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Welcome to the new eLessons Learned
eLessons Learned features insightful content authored primarily by law students from throughout the country. The posts are written to appeal to a broad spectrum of readers, including those with little eDiscovery knowledge.
Each blog post: (a) identifies cases that address technology mishaps; (b) exposes the specific conduct that caused a problem; (c) explains how and why the conduct was improper; and (d) offers suggestions on how to learn from these mistakes and prevent similar ones from reoccurring.
Visit our signature feature, e-Discovery Origins: Zubulake, designed to give readers a primer on the e-discovery movement through blog posts about the Zubulake series of court opinions which helped form the foundation for e-discovery. Go There
Interested students may apply for the opportunity to write for e-Lessons Learned by filling out the simple application. Go There
This incident arises under the premise that courts have allowed prevailing parties to recover the costs of converting paper documents into electronic files when the parties agreed that responses to discovery requests would be produced in an electronic format. The defendants sent the plaintiffs a bill for just over $65,000 for the costs of scanning nearly 450,000 documents they produced during discovery. While the judge did not exactly award that amount to defendants, he came extraordinarily close. The plaintiffs tried to fight the costs by arguing first that they were made in responding to discovery and thus unrecoverable, and second that they were produced for convenience and therefore unnecessary. The court was unpersuaded by either argument. Surveying the case law in the Fifth Circuit and other jurisdictions, the judge determined that the cost of scanning paper documents into an electronic format was equivalent to making copies. Notably, only scanning and file format conversion was considered equivalent, and not other activities including, for example: collecting and preserving ESI, processing and indexing ESI, and keyword searching ESI for responsive and privileged documents. That was precisely the reason the judge required supplemental briefing from the defendants and did not outright award the costs they sought. The defendants’ invoices may have included other unrecoverable costs, and in order to recover in the subsequent briefings they would need to show which specific costs were attributable to scanning or making copies. In a subsequent order, the judge did find the plaintiffs were responsible for over $50,000 of the defendants’ document production costs. In short, this case stands for the very simple proposition that “costs” includes “scanning” just as it also historically includes “photocopying.” Samuel is in the Seton Hall University School of Law Class of 2015 pursuing the Intellectual Property concentration. He received his master’s from the Rutgers Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and became a registered patent agent prior to entering law school. Want to read more articles like this? Sign up for our post notification newsletter, here.
It may make sense in the eyes of some parties that discovery obligations should be equal. These parties believe that they should not have to do any extra work above and beyond what their adversary is doing to prepare the documents and information that will be turned over in discovery. Relying on this belief, though, in refusing to comply with a discovery obligation, will most likely not be a successful strategy in the courtroom. This very belief is what Blue Coat Systems relied on in the above case. Finjan brought suit against Blue Coat for patent infringement. Finjan requested a number of different documents relating to the case. Specifically, Finjan was looking for emails produced by eight different custodians at Blue Coat. Blue Coat was also requesting emails from eight different custodians at Finjan, as well. On its face, Blue Coat had no issue with Finjan’s request and was willing to comply. However, Blue Coat did choose to pick a fight with Finjan over its having to search through custodial emails from its archival systems. Blue Coat argued it should not have to do this, and it should only have to produce emails from its active systems, because Finjan was not being required to do the same thing. The reason Finjan was not being ordered to produce emails from its own archival systems, though, while Blue Coat was, was because Finjan did not even have an archival system to begin with! Blue Coat argued that if Finjan did not have to go through its archives, then they should not have to do so, either. As much as Blue Coat wanted to complain about Finjan not having to search the archives like they had to do, though, the court did not wholeheartedly buy this as a legitimate reason for not complying with Finjan’s request. The court said that at no point had Blue Coat disputed the relevance of the information Finjan was seeking. Blue Coat was simply “balking” at the idea that its custodians should have to turn over email other than that from its active systems all because Finjan cannot physically produce its own former employees’ emails. The court did not completely dismiss Blue Coat’s argument, though. The court admits that Blue Coat may have had a legitimate beef about having to dig through its archives while Finjan was incapable of doing the same. Nevertheless, “one party’s discovery shortcomings are rarely enough to justify another’s.” Certainly where, as here, the requested documents are relevant to the case (they do mention Finjan, after all), the request is reasonable, and Blue Coat will not be able to use Finjan’s inabilities as a justification for its refusal to produce. The court ultimately compelled Blue Coat to produce all archival emails that mention Finjan from the eight designated custodians. So what is the lesson to be learned from all of this? Well, for starters, if a party does not want to have to take the time and effort to search through its archives, then do not have archives at all! But more importantly, do not use the opposing party’s inabilities and failures to justify your own. Do what has been reasonably requested, or else the judge will just compel you to do it any way and explain her reasoning in a very public, published opinion for all to read. Logan Teisch received his B.A. in Government and Politics from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2012. He is now a student at Seton Hall University School of Law (Class of 2015), focusing his studies in the area of criminal law. Logan’s prior experiences include interning with the Honorable Verna G. Leath in Essex County Superior Court as well as interning with the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office. Want to read more articles like this? Sign up for our post notification newsletter, here.
