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End of the Road: GN Netcom Inc. and Plantronics Settle Eight-Year Litigation Saga Beset by E-Discovery Sanctions

End of the Road: GN Netcom Inc. and Plantronics Settle Eight-Year Litigation Saga Beset by E-Discovery Sanctions

On July 12, 2020, United States District Judge Leonard P. Stark of the District Court for the District of Delaware (“District Court”) approved a joint stipulation of settlement filed by GN Netcom Inc., parent of Jabra headphones, and Plantronics. This settlement will end the eight-year old litigation saga between GN Netcom and Plantronics involving allegations that Plantronics had monopolized the relevant market via exclusive distribution deals which required its distributors to only sells Plantronics’ headsets and not those of its rivals. This case is noteworthy as to e-discovery because of the severe sanctions of $3,000,000 and an adverse inference jury instruction entered by the District Court against Plantronics in 2016 pursuant to then recently amended Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(e). This blog post will not recount the full panoply of discovery abuses addressed in the District Court’s July 12, 2016 Order, but, in broad strokes, Plantronics was found to have acted in bad faith in failing to take reasonable steps to preserve ESI which could not be restored or replaced. The District Court’s sanctions order was entered because Don Houston, a former executive of the company, “double-deleted” thousands of his own relevant emails despite the existence of a legal...

Raising the Specter of Discovery Abuse: The Importance of Developing a Discovery Record Before Filing a Motion to Compel

Raising the Specter of Discovery Abuse: The Importance of Developing a Discovery Record Before Filing a Motion to Compel

Two recent decisions highlight the importance of establishing a record of discovery abuse before filing a motion to compel based upon the commonly held suspicion that a responding party is withholding information and/or has failed to adequately preserve or search for information. Even in situations where a party is convinced that an adversary has failed to produce discoverable information, a litigant will face an uphill climb in pursuing a motion to compel in the absence of concrete evidence as to an adversary’s discovery shortfalls, including evidence of data deletion, untimely or absent preservation efforts, and/or the failure to produce information produced by other parties or third-parties that clearly should be in the possession of the responding party. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc. v. Eastern Mushroom Marketing Cooperative (E.D. Pa.) In a recent decision from the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Judge Schiller denied plaintiffs’ motion to compel in a case where plaintiffs insisted that “there simply must be responsive documents,” but plaintiffs were unable to provide any specific evidence to support their speculation. In this antitrust litigation involving allegations that defendants colluded to raise the price of fresh agarics mushrooms, plaintiffs sought all documents from defendants regarding the sale of mushrooms to plaintiffs....

Claw It Back: Updated Protections of New Jersey Rule of Evidence 530 on Inadvertent Disclosure

Claw It Back: Updated Protections of New Jersey Rule of Evidence 530 on Inadvertent Disclosure

On July 1, 2020, Amended New Jersey Rule of Evidence 530 (Waiver of Privilege by Contract or Previous Disclosure) became effective. N.J.R.E. 530, which tracks Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 502, was amended as a result of the increasing use of electronic discovery in litigation and the associated concerns regarding the potential for the inadvertent disclosures. This blog has frequently addressed decisions involving F.R.E. 502, including in 2019, 2018, and 2012. Amended N.J.R.E. 530 includes significant revisions in paragraph(c), which includes provisions that apply “to disclosure of a communication or information covered by the attorney-client privilege or work-product protection.” N.J.R.E. 530(c). In particular, amended N.J.R.E. 530(c) addresses disclosures made during state proceedings or to state office or agency, N.J.R.E 530(c)(1); inadvertent disclosures, N.J.R.E. 530(c)(2); disclosures made in another forum’s proceeding, N.J.R.E. 530(c)(3); the controlling effect of a court’s order, N.J.R.E. 530(c)(4); and the controlling effect of a party agreement regarding disclosure, N.J.R.E. 530(c)(5). Under the amended Rule, it is clear that a court order regarding disclosure pursuant to N.J.R.E. 530(c)(4) has the potential to have a significant impact on other litigations, as the rule provides that a court order on privilege “is also not a waiver in any other federal...

