Work-Product Doctrine

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, 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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Letter, Reassess, Repeat: Avoiding Privilege Waiver After Notice of Inadvertent Production of Documents

Technology today often serves as the crutch upon which students and members of the workforce rely to complete and review assignments.  However, such technology does not always efficiently replace good, old-fashioned human effort.  For instance, the spell-checker in Microsoft Word can alert you to a possible mistake but the decision to continue searching for other mistakes must be made by the user.  Indeed, the existence of even one mistake should alert the reader or provider of a document that other mistakes may be present and prompt that person to reevaluate the rest of work.  The 2009 decision United States v. Sensient Colors, Inc. is a critical example of how damaging the failure to promptly and diligently check for additional mistakes can be for privilege invocations during discovery production.

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Government Not Required to Produce ESI in Manner Requested by Defendants in Cocaine Distribution Conspiracy Case

In his November 23 decision, federal Magistrate Judge Hugh Scott held that the government was not required to produce electronically stored information (“ESI”) in the manner requested by the defendants in a 24-person criminal cocaine distribution conspiracy.  Judge Scott made it clear that in the absence of a clear criminal standard, he would follow analogous civil standards for distribution of ESI.  But see Subsequently adopted standards released recently by criminal rules committee.   Defendant Damian Ard, joined by ten other defendants (including the named defendant, Briggs), moved to amend the criminal ESI Order to clarify the manner in which specific government ESI should be produced.  The original ESI Order required the government to choose between producing ESI in its native format and reproducing it in a searchable format.

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Letter, Reassess, Repeat: Avoiding Privilege Waiver After Notice of Inadvertent Production of Documents

Technology today often serves as the crutch upon which students and members of the workforce rely to complete and review assignments; however, such technology does not always efficiently replace good old-fashioned human effort.  For instance, the spell-checker in Microsoft Word can alert you to a possible mistake but the decision to continue searching for other mistakes must be made by the user.  Indeed, the existence of even one mistake should alert the reader or provider of a document that other mistakes may be present and prompt that person to reevaluate the rest of work.  The 2009 decision United States v. Sensient Colors, Inc. is a critical example of how damaging the failure to promptly and diligently check for additional mistakes can be for privilege invocations during discovery production.  

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

I’m sure Yogesh Patel did not “LOL” when a 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. Patel, which, at first glance seems to be a typical personal injury case, turns into an enigmatic situation in which both plaintiff’s and defendant’s counsels appear to be hiding information from each other.

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