This case arose against the backdrop of a criminal trial involving a rabbi who was convicted of multiple counts of sexually related crimes against a girl beginning when she was twelve years old. During the rabbi’s trial, the presiding judge made several announcements notifying the audience that photography was stringently forbidden. This prohibition was also displayed on numerous signs in the courthouse and courtroom. Even though these notices were on display, numerous audience members took photographs of the juvenile victim during her testimony. Company Lemon Juice, the plaintiff, and two others, Joseph Fried and Yona Weissman, were arrested for violating the judge’s prohibition on photography. However, Lemon Juice was not sitting with Fried and Weissman in the courtroom, where an officer of the court discovered Fried and Weissman took pictures of the juvenile on their cellular phone. The court officer later discovered a photograph on Twitter of the juvenile victim. The image on Twitter resembled the image he viewed on the cellular phone of Fried and Weissman earlier that day. The Twitter account used to upload the photograph to the internet was in the name of Lemon Juice. The Twitter account also showed a picture of Lemon Juice. Subsequently, Lemon Juice was arrested and charged with second-degree criminal contempt for acting in concert with Fried and Weissman. After fourteen court appearances to defend himself, the charges against Lemon Juice were dismissed after a prosecutorial investigation found that Lemon Juice had no connection to the Twitter account that was the subject of the charges. The background leads to the case that is the subject of this article. After the charges against Lemon Juice were dropped, he sought a court order to compel Twitter “to disclose basic subscriber information, records, internet protocol addresses or similar information sufficient to identify the individual or individuals who owned or operated the subject account and logged into or tweeted on the subject account.” Lemon Juice also sought a court order compelling Twitter to preserve documents containing information relevant to the upload of the picture of the juvenile victim. Lemon Juice is seeking this information in order to secure the identity of the person who uploaded the image so he can name that person in a tort action. An order for a pre-action disclosure to be ordered by a court, the requested information must be sought solely for the purpose of determining who should be named as the defendant. It is not allowable as a fishing expedition to gauge whether a cause of action truly exists. Despite this prohibition on fishing expeditions, a plaintiff need only provide a factual basis to show that a prima facie cause of action exists. These facts will be construed in a light most favorable to plaintiff as well. In this case, Lemon Juice provided a sufficient factual basis to prove a prima facie action for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Additionally, the court addressed a possible argument from the creator of the Twitter account. The argument would be that freedom of speech protects his or her behavior because anonymous speech via the internet is afforded First Amendment protection. In this case however, because Lemon Juice suffered tortious damage, the First Amendment does not protect the unnamed defendant’s speech. The court ordered Twitter to disclose the user information sought for the account pertinent to this motion. As to the preservation of evidence, the court ruled that Twitter must preserve the documents requested by Lemon Juice. The court stated, “prior to the commencement of an action [in New York state court], disclosure to preserve information may be obtained by court order pursuant to CPLR 3102(c). When a potential plaintiff invokes CPLR 3102(c) for the purpose of preserving information, the existence of a claim need not be demonstrated with certainty.” In this case, Lemon Juice greatly exceeded this threshold to compel preservation because he demonstrated a prima facie cause of action. There are two lessons to be gleaned from this case. The first is that anonymous on internet posting will not necessarily preserve your anonymity. If you post something that potentially