MasterObjects, Inc. v. Amazon.com, Inc. (N.D. Cal. 2022)

MasterObjects, Inc. v. Amazon.com, Inc. (N.D. Cal. 2022)

Key Insight: Defendant filed a motion for sanctions based on violation of a prior discovery order and sought spoliation sanctions. The Magistrate Judge issued a report on the spoliation issue. Plaintiff’s law firm was attacked by hackers, which rendered files and mailboxes inaccessible without a recovery key set by the attackers. Both the FBI and the firm’s insurer advised the firm not to pay the hackers a ransom. The firm attempted to restore the data on its servers with some success but everything prior to the final months of 2016 has been lost. There were some printed copies of the archival copies of digital records but plaintiff’s counsel maintained it did not have a duty to keep a duplicate paper file of its digital records. The court noted that there was no evidence of any physical document (other than a copy of an electronically stored document) that was destroyed, and the spoliation doctrine does not require a party to maintain identical copies of documents. The court noted the data is not “lost” and exists on the hard drives and although access has been blocked, it can be accessed if a key is provided or a technological work-around is discovered. The court concluded there is no evidence the loss occurred because plaintiff’s firm failed to take reasonable steps to preserve it. Finally, the court found defendant could not establish prejudice and that there was an intent to deprive defendant of the evidence. It refused to apply a new kind of spoliation argument that plaintiff’s counsel’s firm “lost” its data because it refused to pay the ransom, finding “there is no logic or beneficial public policy in compelling a crime victim to pay ransom to a criminal in order to avoid being labeled a spoliator.”

Nature of Case: Intellectual Property

Electronic Data Involved: ESI

Case Summary

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