Archive: July 2008

1
Court Denies Motion to Compel Production of Email from Backup Tapes
2
Court Issues Fourth Order Regarding Forensic Inspection of Defendant’s Computer Systems; Finds Defendant’s Behavior Fell “Just Shy” of Conduct Befitting Default Judgment
3
Liability for State Law Spoliation Cause of Action Does Not Result Simply from Failure to Implement Litigation Hold or Defects in Its Scope or Substance
4
Court Denies Defendant’s Post-Production Motion for Cost-Shifting as Untimely and Inappropriate in the Context of “Accessible” ESI
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The Sedona Conference® Cooperation Proclamation
6
Court Grants Protective Order and Prevents Plaintiff from Inquiring About “Storage, Preservation and Backup of Emails” in Defendants’ Rule 30(b)(6) Depositions
7
Court Declines to Shift Cost of Forensic Examination Necessitated by Party’s Own Actions and Inaction
8
Over 1,000 Cases Now Included in K&L Gates’ E-Discovery Case Database
9
Third Party Not Required to Produce Hard Drives to Plaintiff Competitor; Court Limits Subpoena and Allows Third Party to Conduct its Own Search
10
Court Grants Plaintiff’s Motion for Discovery Sanctions, Enters $5,247,781 Default Judgment and Awards $645,760 in Attorneys’ Fees and Costs

Court Denies Motion to Compel Production of Email from Backup Tapes

Young v. Pleasant Valley Sch. Dist., 2008 WL 2857912 (M.D. Pa. July 21, 2008)

In this case, plaintiffs had requested that they be allowed to search the defendants’ backup tapes in an attempt to discover whether other complaints were made to the district about the teacher who was at the center of the case.  After examining the relevant case law, the court concluded that it lacked sufficient information on the process of recovering deleted emails, the time required to do so, and the potential costs of that recovery.  As a result, the court ordered defendants to supply the information and delayed a decision on plaintiffs’ motion until it had the information.

Defendants complied with the court’s request, and provided the following information:

(1) the district already possessed the equipment necessary to gain access to materials preserved on the backup tapes;
(2) the cost of the search would be a minimum of $10,000;
(3) a week would be needed to rebuild and restore the e-mail program, and additional time would be needed to access the emails;
(4) there were easily millions of emails stored on the server, and a precise number could not be reported until the server was rebuilt; and
(5) once the emails were restored, they could be searched by date, recipient, sender, subject or keywords.

The court concluded that the burden and expense of rebuilding the district’s email system in order to provide the requested discovery, along with the additional and less expensive means available for plaintiffs to get this material, made the plaintiffs’ discovery request impractical.  Accordingly, the court denied plaintiffs’ motion.

The court rejected plaintiffs’ offer to have their own expert search the tapes: 

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Court Issues Fourth Order Regarding Forensic Inspection of Defendant’s Computer Systems; Finds Defendant’s Behavior Fell “Just Shy” of Conduct Befitting Default Judgment

Square D Co. v. Scott Elec. Co., 2008 WL 2779067 (W.D. Pa. July 15, 2008)

In June 2007, the court had ordered, among other things, that defendant Globe Electric Supply Co. “submit to a forensic inspection of its computer systems which record its purchases and sales of Square D products and its inventory of such products, with such inspection to be incurred at Globe’s sole expense and cost."  In November 2007, after finding Globe in contempt of court and considering that "the information at issue is important to the public health and safety in that the counterfeit circuit breakers represent a potential danger to unknowing consumers," the court again addressed the issue of the forensic inspection.  At that time, the court ordered Globe to:

submit to an inspection by Square D (including its attorneys), at Globe’s expense, of its inventory of Square D circuit breakers as well as Globe’s offices, warehouses, storage containers or facilities where Square D circuit breakers are or may be located, and also submit to a forensic inspection of its computer systems which records its purchases and sales of Square D products and its inventory of such products, with such inspection to be incurred at Globe’s sole expense and cost.

The court further ordered that said inspection occur within thirty days, or on or before December 14, 2007.