constitutes a tort on another individual, the First Amendment will not save you. The more relevant lesson is that the duty to preserve may be triggered even if a plaintiff cannot demonstrate the existence of a claim with certainty. Companies with possible pending litigation can be required to preserve documents and evidence even if a lawsuit has not yet been commenced. Daniel received a B.A. in Criminology and Criminal Justice from The University of Maryland. He will receive his J.D. from Seton Hall University School of Law in 2015. Presently Daniel is serving as a legal intern in Seton Hall’s Juvenile Justice Clinic. After graduation Daniel will clerk for a trial judge in the Superior Court of New Jersey. Want to read more articles like this? Sign up for our post notification newsletter, here
Last spring the District Court for the District of Colorado heard argument on Galena St. Fund, LP v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. Plaintiff Galena specifically appealed to the court to compel discovery with respect to 8,327 documents that defendant Wells Fargo claimed were privileged. Magistrate Judge Boyd N. Boland was asked to consider whether Wells Fargo was allowed to claim privilege from trust beneficiaries, or in the alternative, if Wells Fargo waived the attorney-client privilege in its entirety. Plaintiff’s motion consisted of the kitchen-sink brief: first, Wells Fargo could claim no privilege exists to prevent disclosure of records to a beneficiary of a trust; second, when Wells Fargo named a non-party at fault, they effectively waived privilege by making the documents at-issue in the case; third, Wells Fargo waived privilege by having an overbroad privilege log; and fourth, Wells Fargo waived simply by inadvertently disclosing during the course of discovery. In short, Judge Boland was not convinced. Only one exhibit in the universe of disclosure was deemed to be a waiver of privilege, based on the at-issue waiver rule. That document was an email chain discussing defendant’s non-party claim and deciding how to remit proceeds from federally insured RMBS loans. The court recognized that Wells Fargo “cannot use the attorney-client privilege as a shield to hide communications that indicate that Wells Fargo directed [the non-party] on how to remit those proceeds.” Galena, 2014 WL 943115 at *12-13. Unfortunately for Galena, that was the only point for plaintiffs on the scoreboard. The court went on to explain that Wells Fargo’s contact with outside counsel did not waive privilege for Galena as a beneficiary of the trust, essentially because Wells Fargo’s reaching out to outside counsel was inspired by Galena’s threat of litigation. Furthermore, Judge Boland did not find defendants assertion of privilege to be overbroad, and recognized that inadvertent disclosure does not waive privilege in any meaningful sense. Rule 26 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure works in conjunction with Rule 502 of the Federal Rules of Evidence to provide a solution to this very situation. So long as the disclosure was truly inadvertent and the holder of the privilege took reasonable steps to remedy the problem, privilege is still maintained. In this situation, the “burden of showing that the privilege has not been waived remains with the party claiming the privilege.” Silverstein v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, 2009 WL 4949959 *10 (D. Colo. Dec. 14, 2009). In the other situations in which the court analyzed potential waiver here, the burden of establishing a waiver of the attorney-client privilege “rests with the party seeking to overcome the privilege.” People v. Madera, 112 P.3d 688, 690 (Colo. 2005). Galena couldn’t possibly meet that burden, for all 8,327 documents. Hopefully, Galena’s counsel can make some hay with the one record in which privilege was waived. Kevin received a B.S. in Political Science from the University of Scranton (2009), and will receive his J.D. from Seton Hall University School of Law in 2015. Prior to joining the Seton Hall community, Kevin worked as an eDiscovery professional at two large “white-shoe” law firms in Manhattan. Want to read more articles like this? Sign up for our post notification newsletter, here.
