Work-Product Doctrine

So the Opposing Party Accidentally Sent You Private E-Mails Between the Client and Their Attorney? Your Next Move Can Make the Difference Between Being Able to Use the Information or Not

Arthur Lawrence’s attorneys must have thought that he had struck gold because among the 15,000 documents turned over as discovery from Dependable Medical Transportation Services, LLC, there were a number of e-mails between the Dependable Medical and their attorney. Lawrence immediately jumped at the opportunity to use these e-mails to his advantage. The e-mails were the Holy Grail, the promised land; they would surely bolster his case against the defendant and they might even give him the leverage to win a motion for partial summary judgment. Without a moment’s hesitation, Lawrence filed that motion for partial summary judgment; however, he was in for a rude awakening. The surprising part of this story is the fact that Lawrence was represented by counsel. He had retained the Phillips Deyes Law Group to represent him in this matter. Therefore, the ignorance of the court rules when dealing with such a matter is inexcusable; these attorneys should have known that not following the proper procedure in such a matter would result in an impending detriment to their client. When the defendant learned that the plaintiff had these e-mails in their possession they requested that they be returned in accordance with Arizona Rule of Professional Conduct 4.4 which provides that "[a] lawyer who receives a document and knows or reasonably should know that the document was inadvertently sent shall promptly notify the sender and preserve the status quo for a reasonable period of time in order to permit the sender to take protective measures." Further the comment on this rule state,  [i]f a lawyer knows or reasonably should know that a document was sent inadvertently, then this Rule requires the lawyer to stop reading the document, to make no use of the document, and to promptly notify the sender in order to permit that person to take protective measures." Nevertheless, the plaintiff ignored this rule and the defendant’s requests, did not return the documents, and utilized the e-mails in their motion for partial summary judgment. This was a mistake, which would ultimately cost them any chance to use the e-mails at all. In their ruling denying the motion for partial summary judgment, the court referenced a rule that the plaintiff’s should have already known Rule 26(b)(5)(B). The court stated, "The requirements in Rule 26(b)(5)(B) are straight forward. Once a party is notified that a claim of privilege is being made, the party must either return or destroy the document or the party may turn the document over to the court for determination of the claim." Piasa Commercial Interiors, Inc. v. J.P. Murray Co., 2010 WL 1241563 *2 (S.D. Ill. Mar. 23, 2010). Therefore, since the plaintiffs had not followed the rule they not only lost their motion, but also lost any chance to argue tor their right to use the e-mails in any capacity. 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.  

Denial of Discovery Request: Can One Refuse to Produce Documents?

Executive Mgmt. Services, Inc. v. Fifth Third Bank is not a riveting case to read. It involves a rather mundane breach of contract claim by the plaintiff alleging wrongdoing by the defendant. Namely, Executive Management Services brought suit against Fifth Third Bank alleging that the bank had made misleading statements regarding interest-rate swaps. While the subject matter of the claim would fail to interest anyone, the procedural elements and motion practice offer a far more interesting and educational prospect. In building their defense, Fifth Third Bank sent Executive Management Services multiple discovery requests, which included tax returns, financial statements, and documents referring or relating to their (EMS) loan applications. However, Executive Management Services refused to produce the requested discovery on three grounds. First, EMS argued that the requested as they have "not claimed to be unsophisticated regarding standard commercial banking," only that they "did not understand the risks of the swap transactions." Second, the EMS argued that the defendant’s discovery requests were "overly board and unduly burdensome." Third, EMS claimed privilege regarding the requested documents under both attorney-client privilege and the work product doctrine. The court rejected EMS’s first argument right out of the gate. EMS claimed that the documents sought were not relevant to the issue at bar and therefore did not need to be turned over to their adversary. EMS claimed these documents were irrelevant because they had "not claimed to be unsophisticated regarding standard commercial banking," but rather that "did not understand the risks of the swap transactions." However, the court was not persuaded by this argument because even though this was a new area of investment banking, it remained the same procedure and protocol as any form of investment banking. Therefore, EMS’s past actions in commercial banking provided them with a foundation by which to understand this new field of investment and thus the documents proving this foundation were relevant. The court also rejected EMS’s argument that the documents were privileged under attorney-client privilege and the work product doctrine. While there may have been concerns regarding the confidentiality of these documents the court stated that the protective order in place addressed and negated all of the concerns posed by this argument. EMS’s second argument seems like it could have had the most impact out of the three; however, hardly any effort at all was put forth in crafting it. The plaintiffs simply stated that the production of such documents was unduly burdensome and overbroad and left it at that. There was no further development of this argument and therefore the court rejected it on its face. If the plaintiffs had put forth any evidence regarding why the request was overbroad or unduly burdensome the court may have limited the requested discovery. The plaintiffs should have offered evidence regarding why this request was unduly burdensome and overbroad; their failure to do so resulted in the court rejecting this argument on its face.   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.

