Archive: April 2008

1
Court Sets Protocol for Forensic Examination of Employment Discrimination Plaintiff’s Home Computers
2
Inadequate Preservation Efforts Necessitate Restoration and Production of Email from Backup Tapes, and Forensic Search of CEO’s Laptop
3
The Sedona Conference® Commentary on ESI Evidence & Admissibility
4
Court Declines to Issue Advisory Opinion as to What Actions State Must Take to Properly Preserve Documents for Potential Suit

Court Sets Protocol for Forensic Examination of Employment Discrimination Plaintiff’s Home Computers

Coburn v. PN II, Inc., 2008 WL 879746 (D. Nev. Mar. 28, 2008)

In this employment discrimination case, defendants sought a forensic examination of plaintiff’s home computers.  Defendants explained that the inspection would focus on information relating to Coburn’s employment with defendants, the termination of that employment, allegations or claims Coburn was making in this action, and damages resulting from the actions or inactions of defendants.  Plaintiff did not object generally to a “limited, focused” inspection, but opposed the request because defendants had not set forth a protocol or methodology that would protect her against violations of privilege, privacy and confidentiality interests.

The court found that the burden on plaintiff of such an inspection would be minimal.  It noted that defendants sought only a mirror image or “clone copy” of the hard drive or drives in question, and that defendants had agreed to bear the entire cost of the forensic inspection.  The court cited approvingly the protocol adopted in Playboy Enters., Inc. v. Welles, 60 F.Supp.2d 1050, 1054-55 (S.D. Cal.1999), finding that it offered “a suitable approach for protecting Coburn’s communications with her attorney, and her privacy interests as well as the confidentiality interests of her new employer.”

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Inadequate Preservation Efforts Necessitate Restoration and Production of Email from Backup Tapes, and Forensic Search of CEO’s Laptop

Treppel v. Biovail Corp., 2008 WL 866594 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 2, 2008)

In this case, plaintiff alleged that Biovail Corp., its CEO, general counsel and others engaged in a "smear campaign" that destroyed plaintiff’s career as a securities analyst.  He asserted claims of defamation, tortious interference with prospective economic advantage and civil conspiracy.  In February 2006, as previously summarized here, Magistrate Judge James C. Francis, IV declined to enter a preservation order and ordered defendants to answer a “document retention questionnaire” and produce documents in native format.  In response that order, Biovail proceeded with the search protocol it had previously proposed, using the search terms (i) Treppel, (ii) Jerry, (iii) Bank of America, (iv) Banc of America, (v) BAS, and (vi) BofA.  Biovail searched the individual emails and files of certain key players, as well as the shared file drives of relevant departments.  It conducted the search by accessing certain backup tapes it had preserved, and images of the custodians’ hard drives.

Subsequently, plaintiff requested that Biovail expand its search for electronic documents by adding some 30 search terms and numerous individual custodians to the original search.  Biovail declined on the grounds that plaintiff’s request came too late and was overbroad.  Biovail produced the results of its search in May 2006.  After some additional discovery relating to Biovail’s preservation of electronic data, discovery closed in December 2007.

Plaintiff then moved for an order compelling Biovail to search for additional ESI and imposing sanctions, alleging that the defendants did not adequately preserve evidence.  Defendants opposed both applications, contending that their production was complete and that their steps to preserve evidence were sufficient.

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Court Declines to Issue Advisory Opinion as to What Actions State Must Take to Properly Preserve Documents for Potential Suit

Texas v. City of Frisco, 2008 WL 828055 (E.D. Tex. Mar. 27, 2008)

In this case, the State of Texas sought a declaratory judgment and the court’s protection from a general litigation hold request, initiated by a letter sent by the City of Frisco.  The letter asked the Texas Department of Transportation to generally preserve all electronic data associated with a particular highway toll project, and referred to potential litigation regarding the environmental evaluation of the toll project.  The State speculated that the City would likely bring suit pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act and the Administrative Procedures Act; however, at the time the complaint was filed, no claims had been brought.  Thus, the State asked the court to enter a declaratory judgment ruling that the City’s preservation letter "violates the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and is contrary to rules governing a NEPA/APA claim in federal court."  The request for declaratory relief was the sole count made against the City of Frisco in the complaint.

The City of Frisco moved to dismiss, arguing that the State failed to plead the elements of any viable claim and was essentially asking the court for an advisory opinion concerning what action it must take to properly preserve those documents subject to the litigation hold.  The court agreed, and dismissed the complaint.  The court’s analysis is set out below:

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