In this technological age, people have gotten very lazy. Jobs once done by hand evolved to being done with tools. Jobs once done with tools evolved to being done by machines. Jobs once done by machines evolved to being automatically done by machine. The same is true with electronic discovery. It is no longer sufficient for me to present you with the files you requested and the entire database from which they are derived. Now, I must present them to you in a manner in which you deem acceptable or I must present them to you again. Sorry, I forgot I was supposed to do your job for you too. In FDIC v. Appleton, defendants moved to compel the FDIC to respond to their requests for production of documents claiming that the FDIC did not produce documents in conformity with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 34, stating that FDIC failed to produce documents organized and labeled to conform with defendants' discovery requests or as they are kept in the ordinary course of business. The FDIC, in response to this motion, claims that it gathered the documents in Relativity from a larger database of ESI based upon search terms mutually agreed to by the defendants and also made the larger database available to search. Here, the defendants have all of the information they requested, both the specific files and the database from which the files were pulled. However, the court held that this was not sufficient. The FDIC believed that it produced the necessary documentation as required by the discovery requests and is not required to organize them according to the defenses specific wishes due to the Relativity software and how it sorts documents. Ultimately, the court granted defendants' Motion to Compel as to the ESI in Relativity requiring the FDIC to search for all documents in its possession responsive to defendants requests, to create a file in Relativity for each of defendants' discovery requests and then to put each document of each request in the corresponding file. This California case creates horrible precedent and should be overruled. The ruling itself creates latent and infinite costs that shift upon the person receiving the discovery request. This ruling also forces any plaintiff, here the FDIC, to neatly wrap the defendant’s requests into a box with Christmas wrapping paper and present the information to the defense with a little bow on top. Long gone are the days and legal strategy of “burying someone in documents” (a strategy used to often pursue a settlement instead of a costly and lengthy trial). Now, a quick search of a hard drive through a folders search bar specified to the defendants’ requests instead of the software’s default settings can determine exactly where the leverage to be used against you in litigation can be found, if there is any at all. Furthermore, the FDIC did completely comply with the discovery requests but not sufficiently enough for the defendants. The defendants filed a motion to compel because they were not happy in which the documentation that they requested was presented by Relativity so they went to a court of law to force the FDIC to present the information in another form. The cost associated with having to comply with a discovery request can be massive but the cost associated with having to do a discovery request over because the first discovery request was unorganized is absurd. Sorry, I forgot I am supposed to do your job for you as well as comply with the discovery request. FDIC gave you the information and it gave you the database upon which the data was derived, FDIC fulfilled its duty per discovery request. Timothy received his B.A. from Rutgers University in 2011. He began his post-college life working in Trenton, New Jersey at a lobbying and non-profit management organization before attending law school in the fall of 2012. He will receive his J.D. from Seton Hall University School of Law in 2015. Timothy has had a diverse set of experiences during his time in law school and has found his calling in Tax Law. Want to read more articles like this? Sign up for our post notification newsletter, here.
Even Apple’s extremely valuable source code is not entitled to an arbitrary, unreasonable, and unduly restrictive protective order. Instead of adopting Apple’s proposed protective order, the United States District Court approved Farstone’s provision in its entirety. Farstone’s “reasonably necessary” standard was determined to be sufficient enough to protect Apple’s source code. In Farstone Tech., Inc. v. Apple, Inc., despite agreeing to a majority of the proposed protective order’s terms, Farstone and Apple disagreed on the terms relating to the production of Apple’s source code. Specifically, Apple and Farstone could not agree on the limitations that should apply to Farstone’s ability to print Apple’s source code. Apple proposed that the printing must be “necessary” to prepare court filings and pleadings, while Farstone proposed that it should be allowed to print source code that is “reasonably necessary” for those purposes. Additionally, Apple wanted to establish two other limitations in the protective order, including a thirty page threshold and a two hundred and fifty page total cap. The thirty page threshold limitation would presume any printing of thirty sequential pages of source code to be excessive. The court found that Apple’s proposed “necessary” term was unduly restrictive because Farstone will not likely be able to know what specific source code is necessary to prepare its case. Furthermore, the court found that Farstone’s “reasonably necessary” standard has a solid foundation in the Northern District of California’s Model Protective Order. Additionally, the court found Apple’s numerical limitations unreasonable because they appeared to be arbitrary. Apple failed to indicate how the thirty page threshold and the two hundred and fifty page cap “bear any actual relationship to the total source code available.” The court held that the “reasonably necessary” standard provided some guide and limit on the printing of source code and thus, approved Farstone’s source code printing provision. It is imperative that Apple protects its trade secrets, such as its extremely valuable source coding. However, Apple must avoid proposing arbitrary, unreasonable, and unduly restrictive provisions in its protective orders to avoid courts from adopting its adversaries’ proposed terms. If Apple wishes to include numerical limitations in the future, it should justify why the numerical limits are necessary for the protective order to be sufficient. Gary Discovery received a B.S. in Business Administration, with a concentration in Finance from the Bartley School of Business at Villanova University. He will receive his J.D. from Seton Hall University School of Law in 2015. After graduation, Gary will clerk for a presiding civil judge in the Superior Court of New Jersey. Want to read more articles like this? Sign up for our post notification newsletter, here.
