Tag Archives: electronic discovery

E-Discovery: Defendant not required to redo discovery

In this product liability case, the issue is when does a defendant meet its discovery obligations.  In other words, does defendant satisfy its duty by using a keyword search.

In this product’s liability case, In re: Biomet M2a Magnum Hip Implant Prods. Liab. Litig., NO. 3:12-MD-2391 (N.D. Ind. Apr. 18, 2013), the court held that the burden of the costs outweighed any benefits.  Here, the costs of starting over with 19.5 million documents outweighed the possibility of finding additional relevant documents.  The case is as follows.

Defendant (Biomet) relied on keyword searching in order to reduce the volume of information.  The documents to be searched were reduced from 19.5 million to 2.5 million.  Afterwards, Biomet used predictive coding.  Throughout this process, Biomet spent $1.07 million, and expects the e-discovery costs to total between $2 million and $3.25 million.

Plaintiffs asked the court to require Biomet to start all over again and only use predictive coding.  Plaintiffs wanted to be part of the process and give input as to the predictive coding language.  The court disagreed.

In explaining its decision, the court relied on proportionality.  The proposal to start all over again (utilizing the original 19.5 million documents) “[sat] uneasily with the proportionality standard in Rule 26(b)(2)(C).”  Further, starting again would “entail a cost in the low seven-figures” and that the “confidence tests” run by Biomet “suggest a comparatively modest number of documents would be found.”

The court agreed that predictive coding would identify additional relevant documents.  However, the benefits would not outweigh the burdens.

 

via Citing Proportionality, Court Declines to Require Defendant to Redo Discovery Utilizing Only Predictive Coding : Electronic Discovery Law.

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Major Possible Changes to Federal Discovery Rules

Corporate Counsel reported about a very important and significant change that might occur next year.  Here are the highlights of the proposed amendments (starting on Page 91 of 322).

The e-discovery rules may change once again by next year.  The United States Court’s Advisory Committee on Civil Rules voted last week to send proposed amendments to the Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure.  The Standing Committee will consider approving or rejecting the proposal in early June.

The most significant proposals would narrow the scope of discovery under Rule 26; impose or reduce numerical limits on written discovery and depositions under Rules 30, 31, 33, and 36; Rule 37 will adopt a uniform set of guidelines regarding sanctions when a party fails to preserve discoverable information; and Rule 34 will tighten the rules governing responses for production of documents.

Rule 26’s proposed amendments are as follows:

  • Rule 26(b)’s proposed amendment restricts the defined scope of discovery to information that is “proportional to the needs of the case.”  The language is as follows:

    “and proportional to the needs of the case considering the amount in controversy, the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the parties’ resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit.

    These proportional considerations are currently listed in Rule(b)(2)(c)(iii).  This amendment would mandate adherence by the parties without court intervention.

  • Rule 26(b)’s proposed amendment would delete the following sentences:

    (1) “For good cause, the court order discovery of any matter relevant to the subject matter involved in the action.  Relevant information need not be admissible at trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.”

  • Note, that the proposed amendment for Rule 26(b) states that “Information within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.
  • Rule 26(c) (protective orders) adds “or the allocation of expenses.”

Rules 30’s and 31’s proposed amendments are as follows:

  • The number of depositions (oral and written) would be reduced from 10 to 5.
  • The limit of an oral deposition is reduced to 6 hours.
  • The number of written interrogatories would change from 25 to 15.
  • The number of requests will be 25, except for requests relating to the genuineness of documents.
  • There will be a presumptive limit on the number of Requests for Admissions a party may serve.
  • A court order or a stipulation by the parties may increase the limits on any numerical discovery.

Rule 34’s proposed amendments (which govern the production of documents and electronically stored information) are as follows:

  • The objections to document requests must be stated with specificity.  This requirement has already been applied to interrogatory responses under Rule 33.
  • When the responding party must state that it will produce the requested documents (instead of permitting inspection), the production must be completed by the date for inspection stated in the request or by a later reasonable time stated in the response.
  • A party objecting to a document request must state whether any responsive materials are being withheld on the basis of the objection.

