In its October 3, 2011 issue, the editorial team of LitigationWorld chose Mark S. Sidoti’s September 28, 2011 blog post entitled New Jersey District Judge Grants Spoliation Sanctions Citing Negligent Litigation Hold Procedures as its Pick of the Week. LitigationWorld is a free weekly email newsletter that provides helpful tips regarding electronic discovery, litigation strategy, and litigation technology. Each week, the editorial team chooses the most noteworthy and insightful articles on the litigation web published during the previous week and, from those, selects one as their Pick of the Week.
Category: Litigation Preparedness and Strategies
Failure to properly preserve electronic evidence continues to provide at-risk litigants with the ability to steer the court from scrutiny of the merits, and drastically shift the balance of litigation leverage. The latest example of this is NVE, Inc. v. Palmeroni out of the District of New Jersey. This case involved NVE’s claims of breach of fiduciary duty against its former employee Palmeroni. At least on the specific Complaint allegations, NVE’s case against Palmeroni seems formidable — while working as a NVE salesman, the defendant allegedly entered into secret kickback arrangements with product purchasers, and formed a dummy entity with another NVE employee to divert sales of NVE’s products for their own benefit. Palmeroni was terminated in 2006 and later sued by NVE. Seems like a pretty good case, if the court and a jury could get to it.
So You Want to Be “Friends?” Why Attorneys Should Think Twice About “Friending” Represented Parties or Witnesses on Facebook
So you, as an attorney, want to be Facebook “friends” with an unrepresented party or witness? Well, what is your motivation? If you practice in California and want to use the private information in furtherance of your client’s case, think again because doing so may violate ethical rules and constitute engaging in “impermissible deception.”
On June 17, 2011, United States District Court Judge Scheindlin issued a brief opinion and order withdrawing her February 7, 2011 opinion, which had held that certain metadata should be considered an “integral part” of an electronic record and must be produced by the government in responding to a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request. Our prior posting on this opinion can be found here. The Court withdrew its June 2011 opinion because “subsequent admissions” have revealed that the Court’s decision “was not based on a full and developed record.”
Motion for Sanctions Denied Due to DuPont’s Reasonable, Professional Efforts to Implement and Update Litigation Hold Notices
On April 27, 2011, the Court denied Defendant Kolon Industries, Inc.’s (“Kolon”) motion for sanctions against E.I. du Pont De Nemours and Company (“DuPont”) for alleged spoliation of four employees’ e-mail accounts and documents in litigation regarding trade secret misappropriation, theft of confidential information and other related business torts. E.I. du Pont De Nemours and Co. v. Kolon Industries, Inc., Civil Action No. 3:09cv58, 2011 U.S. Dist. (E.D. Va. Apr. 27, 2011). In essence, the Court concluded there was no spoliation because DuPont’s efforts to implement and update litigation hold notices – as well as the company’s commitment to its electronic discovery obligations – were reasonable.
In October 2010, Facebook announced a new Download Your Information (“DYI”) feature, billed as “an easy way to quickly download to your computer everything you’ve ever posted on Facebook and all your correspondences with friends: your messages, wall posts, photos, status updates and profile information.” The Facebook announcement included a short video detailing how to use the feature. Cnet TV has a more in-depth video. Craig Ball also wrote an article about this feature in the February 23, 2011 issue of Law Technology News.
The explosion of social media and the universal availability of electronic devices have presented a host of courtroom issues the judicial system must address, ranging from substantive legal questions like the admissibility of Facebook accounts and Twitter postings, to more ministerial issues such as the extent to which electronic devices may be utilized by counsel in the courtroom. While different courts have reached varied conclusions on these questions, courts have uniformly rejected any attempt by jurors to use technology to research a case or to post information about a case to social media sites, and increasingly use pre-trial and post-closing jury instructions.
A defendant in an employment action discovers through Facebook that a plaintiff has lied about her discrimination claim. The information essentially undermines plaintiff’s entire claim. However, such information does not make it to a factfinder at trial unless the evidentiary foundations can be established — proof of authorship and timeliness. These evidentiary foundations are not easy to establish in the ever-changing medium of social media. The anonymity offered by some social networking sites may be what makes them attractive to users, but it also makes establishing authorship of content difficult. Similarly, social media sites are constantly changing, as users can add, remove or edit content at any time. As a result, recreating a post or a profile from a particular moment in time can be difficult, if not impossible, depending on how a partciluar site functions.
To echo a popular tag line frequently heard on Top 40 radio stations, when it comes to court-imposed sanctions for e-discovery failures, “the hits just keep on comin’!” According to a recent study published in the Duke Law Journal, sanctions for e-discovery violations are occurring more frequently than ever. Dan H. Willoughby, Jr., Rose Hunter Jones, Gregory R. Antine, Sanctions for E-Discovery Violations: By The Numbers, 60 Duke Law J. 789 (2010). However, there may be light at the end of the tunnel, as it appears that the frequency of sanctions awards is trending downward after hitting an all-time high in 2009.
Judge Scheindlin Rules That Metadata is Integral Part of ESI, Admonishes Counsel for Failing to Meet & Confer Concerning Form of ESI Production
In her most recent e-discovery opinion, United States District Court Judge Scheindlin held that certain metadata should be considered an “integral part” of an electronic record and must be produced by the government in responding to a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request. National Day Laborer Org. Network v. United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11655, at *7 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 7, 2011). Judge Scheindlin also expressly admonished practitioners for failing to meet and confer concerning the form of ESI productions and reminded counsel that such cooperation and communication is required “to comply with the expectations that courts now demand of counsel with respect to expensive and time-consuming document production.” Had counsel in the case before her done so, the costly motion practice attendant to this FOIA production could have been avoided.