ESI is usually massive and its discovery burdensome. The proportionality consideration is thus often a deciding factor for courts to impose a particular document production protocol. The rules of ESI request and production do not offer a clear line as to the form of production and the obligation of a producing party in further culling for responsiveness by reviewing search hits produced by computers. That allows courts to order production procedures with considerable flexibility. ESI production is governed by Rule 34 of FRCP, which states that a request of ESI production “may specify the form or forms in which electronically stored information is to be produced” (emphasis added). However, rule 34(b)(2)(E) specifies that: (E) Producing the Documents or Electronically Stored Information. Unless otherwise stipulated or ordered by the court, these procedures apply to producing documents or electronically stored information: (i) A party must produce documents as they are kept in the usual course of business or must organize and label them to correspond to the categories in the request; (ii) If a request does not specify a form for producing electronically stored information, a party must produce it in a form or forms in which it is ordinarily maintained or in a reasonably usable form or forms; and (iii) A party need not produce the same electronically stored information in more than one form. As to the responsiveness review, nowhere in Rule 34 is it expressly stipulated how the review should be carried out and how the electronic search should be conducted, particularly in the context of ESI. The court in FDIC v. Bowden, by referencing other cases, developed some practical guide in applying the ESI production rules as to production forms and responsiveness review responsibility. In FDIC v. Bowden, the court, in the spirit of balancing discovery burdens and applying proportionality restriction, provided a reasonable ESI production procedure to follow in the particular context of the case. That context, involving a suit by FDIC who took over a failed bank for mismanagement against some prior executives of the bank, may not be as uncommon as it appears, particularly in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis resulting from broad adoption of ruthless practices by the financial industry. The position of the court is thus illuminating and offers much guidance to parties facing similar situations. Specifically in FDIC v. Bowden, a bank insured by the FDIC failed and the FDIC formed a separate legal entity, the FDIC-R, to act as a receiver and took over the bank. The FDIC-R then brought a bank mismanagement case against sixteen former directors and officers. The parties disputed as to the ESI document production protocol. Like many other mismanagement cases, the defendant had been running the bank and thus had some reasonable understanding of majority the bank’s (or the plaintiff’s) ESI and knew reasonably well what needed to be searched. This point seems to have carried much weight for the court to determine a suitable document production protocol. First, it is interesting to note that the court treated acceptable ESI production protocol by FDIC for defendants’ request for documents related to FDIC’s claims separately from defendants’ request for documents responsive to defendant’s defenses. As to the production of ESI related to the claims, the court first noted that since this type of case generally involves the bank’s takeover by the FDIC and thus the ESI has usually been modified in the course of FDIC’s running of the bank. Thus, irrespective of whether the defendants specified any document production form, FDIC cannot really satisfy the “course of business” option of Rule 34(b)(2)(E)(i) by simply providing ESI as kept by FDIC because the “course of business” was held by the court to mean the business of the bank, not of the FDIC. Under Rule 34, the FDIC thus needed to produce categorized documents according to defendant’s request. But there is no obligation for the responding party to examine every scrap of paper in its potentially voluminous files in order to comply with its discovery obligations. Rather, the court approved a two-stage scheme. In the first stage, FDIC only needs to conduct a diligent search, which involves developing a reasonably comprehensive electronic search strategy, categorize the resulting files according to the request, and produce the documents. However, the obligation (if there is one) for FDIC to review the responsiveness of the documents resulting from these initial searches may be obviated through a cooperative search query formulation on an equal access document database in a second stage document production. Specifically for the second stage, parties would agree to a set of search terms to apply to the Bank’s database maintained by FDIC-R. FDIC-R would then export the results into some review tool, called “Relativity” in this case. FDIC-R would provide full accessibility of “Relativity” to defendants. That way, the defendants can be afforded the opportunity to review the