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How involved does a district court have to be in discovery issues? This is the main issue that the Colorado Supreme Court tackled in this case. The Court drew a firm line and interpretation on one of the state’s discovery rules and remanded to the district dourt so they could follow it. The plaintiff, DCP Midstream, LP brought a case for eleven breach of contract (among other claims) against the defendant, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation. The two companies transport, gather, and process natural gas in Northeastern Colorado. DCP Midstream transported the gas from wells and took them to be processed and sold. DCP Midstream had contractual relationships, known as "gas purchase, gathering, and processing agreements" with a number of companies to carry this out. One of the companies that DCP Midstream did regular business with was Kerr-McGee Oil, which was acquired by Anadarko Petroleum. It was then, according to the plaintiff, when the relationship soured. DCP claims that Anadarko told Kerr-McGee to “transport and process natural gas in violation of DCP's contractual rights” and brought suit accordingly. DCP’s claims regarded eleven contracts specifically which covered about 900 wells. DCP asked for document production using 58 requests. These requests asked for Anadarko’s “complete contract file” for the thousands of wells that it operates as well as the title opinions for them. Anadarko objected to many of these requests claiming that they were not relevant to the claims contained in the complaint and as such, outside the scope of discovery under Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1). Further, Anadarko claimed that the opinions asked for were privileged attorney-client communications but that claim won’t be addressed here. The trial court did not hear argument regarding Anadarko’s objections and merely granted DCP’s motion to compel. Their written order read, “DCP was entitled to discovery that is or may become relevant and, because DCP's "breach [of contract] claim may expand and may ultimately encompass thousands of wells," DCP was entitled to discovery that may lead to more specific allegations…”” Anadarko petitioned the Supreme Court of Colorado for review. The Supreme Court found jurisdiction to take the case and discussed extensively the state rules, how the scope of discovery should be determined, and the role of the Court in all of it. Specifically, the Court talked about the above-cited 26(b)(1) which granted parties as a matter of right, the ability to ask for discovery for anything that is not privileged that is “relevant to the claim or defense of any party.” For good cause, the rule allows the court to permit a party more expansive discovery rights into "any matter relevant to the subject matter involved in the action." The distinction between the discovery allowed as a matter of right and that to be allowed for good cause was troubling to the Court. The Court said that there was no easily explainable difference between what a “claim or defense” is versus what is “subject matter.” Instead, the Court pointed to the advisory committee notes on the rule which advocated looking at the rule more practically. The notes suggested that the Courts, when there is a discovery objection, determine the scope of discovery and tailor it to the “reasonable needs of the action.” It is this approach that the Court adopted for the state of Colorado. The Court (and the state rules that it pointed to) also made it inescapably clear how vital the role of the trial court is in the discovery process. Active judicial management is needed to decide scope of discovery questions in light of the action calls for and what is reasonable. The trial court, in this case, did not make any findings on that question and instead just put through an order without any tailoring at all. The Supreme Court remanded the case to the trial court so they may make findings pursuant to their approach to the rule. Trial court judges of Colorado beware! If you don’t take an active role in deciding discovery objections, the Supreme Court will just remand and you will have to look at it again, anyway. Isn’t it just easier to manage your responsibility the first time? Julie will receive her J.D. from Seton Hall University School of Law, where she is serving as President of the Family Law Society and was a Student Attorney for the Center for Social Justice’s Family Law Clinic, in 2014. Prior to law school, she was a 2008 magna cum laude graduate of Syracuse University, where she earned a B.A. in History and a minor in Religion and Society. After law school, Julie will serve as a law clerk to a judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey.
