The plaintiff had sent subsequent versions of the document, updated in preparation of litigation, to his attorney in April 2018 and June 2018.  Upon learning this information, the Magistrate Judge amended her ruling and ordered the plaintiff to produce the September 2017 version of the narrative in its native Word document format, but not the last two versions because they were determined to be made in anticipation of litigation.  The defendant maintained its objections to the Magistrate Judge’s ruling as to the second and third iterations of the narrative.

Judge’s Ruling

Judge Pratt noted that “Scott Hotel presents numerous arguments that were not made at the October 29, 2018 conference before the Magistrate Judge”, but also noted that the defendant’s objection briefing “treats the Court’s review of the Magistrate Judge’s decision as an opportunity for de novo presentation and review.”  With regard to those arguments, Judge Pratt concluded that the presentation of arguments not raised before a magistrate judge is “clearly inappropriate” and stated that she “will disregard newly submitted arguments regarding waiver of work product protection and attorney-client privilege. ‘To invoke schoolyard vernacular: no do-overs.’”

As for work product protection for the modifications performed to the document in anticipation of litigation, Judge Pratt stated that “[t]he mere fact that Kratzer recorded his thoughts in anticipation of litigation as modifications and additions to a pre-existing document instead of in a new document does not exclude those thoughts from work product protection.”  Given “Scott Hotel’s ability to depose Kratzer and access most of the content of the later versions of the narrative renders its [substantial need and undue hardship] arguments unpersuasive”, Judge Pratt denied the defendant’s Objection to the Magistrate Judge’s decision.

So, what do you think?  Do you think that modification of a document previously ruled as not privileged could be considered privileged if it was done in anticipation of litigation?  Please let us know if any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Case opinion link courtesy of eDiscovery Assistant.

Sponsor: This blog is sponsored by CloudNine, which is a data and legal discovery technology company with proven expertise in simplifying and automating the discovery of data for audits, investigations, and litigation. Used by legal and business customers worldwide including more than 50 of the top 250 Am Law firms and many of the world’s leading corporations, CloudNine’s eDiscovery automation software and services help customers gain insight and intelligence on electronic data.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

Court Sanctions US Government for Spoliation in Copyright Infringement Case: eDiscovery Case Law

In 4DD Holdings, LLC v. U.S., No. 15-945C (Fed. Cl. May 10, 2019), the US Court of Federal Claims, in an opinion issued by Judge Bruggink, “grant[ed] plaintiffs’ motion for sanctions because the government destroyed relevant evidence that it had a duty to preserve.”  The Court directed the plaintiffs to “file a motion, appropriately supported, seeking a recovery of its costs and fees related to the motion for sanctions and with respect to discovery prompted by the destruction of evidence” and indicated it would “defer until summary judgment or trial the application of the evidentiary implications of this ruling.”  The court also denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss “[b]ecause plaintiffs established that the government authorized or consented to SMS’s allegedly infringing activity when working in SMS labs.”

Case Background

In this copyright infringement case involving installation of the plaintiff’s software in excess of the purchased license, the DoD’s Defense Health Agency (“DHA”) “repeatedly” required its contractor Systems Made Simple, Inc. (“SMS”) to perform work using the plaintiff’s copyrighted software in the contractor’s own labs.  The agency purchased a software license from the plaintiff’s reseller for 64 cores and the plaintiff’s End User License Agreement (“EULA”) permitted “the agency to make ‘one (1) copy of the object code to [TETRA] solely for back-up purposes,’ which it could only use ‘if the original copy is damaged or destroyed.’”  The agency also required the plaintiff to disable its software tracking feature to inform it of a software installation.

However, the Chief Engineer on the project (David Calvin) acknowledged in both his July 2018 declaration and his October 2018 deposition that work by SMS would have involved cloning TETRA virtual machines in their labs.  And, in August 2014, the plaintiff contacted the Contracting Officer’s Representative (Sheila Swenson) alleging that more than 64 cores were in use.  In September, Calvin directed the removal of instances of the plaintiff’s software in certain environments.  By December 2014, the agency “identified an over deployment of 168 core licenses to development servers.”  Nonetheless, Swenson reported 64 cores in use because that was the number of cores the agency had originally paid for.  In March 2015, the agency modified the license to increase the licensed quantity by 168 cores.

