Two recent decisions in the same case illustrate that, when it comes to imposing sanctions for spoliation of evidence, what matters is not simply whether you’ve intentionally deleted relevant evidence, but how you go about deleting it, and what the record reflects about your intentions. Although both the plaintiff and the defendant in E.I. du Pont De Nemours and Co. v. Kolon Industries, Inc., Civil Action No. 3:09cv58, demonstrated that the other intentionally destroyed relevant evidence, as is detailed below, the Court sanctioned only defendant Kolon Industries, Inc. (“Kolon”) based on its manifest bad faith (read the decision here). As is discussed in an earlier post on Gibbons’ E-Discovery Law Alert (which you can read here), plaintiff E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (“DuPont”) escaped a similar fate based on its demonstrable good faith. In short, this case teaches that the intentional deletion of relevant evidence does not per se lead to sanctions. Rather, the parties’ conduct — or misconduct, as the case may be — must be judged contextually.
Tagged: Backup Tapes
Trial Court Says New York’s “Requester Pays” Rule Applies Only to Data That Is Not Readily Available
As discussed in a recent post, there exists a dichotomy between the New York state and federal courts with respect to which party should bear the cost of producing inaccessible data. A recent New York Supreme (Trial) Court decision held that New York’s standard “requester pays” rule only applies to data that is not “readily available.” Silverman v. Shaoul, 2010 N.Y. Slip Op. 20507, 2010 N.Y. Misc. (Sup. Ct. New York Cty. Nov. 3, 2010).
Confidentiality agreements and protective orders are a commonplace, yet indispensable, feature of modern commercial litigation. These agreements are typically the end result of a series of negotiations between counsel specifically designed to balance the seemingly incompatible objectives of ensuring ready access to vital evidence and ensuring that sensitive information, such as trade secrets, remains carefully shrouded from the public eye and industry competitors. The importance of ensuring that sensitive information remains confidential vis-à-vis the world at large during a lawsuit cannot be overstated. Confidentiality agreements often provide detailed provisions addressing who may access information and how information may be used. Once the litigation has concluded, parties are often faced with the sometimes challenging task of ensuring that all confidential information is either returned to the producing party or destroyed. Without proper planning, it may be difficult to put the proverbial genie back into the bottle.
Orbit One: Inadequate ESI Preservation Does Not Merit Sanctions Absent Evidence That Relevant Information Has Been Destroyed
Orbit One Communications, Inc. v. Numerex Corp., 2010 WL 4615547 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 26, 2010) represents a dichotomy in jurisprudence on ESI preservation efforts and the imposition of automatic sanctions. In Orbit One, Magistrate Judge James C. Francis, IV found that regardless of how inadequate a litigant’s preservation efforts may be, sanctions are not appropriate without proof that “information of significance” has been lost. The court determined that the threshold determination must be “whether any material that has been destroyed was likely relevant even for purposes of discovery.” In so holding, the court discussed and diverged from Judge Shira A. Scheindlin’s decision in Pension Committee of the University of Montreal Pension Plan v. Banc of America Securities, LLC, which earlier held that sanctions may be warranted for inadequate preservation efforts even if no relevant evidence is lost. 685 F. Supp.2d 456, 465 (S.D.N.Y. 2010).
A recent article in the New York Law Journal by the secretary of the e-discovery committee of the Commercial and Federal Litigation Section of the New York State Bar Association underscored the confusion that remains in New York courts with respect to which party is responsible for bearing the cost of electronic document production. The article discusses cases that, on the one hand, state “what many have long believed was the rule in New York,” that “generally, the cost of [electronic] document production is borne by the party requesting the production.” Response Personnel, Inc. v. Aschenbrenner, 77 A.D.3d 518, 519, 909 N.Y.S.2d 433, 434 (1st Dept. 2010) (emphasis added). On the other hand, the First Department has also held that they “see no reason to deviate from the general rule that, during the course of the action, each party should bear the expenses it incurs in responding to discovery requests.” Clarendon Nat. Ins. Co. v. Atl. Risk Mgmt., Inc., 59 A.D.3d 284, 286, 73 N.Y.S.2d 69, 70 (1st Dept. 2009) (citing Waltzer v. Tradescape & Co., L.L.C., 31 A.D.3d 302, 819 N.Y.S.2d 38 (1st Dept. 2006)).
Different Approaches to Cost Shifting in New York State and Federal Courts for Production of Inaccessible ESI
In Spring 2009, the Joint E-Discovery Subcommittee of The Association of The Bar of the City of New York issued a Manual for State Trial Courts Regarding Electronic Discovery Cost-Allocation, highlighting the different approaches taken by state and federal courts in New York. One key difference is how they approach cost shifting when it comes to the production of inaccessible ESI.