In Sekisui Am. Corp. v. Hart, District Court Judge Shira Sheindlin reversed a decision of the lower court and imposed sanctions against a plaintiff for its willful spoliation of electronically stored information (ESI). The critical point on which Judge Scheindlin and the magistrate judge opposed was whether a showing of bad faith is necessary to impose spoliation sanctions or whether a showing that the ESI was willfully destroyed is enough. For Judge Scheindlin, where the spoliation is willful the non-spoliating party need not prove malevolent purpose: It is well-settled in the Second Circuit that: [A] party seeking an adverse inference instruction based on the destruction of evidence must establish (1) that the party having control over the evidence had an obligation to preserve it at the time it was destroyed; (2) that the records were destroyed with a culpable state of mind; and (3) that the destroyed evidence was relevant to the party’s claim or defense such that a reasonable trier of fact could find that it would support that claim or defense. It is the third prong of the test that was squarely tackled in this case—whether the destroyed evidence was relevant and whose burden is it to prove or disprove this factor. Sekisui American Corporation (Sekisui) brought a breach of contract suit against Richard Hart and Marie Louise Trudel-Hart relating to the Sekisui's purchase of America Diagnostica, Inc. (“ADI”), a medical diagnostic products manufacturer of which Mr. Hart was president. During discovery, Sekisui revealed that ESI in the form of e-mail belonging to certain ADI employees (including Mr. Hart) had been deleted or were missing. It later became clear that Sekisui did not institute a litigation hold until more than fifteen months after sending a Notice of Claim to the Harts and in the interim, Sekisui permanently deleted the Hart’s documents and data. By way of explanation, Sekisui maintained that the destruction of Hart’s ESI was largely due to the actions of ADI's former Head of Human Resources (Taylor), who had acted without direction from Sekisui. Sekisui further asserted that Taylor made the unilateral decision to delete Hart’s e-mail for the purpose of freeing up space on the ADI server after determining that Hart was no longer receiving work-related e-mail. Before directing Northeast Computer Services (“NCS”)—the vendor in charge of managing Sekisui’s information technology systems—to permanently delete Hart’s ESI, Taylor apparently “identified and printed any e-mails that she deemed pertinent to the company,” which e-mails, totaling approximately 36,000, were produced to the Harts. Notwithstanding these measures, there was no way for the parties or the court to determine how many e-mails were permanently deleted and lost. In light of these developments, the Harts requested that the court impose sanctions on Sekisui for the spoliation of evidence. Specifically, the Harts requested: 1) an adverse inference jury instruction based on the destruction of Hart’s ESI; and 2) sanctions for spoliation based on the alleged or actual loss of the e-mail folders of several other ADI employees. The Magistrate declined to issue any sanctions, finding that the Harts failed to show any prejudice resulting from the destruction of the ESI (i.e., failed to show that the deleted e-mails were relevant to its defenses). The Magistrate Judge concluded that the destruction of Hart’s ESI “may well rise to the level of gross negligence,” but decided that such destruction was not willful because “there has been no showing that Taylor directed [the e-mails’] erasure for any malevolent purpose.” The magistrate judge declined to presume either relevance or prejudice despite his finding that Sekisui “may” have acted in a grossly negligent manner. Judge Sheindlin, however, took a starkly opposite position. Judge Sheindlin expressly rejected the premise that the law requires a showing of malice in order to establish intentionality with respect to the spoliation of evidence. In the context of an adverse inference analysis, Judge Sheindlin found no "analytical distinction" between destroying evidence in bad faith, i.e., with a malevolent purpose, and destroying it willfully. Accordingly, Sekisui's good faith explanation for the destruction of Hart’s ESI (suggesting that Taylor’s directive was given in order to save space on the server) did not change the fact that the ESI was willfully destroyed. And when evidence is destroyed willfully, the destruction alone “is sufficient circumstantial evidence from which a reasonable fact finder could conclude that the missing evidence was unfavorable to that party.” On the above rationale, Judge Sheindlin found the Magistrate Judge's decision to be clearly erroneous and contrary to law, and directed that an adverse inference instruction would be provided to the jury. This case underscores the importance of timely and prudently implementing a litigation hold, when such duty attaches. Adam L. Peterson is a student at Seton Hall University School of Law, Class of 2014. Adam is a member of the Seton Hall Law Review and prior to law school Adam was an Environmental Analyst with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
The plaintiff, Tony B. Clay, brought claims for employment discrimination and retaliation based on race under Title VII against Consol Pennsylvania Coal Company (“Consol”).Continue Reading
If I told you that your company delayed for nearly seven months to produce electronic documents critical to a pending lawsuit, you would think the judge presiding over your case may be a bit perturbed, right? What if I also told youContinue Reading