Rule 37(e)’s proposed amendment (which concern sanctions for failure to preserve discoverable information) state:

  • A court may impose sanctions when it finds that a party failed to preserve information that should have been preserved for litigation.  The sanctions includes remedies and curative measures that are not considered “sanctions,” such as allowing additional discovery, requiring a party to recreate or obtain the information that it lost, or ordering a party to pay reasonable expenses resulting from the loss of information.
  • The court may also impose sanctions listed in Rule 37(b)(2)(A) when to address preservation failures.  These sanctions include issue or evidence preclusion, the striking of pleadings, the dismissal of the action in whole or in part, and an adverse inference.
  • The court may impose sanctions or order an adverse jury instruction only if it finds that the failure to preserve caused “substantial prejudice” in the litigation and was “willful or in bad faith.” or that the failure to preserve “irreparably deprived a party of any meaningful opportunity” to litigate the claims in the action.

 

via On the Cusp of Major Changes to E-Discovery Rules.

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The Sedona Conference®

Electronic discovery and electronic stored information are very important topics for everyone – employes, law firms, lawsuits, etc.  The Sedona Conference should be the first step you take when trying to get a better handle in the area of electronic discovery and electronic stored information.

I bring to your attention the website that lists all of the Sedona Conference’s publications.

Recently, the Sedona Conferenced uploaded its post-comments publication in the area of proportionality of costs.  This is an important publication because the proportionality of costs will influence who pays for the costs of discovery and what is a reasonable request.  In other words, defining what is an undue burden and expense.

Publications | The Sedona Conference®.

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Zubulake revisited: Shifting standards in e-discovery

InsideCounsel has a very insightful article regarding the changes in Zubulake.  As previously addressed, the Zubulake cases are the leading guide posts of electronic discovery.  Nevertheless, recent case law signals potential departures from Zubulake.

InsideCounsel’s article states as follows:

 

Litigation holds 101

While the American concept of the litigation hold (also known as legal hold) received a passing reference in the advisory notes to the 2006 Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (FRCP) amendments, it was not until Zubulake, and later, Pension Committee, that courts connected the legal hold to the spoliation sanction framework.

Generally, sanctions are warranted when a party with control over discoverable information and under a duty to preserve acted with a culpable state of mind when destroying or losing relevant information. Once a party has established spoliation, a court must assess which sanction (ranging from further discovery to dismissal) aligns with the culpability of the spoliating party and the prejudice caused.

In Pension Committee, the court held that failing to issue a litigation hold is gross negligence per se. The court found that not only can relevance and prejudice be presumed when a spoliating party is grossly negligent, but that an adverse inference instruction was the appropriate sanction in that case.

Departures from Zubulake

In 2012, in Chin v. Port Auth. of New York & New Jersey, 11 plaintiff employees sued the defendant employer for alleged civil rights violations. In discovery, the plaintiffs learned that the defendant failed to implement a document retention policy, which resulted in the spoliation of at least 32 folders used to make promotion decisions from August 1999 to August 2002. The plaintiffs also learned that the defendant failed to issue a litigation hold regarding the promotion folders at any point between 2001 and 2007, and thus argued that this inaction amounted to gross negligence. However, the court rejected the argument that a failure to institute a litigation hold automatically constitutes gross negligence per se, contrary to the rule of Zubulake.

Instead, the court ruled in favor of a case-by-case approach, in which failure to preserve documents is one of multiple factors in the determination of whether to issue sanctions. In the end, the court upheld the district court’s conclusion that an adverse inference instruction was inappropriate in light of the limited role of the destroyed folders in the promotion process, as well as the plaintiffs’ ample evidence regarding their relative qualifications when compared with the officers who were actually promoted.

What does it all mean?

Chin established that, depending on the facts, if a party acts reasonably and in good faith to preserve documents, it may be off the hook for severe sanctions. However, many commentators have argued that this does not change best practices—that parties should still issue a written litigation hold in accordance with Pension Committee.

For large organizations that touch many jurisdictions (many of which still follow Zubulake), corporate counsel should not disband their litigation hold systems just yet—in fact, they probably do not want ever to disband them. The litigation hold is an incredible powerful and defensible means to preservation. Large organizations often must track many custodians storing potentially relevant information on complicated IT systems. Corporations derive substantial benefits from being able to maintain holds, as well as being able to internally track multiple simultaneous preservation obligations.

It is worth noting, however, that not every case, or company, is the same. Should a tight-knit company of a few employees in a non-complex litigation have to issue a written legal hold in order to be safe from sanctions? As case law in 2013 develops, perhaps litigants in these types of cases will take a second look at the role of the litigation hold.

