Archive: June 8, 2007

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Magistrate Judge Facciola Orders Production of Email from Backup Tapes in Light of Party’s Failure to Suspend Email System’s Automatic Deletion Feature

Magistrate Judge Facciola Orders Production of Email from Backup Tapes in Light of Party’s Failure to Suspend Email System’s Automatic Deletion Feature

Disability Rights Council of Greater Wash. v. Wash. Metro. Area Transit Auth., 2007 WL 1585452 (D.D.C. June 1, 2007)

In this case, disabled plaintiffs claimed that WMATA failed to provide adequate paratransit services through the MetroAccess program and that the service provided was materially inferior to the services available to people without disabilities.  Discovery was heavily litigated, and Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola addressed several discovery motions in this opinion, one of which related to the production of email from backup tapes.

Specifically, plaintiffs sought an order requiring WMATA to produce backup tapes of certain electronic documents written and received since the filing of the lawsuit.  Plaintiffs argued that WMATA had failed to properly instruct employees to retain potentially responsive electronic documents and therefore should pay to create the backup tapes.  “Remarkably, although the complaint in this case was filed on March 25, 2004, WMATA acknowledges it did nothing to stop its email system from obliterating all emails after sixty days until, at the earliest, June of 2006.”  WMATA presented testimony that its email system was programmed with an automatic deletion feature that deleted any email after it had been in existence for sixty days, without regard to whether the email was unread, in a folder that the sender or recipient has created, or in the user’s "Sent" or "Trash" folders.  Further, while the user could defeat the feature by archiving the email, i.e., placing it in a location of the user’s choosing in an encrypted format, the majority of WMATA employees apparently did not do this.  “As a result, with the exception of three individuals, there has been a universal purging of all possibly relevant and discoverable emails every sixty days at least since the complaint was filed three years ago.” Read More

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