documents identified through the second round searches and select for production only the documents that the defendants desire. As for the defendant’s interest in corralling documents in support of their defense, the court held that FDIC-R must confer with defendants and run whatever reasonable searches they wish to run on the electronic records and make those hits available for review and refinement. This seems to be a natural way of dealing with request for document helping with defense since the defensive strategy is mostly with the defendants themselves. From this case, it appears that as long as a responding party conducts a reasonable and diligent electronic search according to the document request and produces hits, it does not immediately have the obligation to further review these hits for responsiveness. However, the court may ask the responding party to make their ESI database available for a collaborative search between the parties. The responding party can always produce these hits in a format kept in ordinary course of business irrespective of whether the requesting party has specified any form of production. Of course, the responding party can also produce the document by categorizing the document according to the request if it chooses to do so or if the ESI has been altered and becomes too burdensome to reverse to the form kept in ordinary course of business. Gang Chen is a Senior Segment Manager in the Intellectual Property Business Group of Alcatel-Lucent, and a fourth-year evening student at Seton Hall University School of Law focusing on Patent Law. Want to read more articles like this? Sign up for our post notification newsletter, here.
Why is clawing back digital data any more dangerous than clawing back physical documents? Imagine making physical copies of one thousand documents. That would take a long time, right? Now, imagine making digital copies of the same one thousand documents. This takes a fraction of the time. Giving up too much information in a digital form is incredibly dangerous because duplicating the data is as simple as “copy” and “paste.” In the case of Crissen v. Gupta, the party producing documents gave the receiving party a CD with all the documents requested; however, they mistakenly included over 600 pages of documents that were not supposed to be produced. Thankfully, for the producing party, a protective order was in place which mandated that documents could be “clawed back” if they had been mistakenly produced. A claw back provision essentially will undo a document production. In theory, this is a great way to increase the flow of information between opposing parties, decrease discovery costs, and limit the amount of time spent combing through documents before they are produced. See 2006 Advisory Committee Note to Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(f). However, this only works if opposing counsel plays by the rules of the “claw back” game. Here, instead of just returning the CD as requested by the producing party, the receiving party copied and pasted all the documents from the CD onto the law firm’s server. The CD was eventually returned to the producing party, but the damage had already been done. The receiving party had an unblemished, unrestricted view of all the documents saved right on their servers. The producing party promptly asked the court to interject and enforce the claw back protection order; however, the receiving party had already reviewed the recalled documents via the copies on their servers. The court ordered that the recalled documents be deleted, forbade the use of the documents unless they were properly produced, and required the receiving party to submit confirmation of the same. However, as the saying goes, the cat was already out of the bag. Judge Magnus-Stinson admitted in his opinion that he could not bar the receiving party from using the recalled documents because the documents still may be properly requested and produced. In other words, the receiving party now had the upper hand because they knew what documents to specifically request based upon their review of the recalled documents. The moral of the story in this case is do not rely solely upon claw back protective orders when going through the discovery process, especially when producing digital information. Even if the protective order is enforced and a party is able to claw back specific data, there is some damage that just cannot be undone. Victoria O’Connor Blazeski (formerly Victoria L. O’Connor) received her B.S. form Stevens Institute of Technology, and she will receive her J.D. from Seton Hall University School of Law in 2015. Prior to law school, she worked as an account manager in the Corporate Tax Provision department of Thomson Reuters, Tax & Accounting. Victoria is a former D3 college basketball player, and she has an interest in tax law and civil litigation. After graduating, she will clerk for the Hon. Joseph M. Andresini, J.T.C. in the Tax Courts of New Jersey. Want to read more articles like this? Sign up for our post notification newsletter, here.