The plaintiff filed suit in August 2015. On September 9, 2015, the Department of Justice sent a letter to alert DoD of its responsibility to provide a litigation report and to furnish all evidence in DoD’s possession, stating “all records storage centers and other facilities where records are kept be immediately notified to forthwith identify, physically segregate and withhold from destruction all documents and papers touching upon the claims set forth in the complaint.”  Nonetheless, the agency’s Development Test Center (“DTC”) proceeded with a shredding of hard drives later that same month.  In addition, most of the laptops in use related to the project were returned and reimaged months after the litigation hold notice was issued, destroying any data related to the case they might have contained.  As discovery wound down, plaintiffs filed a motion for sanctions in November 2018.

Court Ruling

The Court found that “SMS was acting (1) “for the Government” and (2) “with the authorization or consent of the Government” when it performed any infringing activity in SMS labs.”  As a result, the Court denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss.

With regard to the plaintiffs’ motion for sanctions, the Court said: “The parties agree on the key events: The agency deleted instances of TETRA during the true-up period without informing 4DD. The agency destroyed the DTC servers’ hard drives. The agency erased all the information on many laptops used on the DMIX project.”  With regard to the DTC servers, the Court ruled that “Mr. Calvin’s orders directing contractors to delete instances of TETRA in listed environments because of ‘a license issue’ is sufficient to demonstrate that he intentionally deprived 4DD of the use of that information in litigation.”  But, the Court also noted that the “DTC decommissioning and laptop reimaging are not as clear cut”, ruling that “communication failure is undoubtedly negligent but falls short of the intentional behavior expected under Rule 37(e)(2)”.

Nonetheless, the Court “grant[ed] plaintiffs’ motion for sanctions because the government destroyed relevant evidence that it had a duty to preserve” and directed the plaintiffs to “file a motion, appropriately supported, seeking a recovery of its costs and fees related to the motion for sanctions and with respect to discovery prompted by the destruction of evidence” and indicated it would “defer until summary judgment or trial the application of the evidentiary implications of this ruling.”

So, what do you think?  Do you think the court ruled correctly on the intent to deprive standard for Rule 37(e)(2) in this case?  Please let us know if any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Case opinion link courtesy of eDiscovery Assistant.

Sponsor: This blog is sponsored by CloudNine, which is a data and legal discovery technology company with proven expertise in simplifying and automating the discovery of data for audits, investigations, and litigation. Used by legal and business customers worldwide including more than 50 of the top 250 Am Law firms and many of the world’s leading corporations, CloudNine’s eDiscovery automation software and services help customers gain insight and intelligence on electronic data.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

Court Establishes Search Protocol to Address Plaintiff’s Motion to Compel: eDiscovery Case Law

In Lawson v. Spirit Aerosystems, Inc., No. 18-1100-EFM-ADM (D. Kan. Apr. 26, 2019), Kansas Magistrate Judge Angel D. Mitchell granted in part and denied in part the plaintiff’s motion to compel, ordering the defendant to produce documents related to two requests and, with regard to a third request, ordering the defendant to “produce these documents to the extent that such documents are captured by the ESI search protocol.”

Case Background

This case regarded the defendant’s alleged breach of a retirement agreement with the plaintiff due to plans by an investment firm to install the plaintiff as CEO of an aircraft component manufacturer (“Arconic”) where the defendant withheld the plaintiff’s retirement benefits because the defendant claimed that he violated the non-compete provision in his retirement agreement.

In discovery, the plaintiff filed a motion to compel, seeking “the court’s intervention regarding discovery related to the “Business” of Spirit and Arconic. Specifically, Mr. Lawson asks the court to compel Spirit to produce (1) its contracts with Boeing and Airbus; (2) its antitrust filings relating to its planned acquisition of Asco Industries; (3) documents related to the aspects of Spirit’s business that Spirit alleges overlap with Arconic’s business; and (4) documents related to Spirit’s relationship with Arconic.”  At a subsequent hearing, the plaintiff clarified that he was not seeking to compel the full scope of documents sought in the original Requests for Production, but rather only the smaller subset of documents that were the subject of his motion to compel.

