Tag: FRCP 37(e) ESI Spoliation Sanctions (effective Dec. 1

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Laub v. Horbaczewski (C.D. Cal. 2020)
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Milke v. City of Phoenix (D. Ariz. 2020)
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Charlestown Capital Advisors, LLC v. Acero Junction, Inc. (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 30, 2020)
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Alsadi v. Intel Corporation (D. Ariz. 2020)
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Bolding v. Banner Bank (W.D. Wash. 2020)
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Brittney Gobble Photography, LLC v. Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. (D. Md. 2020)
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Nevis v. Rideout Memorial Hospital, et al. (E.D. Cal. 2020).
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Nguyen v. Costco Wholesale Corporation (S.D. Fla 2020)

Laub v. Horbaczewski (C.D. Cal. 2020)

Key Insight: Plaintiffs sought Slack messages and defendants claimed they did not have access to the messages because of its level of Slack plan. The court instructed plaintiffs to pursue the Slack messages through a third party subpoena and defendants objected to the overbroad scope of the subpoena. The court concluded plaintiffs “credibly argued” that the Slack messages “may be relevant to the issues involved in this case,” but found that the request was not proportional to the needs of the case under the second prong of Rule 26(b)(1) because: (1) The defendants did not have access to the messages and requiring them to produce the messages would impose an undue burden and expense, and (2) the messages would likely be cumulative because the record was “replete with evidence of Plaintiffs’ involvement” and plaintiffs “offer no evidence that the private messages contain any novel or noteworthy information that warrant compelling their production.”

Nature of Case: Breach of contract

Electronic Data Involved: Instant messages

Case Summary

Milke v. City of Phoenix (D. Ariz. 2020)

Key Insight: The court dismissed plaintiff’s civil rights action based on spoliation of physical and ESI evidence, and for failure to submit complete and accurate discovery responses. The court previously sanctioned plaintiff for spoliation of evidence and determined that lesser sanctions short of dismissal could not cure the prejudice to defendant. Plaintiff, her agents, and her counsel failed to preserve website and social media sites and took affirmative steps on multiple occasions to destroy the evidence after litigation became reasonably foreseeable.

Nature of Case: Civil Rights Act

Electronic Data Involved: Social media and websites

Case Summary

Charlestown Capital Advisors, LLC v. Acero Junction, Inc. (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 30, 2020)

Key Insight: Sanctions against Defendants were warranted. Defendants had a duty to preserve relevant ESI at the time of their deletion which occurred a year into the litigation. Defendants failed to take reasonable steps to preserve relevant ESI. Defendants failed to suspend their routine document retention/destruction policy, Defendants’ counsel failed to oversee or play a role in preserving or attempting to reconstruct relevant ESI until 5 months after their deletion, and Defendants’ restoration attempts were inadequate.

Nature of Case: Breach of Contract

Electronic Data Involved: Email

Case Summary

Alsadi v. Intel Corporation (D. Ariz. 2020)

Key Insight: The meaning of ESI is expansive, includes any type of information stored electronically, and is not limited to data stored on a computer system. Rule 37(e), not inherent authority, is the legal standard for determining whether and what sanctions are appropriate for the loss of discoverable ESI. A negative inference sanction with only be imposed if the spoliating party intentionally lost or destroyed data so it could not be used in litigation.

Nature of Case: Tort

Electronic Data Involved: Detector Device Data

Case Summary

Bolding v. Banner Bank (W.D. Wash. 2020)

Key Insight: The plaintiffs, current and former mortgage/residential loan officers of defendant, filed a motion for spoliation sanctions and entry of default judgment against defendant based on the failure to preserve and intentional destruction of email accounts and calendar data. The court found: (1) the ESI was relevant to the claims in the lawsuit; (2) defendant breached its duties by intentionally destroying ESI after learning that employees had accused defendant of not paying overtime and after being threatened with a lawsuit, and even after the lawsuit was filed and formal requests for production were received, it paid to order the destruction of additional backup tapes; and (3) the evidence is irretrievably lost. The court declined to enter a default judgment, concluding “[t]he availability of less drastic sanctions that have the ability to mitigate the damage caused by defendant’s egregious destruction of evidence is a powerful factor that militates against imposing dispositive sanctions.”

Nature of Case: Wage and Hour Class Action

Electronic Data Involved: Email and calendar accounts

Case Summary

Brittney Gobble Photography, LLC v. Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. (D. Md. 2020)

Key Insight: Plaintiff, a professional photographer, filed a motion for spoliation sanctions against the defendant, claiming the deletion of emails were crucial to the claims and defenses in the litigation. The court denied plaintiff’s motion, finding: there is no evidence that the emails at issue actually existed, and an inference that they did not exist; if the emails existed, there is no evidence that the defendant lost or destroyed any emails in order to prevent plaintiff from using them in the litigation; and plaintiff is not prejudiced by the purported loss. Plaintiff never proved that the purported emails existed and to succeed on a spoliation of evidence motion, mere speculation is not enough.

Nature of Case: Copyright infringement

Electronic Data Involved: Emails

Case Summary

Nevis v. Rideout Memorial Hospital, et al. (E.D. Cal. 2020).

Key Insight: At the start of litigation, Plaintiff sent a preservation letter to Defendant(s). Subsequently, a Defendant requested Plaintiff produce records and screenshots of text messages from his phone for the month of the incident that was the basis of the litigation. Plaintiffs produced several screenshots of text messages, but was unable to provide the requested phone records. During a subsequent deposition, Plaintiff claimed that he still had the phone.

Additional Defendants subsequently requested a digital download of all information on the phone. However, in response Plaintiff claimed that he no longer possessed the phone. Defendants responded with a Motion for Terminating Sanctions on the basis of spoliation of evidence.

Utilizing a five-part test for imposing sanctions adopted by the Ninth Circuit, the Court found that none of the factors were in favor of sanctions in the litigation. Defendants’ Motion for Terminating Sanctions was denied.

Nature of Case: Personal Injury

Electronic Data Involved: Cell Phone Data, Cell Phone Data Image, Text Messages, Phone Records

Case Summary

Nguyen v. Costco Wholesale Corporation (S.D. Fla 2020)

Key Insight: Defendant had no duty to preserve the allegedly spoliated video for the almost two years before the filing of the lawsuit because there was no indication Plaintiffs intended to pursue litigation. Plaintiffs failed to present evidence indicating the allegedly spoliated video was relevant to this litigation which would trigger a duty to take reasonable steps to preserve it. No sanctions are warranted.

Nature of Case: Slip and Fall Liability, Personal Injury

Electronic Data Involved: Surveillance Video

Case Summary

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