A breath of “reasonable” fresh air

On the topic of preservation, case law developments are not the only item on the horizon for 2013. The discovery subcommittee tasked with developing potential FRCP rule changes has been scrutinizing the preservation topic. In one possible version amending FRCP 37, the drafters adopted a factor-based approach to determining culpability. While one factor looks at the reasonableness of a party’s efforts to preserve the information, “including the use of a litigation hold,” another factor includes “the proportionality of the preservation efforts to any anticipated or ongoing litigation.” On Nov. 2, 2012, when the Advisory Committee voted to adopt the subcommittee’s proposal, a common opinion was that even this minor reference to the litigation hold should be omitted or reverted to the commentary to underscore the factor-based nature of draft Rule 37. As we continue down the road to Federal Rule amendments, it is becoming clear that the gold standard of Zubulake may be shifting in the coming year.

via Zubulake revisited: Shifting standards in e-discovery.

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The Sedona Conference Publishes Primer on Social Media

This post is geared towards lawyers and individuals working with electronic discovery (or anyone interested in discovery in a lawsuit of social media).

The Sedona Conference just published a Primer on Social Media.  The current version is open for public comments.  The purpose of the Primer is to provide primary instruction to the bar and the bench.

via The Sedona Conference® Publishes Primer on Social Media (Pubic Comment Version) : Electronic Discovery Law.

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What NOT to include in your social media policy

HR.BLR has a good list to keep in mind when drafting your social media policy.  Please read this very carefully.

Social Media Policies: What NOT To Do

When creating your social media policies, here’s what NOT to do:

  • Don’t screen applicants on social media and/or ask for passwords to such sites. “Increasingly [such practices] will be prohibited by both federal and state law,” Scott explained. Additionally, screening on social media opens the risk for discrimination claims based on protected class status that may be discovered in social media postings.
  • “Don’t adopt social media policies which are overbroad, or which unreasonably chill the exercise of protected concerted activity rights under the NLRA.” Scott continued.
  • Don’t fire or discipline employees for social media content without first reviewing with counsel to ensure you are not crossing the line. Remember that the line is moving quickly as technology changes!
  • Don’t use third-party apps that are overbroad in their access to applicant and employee information.
  • Don’t refuse to hire applicants (or fire or discipline employees) based on information culled from social media without checking with experienced legal counsel.

Social Media Policies: What TO Do

Here are some “dos” for social media policies

  • Create a current, effective and enforceable social media policy.
  • Instruct employees not to use vulgar, obscene, threatening, intimidating or harassing language; attack people based on protected status (e.g., union status or activity, disability, national origin, etc.); disparage company products and services; or disclose confidential or proprietary company information.
  • Create a companion privacy policy, establishing guidelines to prevent the disclosure of confidential employee or company information. Confidential employee information may include things such as home addresses, birthdays, employee personal data (including medical data), and protected status information. Company proprietary information could be financial, trade secrets, or other business information deemed confidential. (These lists contain examples, but are not comprehensive.)
  • Train employees about social media policies.
  • “Use a non-decision-maker to filter the contents of the social media page” if you do use social media as part of applicant screening, Semler advised. This is so you don’t get charged with the knowledge of protected status.
  • Monitor ongoing legal developments and conform your practices to those changes. For example, monitor the constantly changing laws, regulations and rules established and implemented by federal and state legislatures, agencies and courts.

via What NOT to include in your social media policy.

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D. Minn Court Holds Defendant in Contempt (ESI)

Multifeeder Tech. Inc. v. British Confectionery Co. Ltd., No. 09-1090 (JRT/TNL), 2012 WL 4135848 (D. Minn. Sept. 18, 2012)

In this case, the Magistrate Judge recommended that an adverse inference be issued, that Defendant be held in contempt and that significant monetary sanctions be imposed upon his determination that two of Defendant’s employees had intentionally spoliated evidence by deleting certain information and by failing to reveal the existence of encrypted data.  Upon the parties’ objections, the District Court adopted in part the Magistrate Judge’s recommendation, but increased the monetary sanctions imposed.

While the details provided in these opinions are somewhat complicated, the bottom line is simple: two of Defendant’s employees were found to have intentionally spoliated evidence.  The spoliation was discovered by a forensic investigator who had been appointed by the court following Plaintiff’s first motion for sanctions.  At the time of that appointment, pursuant to an ESI protocol crafted by the court, the parties were each ordered to bear a portion of the costs of further investigation.