This case provides an important lesson for any person involved in a lawsuit involving text messages as evidence. Here, a group of employees was suing their employer for discrimination under Title VII. When the discovery process began, the defendants requested a number of text messages relating to the conduct of the employees during the relevant time period of the discrimination. These text messages were permitted to be discoverable by the defendant and the plaintiff was ordered to turn over the relevant text messages. The plaintiffs’ lawyer then gave the plaintiffs instructions to preserve all data relevant to the case; otherwise they could face sanctions by the court, which could negatively impact their suit. Spoliation is the legal term for deleting or destroying information sought by the opposing party. This is precisely what occurred here. Apparently the plaintiffs felt that if they simply deleted a portion of the requested text messages that the defendant would have no way to access that information and thus the problem would be solved; if there even was a problem to begin with. When the defendant discovered that these texts had not been turned over with the rest of the discovery they inquired about their whereabouts. The plaintiffs responded that the texts had been deleted. Obviously perturbed, the defendant then subpoenaed the mobile carrier, T-Mobile, and recovered the deleted texts. However, now the plaintiffs had a problem; they had deliberately attempted to conceal and destroy relevant information. The defendant then filed a motion to dismiss based on the actions of the plaintiff. The court granted the motion in part but denied the dismissal of all charges. Though, the court did impose sanctions upon the plaintiff, which carried the potential to seriously harm their case even if everything else went well. The simple lesson here is that you should never conceal, delete, or destroy any relevant information sought by the opposing party. Ultimately the content of the text messages remains unimportant in light of the plaintiffs’ spoliation. The plaintiffs should have followed their lawyer’s instruction to preserve the information. Had they turned over the information, their lawyer would have been able to combat the text messages in court in front of the jury. However, due to their actions, they were sanctioned and essentially handcuffed their counselor from undercutting any information contained within the text messages. Spoliation is never the answer even if you are required to turn over information that does not weigh in your favor. These plaintiffs learned the hard way; do not make the same mistake and follow your lawyer’s instructions. A.S. Mitchell received his B.A. in Political Science from the University of Central Florida (2008). He will receive his J.D. from Seton Hall University School of Law in 2015. Want to read more articles like this? Sign up for our post notification newsletter, here.
The court entered its usual case management order setting forth a timeline of how this case was going to proceed. One of the first phases of litigation is the discovery phase. This means that both sides get to ask each other for documents and information regarding the issue in the case. The rules are fairly straightforward in this phase and each side will likely be obligated to provide much of what the opposing side asks for. In the instant case, after doing some manual searching, the plaintiff, Bridgestone, requested to use predictive coding to help sort through over two million documents. Predictive coding, to put it simply, is akin to a smarter keyword search. Keywords are put in and the program searches for those words as well as for other relevant words that it has “learned” to associate with the keywords in order to determine if a document is relevant or not. The defendant, International Business Machines Corporation, objected to Bridgestone’s use of predictive coding. The objection being that it would be an unwarranted change in the case management order. However, the court ruled that predictive coding could be used because under the rules discovery should be efficient and as cost-effective as possible. Thus, predictive coding, which is a smart search, was allowed in this case in order to expedite the discovery phase and save money on manual or other document review techniques. Moral of the story: Predictive coding may be implemented as an efficient discovery technique even if a case management order is already in place. Jessie is a third year student at Seton Hall University School of Law (Class of 2015). She graduated from Rutgers University, New Brunswick, in 2012 with a B.A. in Philosophy and Political Science. Want to read more articles like this? Sign up for our post notification newsletter, here.