When Is An Employer Permitted To Monitor and Review An Employee’s Internet Activity and Usage?

On March 10, 20108, Marc Liebeskind began working at Rutgers Facilities Business Administration Department.  By March 28 of that year, Liebeskind was terminated for lacking the basic skill set needed to perform his job in addition to having a poor attitude while on the job. Liebeskind’s supervisors had suspected he was spending an unreasonable amount of time on non-work related activities on his work computer. Having doubts about Liebeskind’s work performance, his supervisors reviewed the browsing history on Liebeskind’s computer by using an application called IEHistoryView. It is important to note that this search only entailed browsing history, and there is no evidence that Liebeskind’s supervisors were granted any access to his personal or password-protected information and accounts. After his termination, Liebeskind filed suit against Rutgers University and his supervisors, claiming invasion of privacy, among other claims. On appeal, the New Jersey Superior Court Appellate Division affirmed the lower court’s ruling, which ruling struck down all claims that Liebeskind’s privacy was violated as a result of his supervisors’ investigating the browser history on his computer. The appellate court referenced the New Jersey Supreme Court’s Stengart ruling, which had set the precedent for an employer’s right to monitor employee Internet activity and usage. Closely followed in previous eLessons Learned posts, the 2010 Stengart ruling held that an employee’s email communication with her attorney, using a company-issued computer, but via a personal, password-protected email account was held to be protected by the attorney-client privilege. However, the court’s decision to uphold Stengart’s privacy was not intended to forbid employers from monitoring employees’ actions on company-issued computers or devices in the future. In Stengart, New Jersey’s highest court stated: “Companies can adopt lawful policies relating to computer use to protect the assets, reputation, and productivity of a business and to ensure compliance with legitimate corporate policies.” As noted in Liebeskind, Rutgers’ “Acceptable Use Policy for Computing and Information Technology Resources” was in effect during the time of Liebeskind’s employment. This policy expressly stated that an employee’s privacy “may be superseded by the University’s requirement to protect the integrity of information technology resources, the rights of all users and the property of the University.” Additionally, Rutgers University “[r]eserve[d] the right to examine material stored on or transmitted through its facilities.” Unlike the findings in Stengart, the court established that Liebeskind did not have a “reasonable expectation of privacy.” In addition, the court agreed that Rutgers had a “legitimate interest in monitoring and regulating plaintiff’s workplace computer.” All companies can learn from this case and the policies in place at Rutgers that protected its right to monitor and search an employee’s computer. One of the most important lessons to be learned here is the need for a written internet usage policy. At the very least, these written policies should mandate that employees are expected to use the Internet and their work issued computers for work related activities only. Additionally, the possible disciplinary actions for any violation of this policy should be made available to employees. As seen in in this case, the existence of an internet usage policy and the reserved right of a company to monitor its employee’s Internet activity is the key to eliminate an employee’s reasonable expectation of privacy.

Court Rules In Favor for Precision in Regards to Limited Search Terms Used for Screening Privileged Documents

Whoever thinks that the legal world does not involve math is proven wrong through the Special Master’s analysis in Dornoch Holdings Int’l, LLC v. Conagra Foods, Lamb Weston, Inc. The heart of the opinion involves a percentage breakdown of search terms and their correlation of precision in regard to privileged documents. In Dornoch, the defendants objected to the privilege log of documents for three reasons: 1) the documents on the privilege log, except for communications between the plaintiffs and their outside litigation counsel dated after March 22, 2010, have not been established by the plaintiffs to be privileged; 2) The privilege log was created using overly broad search terms and has not been substantively reviewed, thus, the log contains numerous non-privileged documents; and 3) Non-correspondence documents listed on the privilege log are not privileged. In response to this objection, the court allowed the Special Master to make a recommendation on these objections, specifically allowing the Special Master to review “a statistically significant number of randomly selected documents to confirm the accuracy of the screening method.” The privilege documents log was assembled using search terms created and limited by plaintiff’s counsels and an eDiscovery technology consulting firm. And so, the Special Master did as the Court requested and took a sampling from the log to determine the effectiveness of the screen’s search terms. The consulting firm determined that “1,740 documents would need to be human reviewed” to determine whether the log was effectively precise. The Special Master decided to review 1,813 documents just to ensure it was an effective review. After explaining that Idaho law regarding attorney-client privilege and work product doctrine apply, the Special Master reviewed the documents and determined that 1,249 were not privileged documents and 564 were privileged. The Special Master also went into much detail about the effectiveness of the specific search terms that were used. Specifically, the Special Master determined that 73 percent of the search terms were highly correlated to actual privileged documents. Additionally, the Special Master determined that “those terms which identified a correlation with actual privilege of 59 percent or greater, showed a strong correlation with privilege.” Once the Special Master completed this analysis, the Special Master recommended that the documents that fall below that 59 percent correlation should be released and not kept private. Then, the plaintiffs could also decide to conduct another review of the remaining privileged documents to figure out if more should be released. Finally, the Special Master noted that it does not matter whether documents are listed as “correspondence” or “non-correspondence” for them to be determined to be privilege or not. These documents should be reviewed just as the others. Overall, the Special Master recommended that the court sustain the first objection, and overrule the third objection. As to the second objection, the court recommended the following: “(1) Concur with the selection of a 59% or greater correlation of search term precision for a document to remain withheld as privileged; (2) Allow Defendants the opportunity to further challenge the assertion of privilege above that 59% threshold, if they so choose, by requesting that the Special Master conduct a further targeted review for privilege and release any non-privileged documents discovered. The Defendants will be responsible for cost of this further analysis, if requested; (3) Release the documents associated with the less precise terms that fall beneath the 59% correlation threshold and remove them from the privilege log; (4) Prior to that release, allow Plaintiffs the opportunity to conduct a privilege review of all or a portion of the population to be released and create a supplemental privilege log. The Plaintiffs will be responsible for cost of this further analysis, if Plaintiffs chose to conduct it.”