Don’t Ask For Too Much: Court Strikes Balance in Addressing Dispute Over Discoverability of Social Media

Don’t Ask For Too Much: Court Strikes Balance in Addressing Dispute Over Discoverability of Social Media

In a recent case, Magistrate Judge Mark L. Carman of the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming reminds practitioners that requests for social media data still must be relevant and proportional to the dispute. In this auto accident case, the Court found a balance between the need for defendants to determine whether a plaintiff is lying or exaggerating and the possibility that allowing defendants too much leeway in seeking social media could dissuade injured plaintiffs from pursuing legitimate claims for fear of humiliation and embarrassment. Plaintiff alleged she sustained physical injuries, traumatic brain injury, posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression. In an extraordinarily broad discovery request, defendant requested that plaintiff produce “an electronic copy of your Facebook account history.” Plaintiff downloaded and produced information from her Facebook accounts gathered by using several keyword search terms. However, plaintiff refused to produce her entire Facebook archive, and defendant moved to compel. The Court explained that “[s]ocial media presents some unique challenges to courts” in determining the proper scope of discovery. In particular, Judge Carman explained: “People have always shared thoughts and feelings, but typically not in such a permanent and easily retrievable format. No court would have allowed unlimited...

Signs of Life?  – Judge Francis Opines that “Inherent Authority” to Sanction Spoliation Related Conduct Survives Amended Rule 37(e) 0

Signs of Life? – Judge Francis Opines that “Inherent Authority” to Sanction Spoliation Related Conduct Survives Amended Rule 37(e)

In perhaps the first published decision since the amended Federal Rules took effect on December 6, 2015, United States Magistrate Judge James C. Francis IV, a preeminent judicial e-discovery authority, relied upon amended Rule 37(e) and, somewhat controversially, his inherent authority, to sanction a litigant for evidence tampering and spoliation. The opinion is significant, not solely because it invokes the newly-minted rule, but because it interprets amended Rule 37(e) as not foreclosing the court’s inherent authority as a viable alternative to sanction spoliation-related conduct that may not strictly satisfy the new Rule’s elements.

Adverse Inference Instruction Warranted For Insurer’s Breach of Retention Policy 0

Adverse Inference Instruction Warranted For Insurer’s Breach of Retention Policy

It should come as no surprise that litigants continue to ignore such basic discovery obligations as the duty to preserve potentially relevant documents once litigation is reasonably anticipated. A recent case out of the Northern District of New York exemplifies the importance of patience in establishing a record of discovery abuses, including data deletion, before seeking sanctions to address such situations.

New Jersey District Judge Upholds Sanctions for Camden County’s Grossly Negligent Litigation Hold Procedures 0

New Jersey District Judge Upholds Sanctions for Camden County’s Grossly Negligent Litigation Hold Procedures

On March 21, 2012, New Jersey District Judge Noel Hillman upheld Magistrate Judge Ann Marie Donio’s ruling against Camden County, New Jersey (the “County”) for spoliation of evidence in an insurance dispute arising out of injuries to a motorist on a county road. State National Insurance Co. v. County of Camden, 08-cv-5128 (D.N.J. March 21, 2012). Judge Hillman’s March 21, 2012, decision addresses the County’s appeal of a June 30, 2011, decision of Judge Donio granting State National Insurance Company’s (“State National”) motion regarding the County’s failure to preserve electronically stored information (“ESI”). Specifically, the County failed to institute a litigation hold, to disable its automatic email deletion program, and to preserve copies of its backup tapes after litigation was commenced.

In re Facebook Privacy Litigation – Uphill Battle for Plaintiffs 0

In re Facebook Privacy Litigation – Uphill Battle for Plaintiffs

In a recent case in California, Facebook account holders filed a putative class action lawsuit against Facebook, alleging that Facebook knowingly forwarded personal information to online advertisers without its users’ consent. In In re Facebook Privacy Litigation, Plantiffs asserted eight causes of action against Facebook, including violations of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 2510, et seq. and various California laws (both statutory and common law), and all were dismissed.

Caution to Anonymous Internet Posters – Your Cover Might Be Blown 0

Caution to Anonymous Internet Posters – Your Cover Might Be Blown

Next time you consider posting something on the Internet, think again as your identity could be revealed! Under the presumed cloak of anonymity, individuals often throw caution to the wind and voice controversial and unfiltered views on the Internet. Based upon a recent ruling by an Indiana State Court in a defamation case, however, the rules of engagement on the Internet may have changed.

Blind CCs and “Replies to All” – An Email Trap for the Unwary Attorney 0

Blind CCs and “Replies to All” – An Email Trap for the Unwary Attorney

Some traditional practices from the paper era don’t translate well to the world of e-communication. And some are downright dangerous. Back in the day, attorneys would often “bcc” their clients on correspondence to adversaries, an efficient and relatively safe means of keeping the client apprised. No longer in the age of email, where the ability to instantly respond invites quick, at times reactionary, replies that can easily fall into the wrong hands, with potentially devastating consequences.