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Liability for State Law Spoliation Cause of Action Does Not Result Simply from Failure to Implement Litigation Hold or Defects in Its Scope or Substance

Ed Schmidt Pontiac-GMC Truck, Inc. v. Chrysler Motors Co., LLC, 2008 WL 2704859 (N.D. Ohio July 7, 2008)

In this breach of contract litigation, the court had previously granted plaintiff leave to amend its complaint to add a state law cause of action for spoliation of evidence based on defendant’s failure to implement a litigation hold.  Ed Schmidt Pontiac-GMC Truck, Inc. v. DaimlerChrysler Motors Co., LLC, 538 F. Supp. 2d 1032 (N.D. Ohio 2008).  In this decision, the court denied plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment on the spoliation claim, in light of genuine disputes over several material facts.

In an interesting passage, the court opines that liability for a state law spoliation of evidence cause of action does not result simply from the failure to implement a litigation hold:

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Court Denies Defendant’s Post-Production Motion for Cost-Shifting as Untimely and Inappropriate in the Context of “Accessible” ESI

Cason-Merenda v. Detroit Med. Ctr., 2008 WL 2714239 (E.D. Mich. July 7, 2008)

In this class action litigation, defendant moved, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(c), for an order requiring plaintiffs to pay at least 50 percent of its third party vendor electronic discovery costs.

The court first observed that the parties had entered a Stipulated Order for Discovery of Electronically Stored Information, which noted that the parties held several discussions regarding the possibility of limiting the scope and extent of discovery and that future agreements might be reached.  The Stipulated Order also reserved to the parties the right to petition the court to limit the scope and burden of discovery and to request that the opposing party share the costs.

The court then cited Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2)(B) and stated that, among the measures available to the court is the apportionment (or shifting) of costs between the requesting and the producing parties.  However, the court observed that defendant had not identified any form of ESI “as not reasonably accessible because of undue burden or cost,” nor did it file a motion for an order protecting it from the obligation of production.  Rather, defendant produced the information requested of it and sought, after the fact, an order imposing 50 percent of its costs upon plaintiffs.

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The Sedona Conference® Cooperation Proclamation

July 2008.  Available for free download here.

Excerpt:

The costs associated with adversarial conduct in pre-trial discovery have become a serious burden to the American judicial system.  This burden rises significantly in discovery of electronically stored information (“ESI”).  In addition to rising monetary costs, courts have seen escalating motion practice, overreaching, obstruction, and extensive, but unproductive discovery disputes – in some cases precluding adjudication on the merits altogether – when parties treat the discovery process in an adversarial manner.  Neither law nor logic compels these outcomes.

With this Proclamation, The Sedona Conference® launches a national drive to promote open and forthright information sharing, dialogue (internal and external), training, and the development of practical tools to facilitate cooperative, collaborative, transparent discovery.  This Proclamation challenges the bar to achieve these goals and refocus litigation toward the substantive resolution of legal disputes.

Court Grants Protective Order and Prevents Plaintiff from Inquiring About “Storage, Preservation and Backup of Emails” in Defendants’ Rule 30(b)(6) Depositions

Cunningham v. Standard Fire Ins. Co., 2008 WL 2668301 (D. Colo. July 1, 2008)

In this case arising out of a homeowner’s insurance claim, defendants sought a protective order to prevent plaintiff from inquiring into various topics during defendants’ Rule 30(b)(6) depositions.  One topic was to be:  “Knowledge concerning the storage, preservation and backup of emails relating to claims authored or received by Susan Yeckley, Gilbert Friedmann and Alice Barron as well as any other adjusters who handled Plaintiff’s claims.”

Defendants argued that the information sought in this topic was irrelevant to whether defendants breached plaintiff’s insurance policy or acted in bad faith while adjusting his claim.  Defendants further stated that, to their knowledge, "all emails between Plaintiff and [Defendants] have been disclosed.”

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Court Declines to Shift Cost of Forensic Examination Necessitated by Party’s Own Actions and Inaction

Peskoff v. Faber, 251 F.R.D. 59 (D.D.C. 2008)

In a previous decision, Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola addressed the sufficiency of the search done by defendant Michael Faber for emails and other ESI in response to plaintiff’s discovery requests, and determined that it was "appropriate to ascertain the cost of forensic testing of the computers and server at issue to see if it justifies a forensic search of them."  Peskoff v. Faber, 244 F.R.D. 54, 63 (D.D.C. 2007).  The parties submitted a joint bid proposal, which the court distributed to numerous vendors.  Three bids were received, the lowest of which was $33,000.  When the parties failed to reach agreement on how to share that cost, the matter was submitted again to Judge Facciola for resolution.