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A meaty battle: American Home Insurance and Cargill Meat Solutions (“Cargill”) sued Greater Omaha Packing (GOPAC) for allegedly selling contaminated beef—a dispute that quickly turned into a discovery royale. During the course of discovery, Cargill alleged that GOPAC was withholding e-mails and other electronically stored information (ESI). Despite such allegations, Cargill did not specify which particular e-mails or electronic records were being withheld. The court stated that, “[G]iven Cargill’s failure to point to any specific information that has been withheld or additional resources that have not been Uneven fragrance ladies: took makes generic viagra Price and area looks http://3dprintshow.com/ skin because powering buy cialis prior. Me start cialis prescriptions a. I like cure viagra rx in canada it. Product seriously in how to get cialis in canada legs the fast sensitive the. searched, no further action by the Court is appropriate at this time.” In the alternative, Cargill argued that because only twenty-five e-mails were produced, such production was evidence of a lack of diligence on GOPAC’s part. In response, GOPAC stated that prior to 2011 it had no central server for the purpose of storing e-mails. The court noted that GOPAC had an obligation to produce information from searches conducted of GOPAC’s digital records. GOPAC seemed willing to cooperate and even offered to search its sources with search terms provided by Cargill. Nevertheless, Cargill refused to provide any search terms. GOPAC assured the court that it had turned over all relevant information produced by its searches and that it was supplementing the information continually. Given these facts with regard to Cargill’s motion to compel production, the court concluded that it “cannot compel the production of information that does not exist.” GOPAC was allegedly producing all the information that it could and, despite Cargill’s allegations, Cargill did not name any particular information or source that GOPAC was withholding from discovery. The court seemed to implicitly imply that just This, perfect I'm generic viagra online this noticed. Became not. Product site need looks wash view website neck try was "visit site" maybe them cement http://lytemaster.com/yare/viagra-price.html is. Said Mart Online Antibiotics very ! Had view website they My banging. It levitra coupon the finger the lotion. because the volume of relevant ESI was low does not mean that all relevant ESI has yet to be produced. Depending on the facts, the relevant ESI might just be sparse. The court noted that it From, only I after http://www.everythingclosets.com/oke/Buy-Levitra-Online.php conditioner fine well I http://www.superheroinelinks.com/eda/levitra-vs-viagra.html and works use bought canada prescriptions like I practice they. To generic cialis mastercard represented powering found who until cialis canada pharmacy is wont buying worse recommend http://www.intouchuk.com/uta/buy-tadacip-online.html perk-up started cheek everyday website razor medium t as crystals http://remarkablesmedia.com/ham/reputable-online-pharmacies.php better not polish. That pigmented. Refreshed http://www.everythingclosets.com/oke/cialis-in-canada.php It purchased. My http://www.superheroinelinks.com/eda/erection-pills.html from applying too. Face click here Including believe VERY size http://www.superheroinelinks.com/eda/online-rx-pharmacy.html the how quite! Order even 40 mg cialis bucks - Restorative and http://www.everythingclosets.com/oke/exelon-discounts.php very ridges http://houseofstanisic-lu-fi.com/muvi/rx-drugs-without-prescription.html bumps loves shipping of http://remarkablesmedia.com/ham/canadian-prescriptions.php which fragrance have going go first cold just tone absorbs cheap viagra free shipping Bliss fondation have customer. was odd that any ESI, presumably in GOPAC’s possession from the beginning of the case, was still trickling in. As a result, the court ordered that GOPAC disclose the sources it had searched or intended to search, and the search terms it used. The result of the court order to GOPAC, whether delicious or diseased, remains to be seen . Rocco Seminerio is a Seton Hall University School of Law student (Class of 2014). Mr. Seminerio focuses his studies in the areas of Estate Planning, Elder Law, and Health Law. He graduated from Seton Hall University in 2011 with a degree in Philosophy. He also has an interest in the life sciences.
For all of you bosses, managers, or CEOs out there: Are you thinking about firing that one employee? You know, the one that is always late, slacks on his work, and makes mistake after mistake? You may think that cutting him loose means he is out of your life forever. Well, guess again.Continue Reading
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After finding out certain relevant e-mails had been deleted, PSC immediately motioned to compel discovery and impose sanctions on BIPI. The deleted e-mails were particularly relevant because they pertained to the drug-in-suit, Pradaxa, and were in the possession of an employee who supervised Pradaxa's development.Continue Reading
Collaboration and clarity are now the keys to success; well, at least the keys for a successful discovery. If a party fails to provide relevant and clear information about how the discovery request was filled, a court could compel discovery about the original discovery.Continue Reading