Judge’s Ruling

With regard to the Boeing and Airbus Contracts, Judge Mitchell granted the plaintiff’s motion “with respect to the portions of these contracts (or amendments, addenda, exhibits, schedules, data compilations, or lists) that relate to Spirit’s deliverables to Boeing and Airbus.”  And, with regard to Antitrust Filings, Judge Mitchell granted the plaintiff’s motion “with respect to the portion of these filings relating to Spirit’s business and market/marketing positioning, including the index(es) for these filings, the “4(c) documents,” and related white papers.”  He ordered the defendant to produce documents related to both categories “on or before May 7, 2019.”

With regard to Product Overlaps and Spirit’s Relationship with Arconic, Judge Mitchell granted these aspects of the motion in part and denied them in part, ordering the defendant to “produce these documents to the extent that such documents are captured by the ESI search protocol.”  That protocol was as follows:

“After consultation with the parties, the court orders the parties to comply with the following ESI search protocol:

  • By May 3, 2019, Mr. Lawson shall identify up to seven categories of documents for which it seeks ESI.
  • By May 20, 2019, for each category of documents, Spirit shall serve a list of the top three custodians most likely to have relevant ESI, from the most likely to the least likely, along with a brief explanation as to why Spirit believes each custodian will have relevant information.
  • By May 23, 2019, Mr. Lawson shall serve a list of five custodians and proposed search terms for each custodian.

 *3 • Spirit shall search the identified custodians’ ESI using these proposed search terms. Spirit shall use sampling techniques to assess whether the search has produced an unreasonably large number of non-responsive or irrelevant results and, if so, Spirit shall suggest modified search terms (e.g., different keywords, negative search restrictions, etc.) by May 30, 2019.

  • The parties shall meet and confer about search terms and try to achieve an estimated responsive hit rate of at least 85%.
  • Spirit shall produce responsive documents from the first five custodians on or before June 21, 2019.
  • Meanwhile, the parties shall begin this same process for the next five custodians. By May 30, 2019, Mr. Lawson will produce to Spirit a list of the next five custodians and proposed search terms for each custodian. If Spirit finds that the estimated responsive hit rate is not at or above 85%, Mr. Lawson shall suggest modified search terms by June 6, 2019. The court will set a deadline for Spirit to produce documents from the second set of five custodians at a later time.

If Mr. Lawson wishes to seek ESI from additional custodians beyond the ten described in this protocol, the parties are directed to contact the court for further guidance.”

Judge Mitchell also denied the plaintiff’s request to order the defendant to pay his attorneys’ fees and costs associated with the motion to compel.

So, what do you think?  Do you think the ordered responsive hit rate of 85% is reasonable?  Please let us know if any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Case opinion link courtesy of eDiscovery Assistant.

Sponsor: This blog is sponsored by CloudNine, which is a data and legal discovery technology company with proven expertise in simplifying and automating the discovery of data for audits, investigations, and litigation. Used by legal and business customers worldwide including more than 50 of the top 250 Am Law firms and many of the world’s leading corporations, CloudNine’s eDiscovery automation software and services help customers gain insight and intelligence on electronic data.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

Florida Appeals Court Upholds Ruling that Non-Party Had No Duty to Preserve Evidence: eDiscovery Case Law

In Shamrock-Shamrock, Inc. v. Remark, No. 5D18-1987 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. Apr. 26, 2019), the District Court of Appeal of Florida, Fifth District affirmed the summary final judgment in favor of the Appellee, holding that Florida law does not impose a duty on nonparties to litigation to preserve evidence based solely on the foreseeability of litigation.

Case Background

In the case originally involving the Appellant’s suit against the City of Daytona Beach over zoning, the Appellee was never a party to the Appellant’s action against the City, but the Appellant’s operative complaint contained two references to the Appellee in its general allegations.  During the case, the Appellant sought to take the Appellee’s deposition and served several notices of deposition and subpoenas on the Appellee, beginning in May 2011 and ending ten months later with a sixth amended notice of taking deposition in March 2012, which was the only one that included a duces tecum request for documents to be produced at the deposition.

The Appellee’s deposition was taken in April 2012, where she testified that she had obtained a new desktop computer and had destroyed her old computer in December 2011. She did not preserve any records, documents, or emails from her old computer and did not inform anybody, including the City Attorney, that she was destroying it. Her testimony established that she destroyed her old computer after receiving the first deposition notice but before receiving the sixth amended deposition notice that for the first time included a duces tecum request.