The court noted it had already determined that the Rule 26(b)(2)(C) factors weighed strongly in favor of the discovery, since the information sought was highly relevant, not duplicative, and could not be obtained from other sources.  The court then addressed the cost of the forensic search, and observed that it was not a situation “where the anticipated cost of doing the forensic search will dwarf the final recovery,” given that Mr. Peskoff was demanding $2.5 million.  The court concluded that, when balancing the cost of the forensic examination against the factors favoring the discovery, good cause existed to compel the forensic examination.

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Over 1,000 Cases Now Included in K&L Gates’ E-Discovery Case Database

We are pleased to announce that our searchable case database now contains over 1,000 e-discovery cases from state and federal jurisdictions, with new cases being added every week.  Now more than ever, our database is an excellent source of information on developing e-discovery case law around the country.

The database is still searchable by keyword, or by any combination of 28 different case attributes, several of which track the 2006 e-discovery amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.  Each search will produce a list of relevant cases, including a brief description of the nature and disposition of each case, the electronic evidence involved and a link to a more detailed case summary if available.

Curious about e-discovery developments that have occurred since the first of the year?  Visit the database and enter "2008" in the keyword search box to see an overview of the roughly 100 cases involving electronic discovery issues that we’ve tracked so far this year.

Click here to visit the database.  We hope you find it to be a helpful resource for tracking the development of e-discovery case law, and use it often.  Happy searching!

Third Party Not Required to Produce Hard Drives to Plaintiff Competitor; Court Limits Subpoena and Allows Third Party to Conduct its Own Search

Daimler Truck N. Am. LLC v. Younessi, 2008 WL 2519845 (W.D. Wash. June 20, 2008)

In this case, Daimler sued its former employee in Oregon district court for breach of his duty of loyalty, his confidentiality contract, and his common law duty not to convert confidential and proprietary information, based upon the employee’s departure and subsequent employment by a competitor, Cascadia.  As part of that suit, Daimler served Cascadia with the third-party discovery requests at issue.  The parties resolved most of their disagreements, but were unable to resolve Daimler’s request to search Cascadia’s computers for communications between Younessi and Jim Hebe (a former CEO of Daimler who was subsequently employed by Cascadia) and between Hebe and other Daimler employees.  Cascadia moved to quash the subpoena and for a protective order because Daimler’s subpoena was both unduly burdensome and would require disclosing confidential trade secrets to a competitor.

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Court Grants Plaintiff’s Motion for Discovery Sanctions, Enters $5,247,781 Default Judgment and Awards $645,760 in Attorneys’ Fees and Costs

S. New England Tel. Co. v. Global NAPs, Inc., 251 F.R.D. 82 (D. Conn. 2008) (Second Amended Ruling)

In this case, plaintiff (“SNET”) alleged that Global NAPS, Inc. had misrouted long-distance traffic of certain circuits not designated for such traffic, thereby depriving SNET of applicable access charges, and that Global failed to pay SNET access charges specified in SNET’s federal tariff for special access circuits Global ordered from SNET’s tariff.  In May 2006, the court granted SNET’s Motion for a Prejudgment Remedy in the amount of $5.25 million.  At the same time, the court ordered Global to disclose assets sufficient to secure the prejudgment remedy within two weeks.  Global’s failure to comply with the court’s order evolved into a two-year discovery battle over Global’s financial records.

In December 2006, SNET filed an Amended Complaint, which added additional defendants affiliated with Global.  SNET’s Amended Complaint alleged that the defendants’ corporate structure was a "sham,” and sought to hold the defendants collectively liable for the underlying allegations set forth in SNET’s original Complaint against Global.

In this opinion, the court found that the defendants willfully violated the court’s discovery orders by failing to turn over their general ledgers and other business records, lied to the court about the inability to obtain documents from third parties, and destroyed and withheld documents that were within the scope of the discovery requests and the court’s discovery orders.  Among other things, defendants:

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