Electronic Discovery Law

Legal issues, news and best practices relating to the discovery of electronically stored information.

1
Manning v. Safelite Fulfillment, Inc. (D.N.J. 2021)
2
Hinrichs v. Allstate Insurance Co. (W.D. Wash. July 20, 2021)
3
Axis Insurance Company v. American Specialty Insurance & Risk Services, Inc. (N.D. Ind. 2021)
4
Doe v. Purdue University (N.D. Ind. July 2, 2021)
5
Federal Trade Commission v. American Screening, LLC (E.D. Mo. 2021)
6
Krishnan v. Cambia Health Solutions, Inc. (W.D. Wash. 2021)
7
Cody v. City of St. Louis (E.D. Mo. 2021)
8
Allen v. PPE Casino Resorts Maryland, LLC (D. Md. 2021)
9
Oro BRC4, LLC v. Silvertree Apartments, Nos. 2:19-cv-4907, 2:19-cv-5087 (S.D. Ohio, June 10, 2021).
10
Lake v. Charlotte County Board of County Commisioners (M.D. Fla. 2021)

Manning v. Safelite Fulfillment, Inc. (D.N.J. 2021)

Key Insight: Defendants filed a motion for spoliation sanctions under FRCP 37(e) based on plaintiff’s deletion of certain Facebook messages and emails. Plaintiff claimed he deleted the messages to free up memory on his mobile phone. The court adopted the magistrate judge’s report and recommendations, finding plaintiff’s failure to preserve certain ESI caused prejudice to defendants warranting relief, but did not conclude that plaintiff did so with an intent to deprive defendants the use of the information in litigation. Plaintiff had an obligation to preserve the ESI; he deleted certain messages after he filed his lawsuit; and took no affirmative measures to preserve the ESI despite a duty to do so. The court allowed the introduction of a jury question on the destruction of some of the ESI evidence but reserved ruling on harsher sanctions.

Nature of Case: Employment discrimination

Electronic Data Involved: Facebook, Email

Case Summary

Hinrichs v. Allstate Insurance Co. (W.D. Wash. July 20, 2021)

Key Insight: Defendant sought discovery of plaintiff’s social media, e-mails and text messages, and recommended an e-discovery vendor to search and collect the ESI, at defendant’s expense. The court granted the motion, finding the requests are not overly broad since plaintiff placed her lifestyle and activities prior to the accident directly at issue by claiming that her prior activities far exceed what she can do now. There is no burden to plaintiff since defendant has offered to hire an e-discovery vendor to access and retrieve the data. Any privacy issues can be addressed pursuant to a stipulated protective order.

Nature of Case: Personal injury – insurance bad faith

Electronic Data Involved: Social Media, Email, Text Messages

Case Summary

Federal Trade Commission v. American Screening, LLC (E.D. Mo. 2021)

Key Insight: Plaintiff filed a Motion to Compel Defendants to produce internal emails in litigation over false advertising and the FTC Act; Defendants had previously objected to Plaintiff’s discovery requests without disclosing if responsive materials were withheld on the basis of their objections. Defendants responded that use of 58 search terms provided by Plaintiff yielded over 7,000,000 results, and that Plaintiff’s request(s) were overbroad, irrelevant, vague, ambiguous and burdensome. The Court rejects these assertions, granting Plaintiff’s Motion and holding that Defendants must search for and produce the information sought by Plaintiff.

Nature of Case: Antitrust, False Advertising, Consumer Protection

Electronic Data Involved: Email

Case Summary

Krishnan v. Cambia Health Solutions, Inc. (W.D. Wash. 2021)

Key Insight: Defendant cannot be compelled to produce text messages from employees’ personal cell phones because they did not have possession, custody, or control of the devices. An employer has possession, custody, or control of a cell phone when the employer issued the cell phone, the cell phone is used for business purposes, and the employer has a legal right to obtain communications from the cell phone.

An email does not become privileged simply by including counsel as a recipient to an email. If the email was not sent with the purpose of obtaining legal advice, it is not privileged.

An independent forensic examination of electronic devices for electronic communications is appropriate when a party intentionally delays or withholds relevant and discoverable communications.

Nature of Case: Wrongful Termination, Employment Law

Electronic Data Involved: Text Messages, Email

Case Summary

Allen v. PPE Casino Resorts Maryland, LLC (D. Md. 2021)

Key Insight: Plaintiffs sought a protective order to prevent defendant from obtaining ESI from five different social media platforms they were active on. The court found that while a plaintiff’s social media postings could be relevant to a claim for “garden variety” emotional distress damages, some caution was necessary, such that a “deeper dive” into social media postings may be justified only in cases involving “severe and specific emotional distress” allegations. Since plaintiff alleged “garden variety” emotional distress stemming from defendant’s allegedly wrongful conduct, the discovery must be narrowed as follows: “specific references to serious, non-transient emotional distress in connection with the incidents described in their Complaint,” i.e., diagnosable conditions, visits to professionals for treatment of distress, treatment regimens and conversations regarding same; time frame limited from date contained in complaint of onset of difficulties to the date of filing of complaint; production limited to information found in a typical download of data from plaintiffs’ own accounts and plaintiffs “need not engage in extraordinary efforts in obtaining responsive information.”

Nature of Case: Employment discrimination

Electronic Data Involved: Social media posts

Case Summary

Oro BRC4, LLC v. Silvertree Apartments, Nos. 2:19-cv-4907, 2:19-cv-5087 (S.D. Ohio, June 10, 2021).

Key Insight: Plaintiff sought a motion for spoliation sanctions based on defendant’s failure to prepare its Rule 30(b)(6) deponent to testify on topics related to ESI preservation and collection, and for spoliation sanctions related to the failure to preserve ESI. The court granted sanctions for defendant’s failure to prepare its 30(b)(6) designee, finding: “The production of an unprepared witness is tantamount to a failure to appear, and warrants the imposition of sanctions.” Defendant offered its head of IT as the corporate designee. He received the deposition notice less than 72 hours before the deposition, spent about 6 hours preparing to testify (approximately 10 minutes per topic), did not review any documents other than his own emails, and did not speak or communicate with other employees to gather information on the topics he was supposed to testify about. The court ordered a second 30(b)(6) deposition, required defendant to pay the reasonable costs and expenses associated with attending the second deposition and fees for plaintiff’s ESI consultant to attend, and awarded fees associated with having to bring the motion to compel. On the issue of failure to preserve ESI evidence, the court concluded it was premature to address this issue until the second 30(b)(6) deposition, which would cover topics relating to defendant’s litigation hold efforts.

Nature of Case: Breach of contract

Electronic Data Involved: ESI business documents and electronic devices

Case Summary

Lake v. Charlotte County Board of County Commisioners (M.D. Fla. 2021)

Key Insight: Communications between a party and its hired legal consultant are work product if they are generated in anticipation of litigation. Work product containing mental impressions, conclusions, opinions, or legal theories concerning the litigation is rarely discoverable and enjoy “near absolute immunity.” Documents subpoenaed from the legal consultant still retain work product privilege.

Instead of providing privilege logs, the court allowed the legal consultants to categorically withhold or redact privileged communications so long as they provided a certification that none of withheld or redacted documents were distributed to or reviewed by any other third parties. In lieu of such certification, the legal consultants would have to produce a privilege log.

Nature of Case: Property, Eminent Domain

Electronic Data Involved: Email, Electronic Communications

Case Summary

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