The Appellant then filed a two-count complaint against the Appellee, alleging that she either intentionally destroyed her old computer or “negligently destroyed [it] in bad faith.” In that case, the Appellee and the Appellant filed competing motions for summary judgment regarding whether the Appellee had a duty to preserve her computer or its contents.  The Appellant argued, citing League of Women Voters of Florida v. Detzner, 172 So. 3d 363 (Fla. 2015), that the Appellee therefore had a duty to preserve evidence based on the foreseeability of litigation, but the trial court denied the Appellant’s summary judgment motion and granted the Appellee’s. It found that there was no genuine issue of fact that the Appellee had no statutory or contractual duty to preserve evidence; thus, the Appellant had to rely on a duty imposed by a discovery request.

Judge’s Ruling

In the opinion authored by J. Sasso, the court, after considering several cases cited by the Appellant, concluded that “no Florida court has yet recognized a common law duty for third-party preservation of evidence based on the knowledge or foreseeability of litigation”.  As a result, the court stated:

“In this case, there was no statute, contract, or discovery request that would impose a clearly defined duty on Remark to preserve any potentially relevant evidence. Thus, a duty would arise only through Remark’s purported knowledge of Shamrock’s pending litigation and her anticipation that something in her control could potentially be of use to that litigation. As such, Shamrock would like us to announce that Remark owed a duty to it based on the foreseeability of litigation. Considering the traditional approach to defining legal duty, we decline to do so. Indeed, such a broad pronouncement would be tantamount to declaring a general legal duty on any nonparty witness to anticipate the needs of others’ lawsuits. There are innumerable circumstances in which a nonparty to litigation may have evidence relevant to a case and may know of its relevance. But that knowledge, by itself, should not give rise to a duty to safeguard the evidence in anticipation of litigation…While we do not speculate as to every circumstance under which a third party to litigation may have a legal duty to preserve evidence, we hold that the trial court properly determined here that Remark did not owe a legal duty to Shamrock. The summary judgment in favor of Remark is affirmed.”

So, what do you think?  Would the decision be different in other jurisdictions?  Should it be different?  Please let us know if any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Case opinion link courtesy of eDiscovery Assistant.

Sponsor: This blog is sponsored by CloudNine, which is a data and legal discovery technology company with proven expertise in simplifying and automating the discovery of data for audits, investigations, and litigation. Used by legal and business customers worldwide including more than 50 of the top 250 Am Law firms and many of the world’s leading corporations, CloudNine’s eDiscovery automation software and services help customers gain insight and intelligence on electronic data.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

Court Grants Motion to Compel Production of Telephone Records from Individual Plaintiff: eDiscovery Case Law

In Siemers v. BNSF Railway Co., No. 8:17-cv-360 (D. Neb. Apr. 8, 2019), Nebraska Magistrate Judge Susan M. Bazis finding that the plaintiff’s telephone records are discoverable pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 26, that they are not subject to a privilege claim just because plaintiff’s counsel’s telephone number may appear in the records and that privacy issues are minimal to non-existent (since the at-issue records do not contain the substance of communications), ordered the plaintiff to produce his telephone records within one week of the order.

Case Background

In this case regarding the plaintiff’s suit against his former employer for alleged violations of the Federal Employers Liability Act (“FELA”), the defendant requested production of the plaintiff’s cellular telephone records from November 1, 2016 (the day before the claimed injury incident that is the basis of Plaintiff’s lawsuit) to present. After the plaintiff refused to produce any records in response to the defendant’s request, a discovery dispute conference was held in October 2018, with the Court finding that the plaintiff’s communications with coworkers or others from the defendant and telephone records evidencing the same were relevant and discoverable, and ordered the parties to further confer regarding production of these items.

The plaintiff then issued a subpoena to his cellular telephone provider and received a listing of incoming and outgoing telephone calls and text messages, but not the substance of any communications. Nonetheless, the plaintiff refused to produce to the defendant the telephone records produced to him in response to his subpoena.

In the final pretrial conference, the defendant argued that the records were discoverable because whether and how often plaintiff has communicated with BNSF coworkers or management since his alleged injury could have credibility considerations, that identifying the fact that a communication occurred between the plaintiff and his attorney was not privileged or, alternatively, that it was not unduly burdensome to redact those references and that no privacy interest was implicated in the telephone records because the records do not contain the substance of any communications.  The plaintiff argued that the defendant’s request was “overbroad on its face and therefore not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of relevant information” and also contended that the discovery sought by the defendant was “unreasonably cumulative or duplicative and could have been obtained from other sources that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive.”