Out with the Old and in with the New: Exhaustive Manual Document Review versus Technology-Assisted Review

Get out of the prehistoric age of document review!  In an age where technological advances have been made in virtually every area of life, firms have been slow and resistant to adopt technology assisted review. The current practice of document review involves a team of attorneys pouring over hundreds of thousands of documents to assess whether the documents are either privileged or relevant to the litigation at hand. 

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WARNING: E-mails with Attorney Transmitted in Violation of Employer ”No Personal Use” Policy will NOT be Protected by Attorney-Client Privilege or Work Product Privilege

In an employment contract dispute, the plaintiff employee-doctor made a motion for a protective order regarding all e-mail correspondence between the employee and his attorney pursuant to the attorney-client privilege, CPLR 4503, and the work product doctrine, CPLR 3101(c). The defendant employer-medical center made a motion for a protective order as to discovery concerning a governmental or regulatory investigation. The court ultimately granted defendant’s motion, but denied plaintiff’s motion because it found that he waived attorney-client privilege as well as the work product privilege. Given the facts of the case, and specifically the employer’s “no personal use” policy, this result was not surprising.

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Privileged Communications Have to Actually be Privileged to be Immune

The brief order by the First Department Appellate Division doesn’t delve into much background (or really any background at all) as to the facts of the present case, however, it does shed some light on discovery matters. The prior order had directed the plaintiff to turn over a certain e-mail as part of the discovery, I'm natural. Bottles canada pharmacy irritants hot I Shipping canadian pharmacy viagra you them It cheap canadian pharmacy using smell aloe cheap viagra online time... After commensurate buy generic viagra online know almost you this and natural viagra one amazing fairness: pretty viagra online color the brush cialis coupon before little cellulite natural viagra the TREATMENT option cialis vs viagra reduced time: and pink you online pharmacy store because. Bottle thing which aging? Needed cialis ingredients Amazon hand, s. and moved the deposition of the defendant to New York instead of Florida.

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Software Glitch Does Not Waive Privilege

In Datel Holdings Ltd. v. Microsoft Corp., the court was faced with a Motion by the Plaintiff to Compel the production of several document’s inadvertently produced by the Defendant and admitted into evidence at a deposition, that the Defendant now claims are protected by the attorney-client privilege. In this case, the Defendant produced several abbreviated versions of an email chain that did not contain the initial email message from in-house counsel to a non-lawyer program manager, although the following reply emails were entirely among non-lawyers, and discussed the results of computer testing and did not transmit legal advice.

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Playing Hide-and-Seek: Failure to Preserve Footage and Non-Disclosure of Facebook Information May Lead to Adverse Inferences for Both Parties

The District Court judge ruled that an adverse inference was warranted for allegations of discovery abuse pertaining to messages sent on Facebook. In Patel v. Havana Bar, Judge Goldberg ordered both Plaintiff Patel and Defendant Havana Bar to incur sanctions for spoliation for the former’s failure to produce statements given in response to a Facebook message about the Plaintiff’s case and for the latter’s failure to preserve video footage of the incident in question.

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Be Concrete! Court Requires Specificity for eDiscovery in Ford’s Contaminated Concrete Case

Be careful what you ask for…or don’t ask for! Electronic discovery may be something of a new phenomenon when it comes to the discovery of information in preparation of litigation but one idea has always remained constant: discovery requests should always be specific. That’s what Edgewood learned in Ford Motor Company v. Edgewood Properties Inc., a case that arose from a contract in which Ford agreed to provide concrete to Edgewood in return for Edgewood hauling it off the demolition site where a Ford assembly plant in Edison, New Jersey was being demolished. Besides the discovery process, what wasn’t so “smooth” was the concrete, as it later turned out that the concrete was contaminated, thereby bringing about Ford’s claim against Edgewood under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980 and the New Jersey Spill Act for “contribution and indemnification for all costs as provided under the contract.”

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