Briefly, the relevant incidents of spoliation included the use of wiping software by Defendant’s Director of Quality Assurance and the deletion of a PST file by the Vice President of Sales and Marketing.  The Magistrate Judge also found that the Vice President’s failure to reveal the existence of encrypted data on his laptop despite an order requiring that Defendant provide the court-appointed forensic investigator with “reasonable access to personnel and facilities,” which encompassed the custodian’s computers, amounted to spoliation:

[He] knew that an encrypted and passwordprotected [sic] volume was installed and in use on his computer, and he failed to provide any notice that such a volume existed.  Encryption software exists so that—without notice and a password—entities like CFS are unlikely to find and access the ESI stored on encrypted volumes.  Thus, the failure to provide any notice of the encrypted volume until November 2011 violated the ESI Protocol Order and amounts to spoliation of evidence.

(CFS was the court-appointed forensic examiner.)

In light of Defendant’s spoliation, the Magistrate Judge recommended that an adverse inference be imposed at trial and that Defendant be held in contempt and required to pay $25,000 to the court and $475,000 to the plaintiff.  The Magistrate Judge’s order took into account Plaintiff’s “reasonable expenses” caused by Defendant’s actions, including the significant fees of the forensic examiner.

Both parties objected.  Upon review, the District Court adopted the recommendations of the Magistrate Judge, in part, but increased the amount of monetary sanctions to be paid to Plaintiff.  The court indicated that the amount was increased for several reasons, including to better compensate Plaintiff for the significant costs of the forensic investigator and its attorneys’ fees and in light of the court’s consideration of other circumstances, such as the “significant prejudice” suffered by Plaintiff (which the District Court determined could not be mitigated to the extent indicated by the Magistrate Judge) and the fact that this was not the first sanctions order in this case.

The District Court largely rejected Defendant’s assertion that Plaintiff was “at least partially responsible” for the investigator’s “ballooning costs” (Plaintiff initially estimated the cost of the investigation would be around $10,000 + travel) and that some portion of the fees were not reasonably attributable to Defendant because of Plaintiff’s failure to timely inform Defendant or the Court that the fees would be far greater than expected.  Despite acknowledging the disparity between the estimated and final cost and that Plaintiff should have disclosed the “exploding” costs sooner, the court ultimately determined that it was largely Defendant’s conduct that resulted in the extensive fees: “It is no fault of Multifeeder that documenting the extent of British’s drive wiping was extremely time consuming.”

Accordingly, the court raised the sanction to $600,000, an amount which “represents reasonable expenses and attorneys’ fees because it encompasses much of CFS’s current unpaid invoices, at least some past paid amounts by Multifeeder to CFS, and reasonable legal fees and expenses in litigating this discovery dispute.”  The court also ordered Defendant to pay the recommended $25,000 to the court.

Indicating its reluctance to modify the previously imposed ESI protocol which ordered Plaintiff to pay a portion of the investigator’s costs, but recognizing that the fees owed could financially devastate Plaintiff absent receipt of the payment ordered from Defendant, the court ordered Defendant to make staggered payments to Plaintiff and that Plaintiff in turn pay the investigator its fees within a time certain.

A copy of the Magistrate Judge’s order is available here, a copy of the District Court’s order is available here.

via For Spoliation, Court Holds Defendant in Contempt, Orders $600,000 to be Paid to Plaintiff, $25,000 to be Paid to the Court : Electronic Discovery Law.

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ESI Trends

Gibson Dunn recently published its 2011 Mid-Year review of Electronic Discovery.  It is definitely worth a read.

You can access it here: http://www.gibsondunn.com/publications/Pages/2011Mid-YearE-DiscoveryUpdate.aspx

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E-Discovery

Just as the ABA publishes an article regarding E-Discovery and Malpractice, my post at JD Rising- MN Lawyer is published here.  My post at JD Rising-MN Lawyer discusses what steps an attorney should take to ethically cover all points of investigation.

The ABA article discusses the recent malpractice lawsuit against lawyers alleging negligent document review (as cited in this blog here). 

In sum, it does send a clear message.  E-Discovery sanctions can apply to all, clients and attorneys alike.

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