Judge’s Ruling

Considering the respective arguments, Judge Bazis ruled as follows:

  1. “Plaintiff’s telephone records from November 1, 2016 to present and any other records received by Plaintiff in response to his subpoena to his cellular telephone provider are discoverable pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 26. BNSF is entitled to discover whether and how often Plaintiff has communicated with coworkers or BNSF management since his alleged injury.
  2. The fact that Plaintiff’s counsel’s telephone number may appear in the records does not render them subject to a privilege claim. Plaintiff may redact references to communications between Plaintiff and Plaintiff’s counsel, which the Court finds is not overly burdensome.
  3. Privacy considerations of Plaintiff or third parties not involved in this litigation are minimal to non-existent since the at-issue records do not contain the substance of communications.”

As a result, Judge Bazis ordered (in all caps, no less) the plaintiff “to produce to BNSF all records received in response to Plaintiff’s subpoena to his cellular telephone carrier” within one week of the order, noting that he could “redact references to communications between Plaintiff’s counsel and Plaintiff (but is not required to do so to maintain privilege claims regarding the substance of the communications).”

So, what do you think?  Was that appropriate or was the defendant’s request overbroad?  Please let us know if any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Case opinion link courtesy of eDiscovery Assistant.

Sponsor: This blog is sponsored by CloudNine, which is a data and legal discovery technology company with proven expertise in simplifying and automating the discovery of data for audits, investigations, and litigation. Used by legal and business customers worldwide including more than 50 of the top 250 Am Law firms and many of the world’s leading corporations, CloudNine’s eDiscovery automation software and services help customers gain insight and intelligence on electronic data.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

Discovery Can’t Be Stayed While Motion to Dismiss is Considered, Court Says: eDiscovery Case Law

In Udeen v. Subaru of America, Inc., No. 18-17334(RBK/JS) (D.N.J. Mar. 12, 2019), New Jersey Magistrate Judge Joel Schneider denied the defendants’ request that all discovery be stayed until their Motion to Dismiss is decided, but, with the proviso that only limited and focused discovery on core issues would be permitted.

Case Background

In this nationwide class action with allegations that the defendant’s defective infotainment system creates a safety hazard, the defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss on February 28, 2019 and requested that all discovery be stayed until their motion was decided.  The plaintiffs opposed the defendants’ request, so the Court received the parties’ letter briefs and held oral argument.

Judge’s Ruling

In evaluating the defendant’s motion, Judge Schneider said: “The Court agrees that plaintiffs will be prejudiced if all discovery is stayed while waiting for defendants’ motion to be decided. Given the extensive briefing on defendants’ motion and the expected time it will take for the motion to be decided, the case will be in suspense for months if defendants’ request is granted. Having filed their complaint plaintiffs have a right to move forward… This is especially true in a case where plaintiffs claim the alleged defect in defendants’ vehicles is a safety hazard. Further, the longer the case languishes the greater chance exists that relevant evidence may be lost or destroyed.”

Judge Schneider also noted: “Defendants’ concern about ‘extremely expensive’ discovery is overblown. As is always the case, the Court expects to closely manage discovery to assure that plaintiffs’ efforts are proportional. Further, contrary to defendants’ argument, a discovery stay will not simplify the issues for trial. In fact, the opposite is true. The parties initial discovery will focus on the core issues in the case to assure that only the most relevant and important discovery is produced. This discovery will be produced no matter what claims remain in the case. The discovery will serve to educate plaintiffs concerning the most important individuals and issues in the case. In the long run the Court expects defendants to benefit from this staging so that the parties do not chase discovery ‘down a rabbit hole.’”

As a result, Judge Schneider stated: “After examining all relevant evidence, the Court finds the relevant factors weigh in plaintiffs’ favor and, therefore, the Court will deny defendants’ request to stay all discovery.”  So, Judge Schneider ordered both the defendants and plaintiffs to produce certain documents and for the parties to meet and confer regarding certain other documents, noting: “The Court also finds that defendants’ documents in Japan are not necessarily off-limits. However, the Court is concerned plaintiffs’ requests are too broad. The Court will only permit narrow and focused discovery requests asking for core information. The parties meet and confer discussions shall also address plaintiffs’ request for third-party discovery. To the extent the parties cannot agree on the discovery to be produced, simultaneous letter briefs shall be served by April 15, 2019”.

