Last month’s Master’s Conference in London included presentations and discussions on issues relevant to electronic discovery, including artificial intelligence and different jurisdictions’ legislative and regulatory responses to that new technology, project management and legal operations issues, document review platforms, cross-border discovery, information governance, and data privacy. During these discussions, participants noted that the factors compelling organizations to improve their information governance and records management practices have changed over time.Read More
Daniel Miller, a partner of the K&L Gates e-Discovery Analysis & Technology (“e-DAT”) Group and the firm’s Pittsburgh office, will attend this week’s ABA Cross-Border Institute in Paris. Daniel will also participate on a panel discussion at next week’s Master’s Conference in London.Read More
Reflecting on the new enterprise collaboration and remote work technologies adopted by many employers, Julie Anne Halter (Partner and e-DAT Practice Group Co-Chair) outlines a number of related legal consideration and risks associated with these technologies in a 425 Business article published this week.Read More
Information governance and records management are important considerations for all organizations. New data and documents are generated at ever-increasing rates through the normal (and “new normal”) course of business, and these data and documents must be maintained for different periods of time to satisfy their business and legal compliance purposes. With regard to legally-mandated retention requirements, certain business sectors (such as banking institutions, aviation and maritime companies, and businesses operating within the scope of federal Department of Energy regulations) are subject to record retention and reporting obligations that extend beyond those applicable to other types of organizations. Also, there may be insurance, contractual, and other considerations applicable to certain types of records that impact the period of time they should be maintained in the ordinary course of business. Finally, the need to preserve records potentially relevant to known or reasonably anticipated legal proceedings can create additional record preservation burdens on an organization.Read More
Key Insight: Plaintiff filed a motion to compel after learning through the discovery process that defendants purged or lost emails and documents. Plaintiff sought “discovery on discovery” to discern the identities of individuals whose emails would have been responsive if those emails were still available, the identification of documents or categories of documents no longer available, and an explanation as to why other responsive documents were not produced. The court granted plaintiff’s request but found it “strictly limited to the purged former employee email accounts.” No additional depositions were permitted and plaintiff’s fourteen interrogatories on this topic were “neither reasonable nor proportional” to the limited nature of the discovery needed.
Nature of Case: Civil rights
Electronic Data Involved: Email and documents
Key Insight: The Plaintiff in litigation over claims of trademark infringement, unfair competition and breach of contract failed to preserve and destroyed discoverable electronic data, and similarly, failed to prepare for 30(b)(6) depositions. Moreover, there were repeated delays (and time extensions) in Plaintiff responding to Defendant’s discovery requests. In doing so, the Plaintiff repeatedly disobeyed discovery orders issued by the Court.
The litigation settled while discovery was pending. The Defendant moved for sanctions against the Plaintiff for its conduct in discovery, and the Court, pursuant to FRCP 37(b), awarded sanctions against Plaintiff and its counsel, jointly and severally. Plaintiff’s former counsel subsequently claimed that it should not be held liable for the sanctions because it was unable to control the conduct of its client in responding to discovery order(s) and requests.
Nature of Case: Intellectual Property, Trademark Infringement, Contracts, Unfair Competition
Electronic Data Involved: Email, Electronic Files, Hard Drives.
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
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
Key Insight: Defendant’s failure to suspend document retention policy resulted in loss of evidence and court ordered judgment against Defendant. Plaintiff also showed evidence that USB Drives had been inserted into a shared laptop and files deleted. Defendants actions had made it impossible for Plaintiff to prove case.
Nature of Case: Trade Secrets
Electronic Data Involved: USB Drives inserted into company laptop; Email accounts
Keywords: records retention policy, spoliation, sanctions