So, what do you think?  Should discovery ever be stayed because a motion to dismiss is pending?  Please let us know if any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Hat tip to Jeff Dreiling and the Complete Legal blog for the tip about the case!

Case opinion link courtesy of eDiscovery Assistant.

Sponsor: This blog is sponsored by CloudNine, which is a data and legal discovery technology company with proven expertise in simplifying and automating the discovery of data for audits, investigations, and litigation. Used by legal and business customers worldwide including more than 50 of the top 250 Am Law firms and many of the world’s leading corporations, CloudNine’s eDiscovery automation software and services help customers gain insight and intelligence on electronic data.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

Simon Says Two Years After Spoliation is Discovered is Too Late for Sanctions: eDiscovery Case Law

Sorry, I couldn’t resist…  ;o)

In Wakefield v. Visalus, Inc., No. 3:15-cv-1857-SI (D. Or. Mar. 27, 2019), Oregon District Judge Michael H. Simon denied the plaintiff’s motion for sanctions against the defendant for automatic deletion of call records, ruling that since the plaintiff knew about the deletion of call records for over two years, her motion was “untimely”.

Case Background

In this class claim related to alleged violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”), the defendant used an automated telephone system called the “Progressive Outreach Manager” (“POM”), which the plaintiff contended generated and maintained historical records of each calling campaign and each call attempted by the defendant.  The POM system’s ESI was programmed to be automatically deleted after three months and, even though the defendant was on notice since October 2015 that it had a duty to preserve the information contained in the POM system, the plaintiff claimed that the defendant failed to suspend the call records’ automatic deletion. The plaintiff pointed to statements made by the defendant’s corporate representative and compliance analyst, during his deposition in December 2016 as evidence that these call records had been automatically deleted.

For many of those calls, the defendant maintained contact information spreadsheets containing all of the POM system information, so that data was replaced through other sources. However, the plaintiff contended there were 1.7 million calls that were not within the contact information spreadsheets that were deleted from the POM system, asserting that the lost call records would have proven that 350,228 of those calls delivered a message using an artificial or prerecorded voice to class members. In February 2019, the plaintiff asked the Court to order sanctions against the defendant, including instructing the jury that the defendant deleted call records and that the lost information was unfavorable to defendant.  The defendant argued that the motion was untimely, among other arguments against the motion.

Judge’s Ruling

In evaluating the plaintiff’s motion, Judge Simon said: “Plaintiff learned no later than December 12, 2016 that Defendant’s system deleted POM call records every three months. Discovery closed in December of 2017, one year later, and at that point Plaintiff had in her possession all call records produced by Defendant. Plaintiff acknowledges that she was aware in late 2016 that the call record data generated by the POM system had been “destroyed,” but claims she continued to believe that the same information was available elsewhere. It was only when performing final trial preparation that Plaintiff organized her trial exhibits, compiled the evidence obtained in discovery, and realized that some of the call data ‘deleted’ from the POM system had not been produced through other sources…Only then did Plaintiff file her motion for sanctions.”

Judge Simon also observed: “Had Plaintiff timely undertaken to examine the evidence produced by Defendant, any deleted call records that could not be restored or replaced through additional discovery would have been apparent to Plaintiff at that time, and she could have sought sanctions for the alleged spoliation.”  Noting that “courts are cautioned to be ‘wary of any spoliation motion made on the eve of trial’”, Judge Simon stated in denying the plaintiff’s motion: “Plaintiff filed her spoliation motion more than a year after the close of discovery, more than two years after she first learned of the alleged destruction of call records, and less than two months before trial. Plaintiff’s motion is untimely.”

So, what do you think?  Was that the correct call or should the plaintiff have been given the time to determine what she was missing?  Please let us know if any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Case opinion link courtesy of eDiscovery Assistant.

Sponsor: This blog is sponsored by CloudNine, which is a data and legal discovery technology company with proven expertise in simplifying and automating the discovery of data for audits, investigations, and litigation. Used by legal and business customers worldwide including more than 50 of the top 250 Am Law firms and many of the world’s leading corporations, CloudNine’s eDiscovery automation software and services help customers gain insight and intelligence on electronic data.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.