Tagged: Case Summaries

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....

Disappearing Act: Northern District of California Issues Rare Terminating Sanctions for Spoliation on a Massive Scale

Disappearing Act: Northern District of California Issues Rare Terminating Sanctions for Spoliation on a Massive Scale

In WeRide Corp. v. Kun Huang, the Northern District of California addressed an egregious case of discovery abuses and spoliation by defendants in a business litigation involving the alleged theft of autonomous vehicle technology. Applying Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 37(b) and 37(e), the court issued rare terminating sanctions against several defendants who willfully and intentionally deleted various forms of ESI, including relevant emails, status reports, and source code, well after the commencement of litigation and after a preservation order issued by the court requiring the preservation of such information. Defendants compounded these abuses by adopting the use of “DingTalk,” an ephemeral communication technology, after the court had issued the preservation order. WeRide, a technology company engaged in the business of developing autonomous cars, employed defendant Jing Wang as CEO in January 2018. WeRide alleged that Wang went on to form his own company, AllRide, as a direct competitor. WeRide also alleged that former employee defendant Kun Huang was recruited by Wang to work for AllRide while still employed by WeRide. WeRide alleged that Huang downloaded various forms of data during this time period and transferred this data onto several USB devices from two WeRide-issued computers, then proceeded to delete...

“Private” Facebook Posts Are Discoverable and Should Be Treated as Any Other Source of Discoverable Information

“Private” Facebook Posts Are Discoverable and Should Be Treated as Any Other Source of Discoverable Information

The New York Court of Appeals unanimously ruled in Forman v. Henkin that “private” Facebook posts (i.e., those accessible only to your Facebook “friends,” as opposed to the general public) are discoverable if they meet the common discovery standard—that they are “material and necessary to the prosecution or defense of an action.” In Forman, plaintiff alleged she was severely injured when she fell from defendant’s horse. Plaintiff alleged her injuries impaired her ability to communicate and participate in what she described as the active lifestyle she enjoyed before the accident. Plaintiff alleged she posted on Facebook many photographs that depicted her pre-accident lifestyle, but that communicating on that social media platform had become so difficult after the accident that she deactivated the account six months later. She alleged that, after her accident, it would take hours to write a message on Facebook because she would have to re-read it several times before sending it to be sure that it made sense. Defendant requested an unlimited authorization to obtain plaintiff’s “private” Facebook account postings, arguing they would be relevant to plaintiff’s claims. The Supreme Court ordered plaintiff to produce all photographs (that were not of a romantic or sexual nature) and an...

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.

Proportionality Carries the Day: Amended FRCP 26 Cited to Quash Overbroad Subpoenas 0

Proportionality Carries the Day: Amended FRCP 26 Cited to Quash Overbroad Subpoenas

As practitioners are well aware, the recent amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure took effect on December 1, 2015. In one of the first applications of amended Rule 26(b)(1), Magistrate Judge James Cott in the Southern District of New York utilized it to quash several overbroad subpoenas. In Henry v. Morgan’s Hotel Group, Inc., plaintiff Phillip Henry, a gay black man, sued his former employer, defendant Morgan’s Hotel Group, for race and sexual orientation discrimination and retaliation. Henry alleged that his former supervisor routinely disparaged him with racial and homophobic remarks.

N.Y. Court Grants Spoliation Sanctions for Destruction of Documents Decades Ago 0

N.Y. Court Grants Spoliation Sanctions for Destruction of Documents Decades Ago

In Warren v. Amchem Products, Inc., Justice Peter Moulton sanctioned defendant J-M Manufacturing Company for destroying documents in 1990 and 1997 – 24 years and 17 years, respectively, before the Warren Estate filed suit against asbestos manufacturers in 2014. The Court granted plaintiff’s motion for spoliation sanctions and ordered that, should the case proceed to trial, the jury will be instructed that it may infer that the destroyed documents would have supported plaintiff’s claims and would not have supported J-M’s defenses.

Software License Cannot Be Used as a “Shield” Against Production 0

Software License Cannot Be Used as a “Shield” Against Production

In Pero v. Norfolk Southern Railway, Co., No. 14-cv-16 (E.D. Tenn. Dec. 1, 2014), the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee concluded that a party cannot use a video software license to block a party from obtaining relevant evidence. Pero, an employee of Norfolk, sued after he was injured while operating a locomotive. The train was equipped with a camera and recorded the events leading to Pero’s injuries. Pero moved to compel production of the video, which could only be viewed using a proprietary software program. Norfolk moved for a protective order, arguing that providing a copy of the video would exceed the scope of its software license. Norfolk took the position that Pero had to pay $500 to purchase his own license or Pero could view the video in Norfolk’s counsel’s office.

E-Discovery Year-in-Review 2014: Panel at Gibbons Eighth Annual E-Discovery Conference Discusses Recent Developments, Issues, and Trends 0

E-Discovery Year-in-Review 2014: Panel at Gibbons Eighth Annual E-Discovery Conference Discusses Recent Developments, Issues, and Trends

On December 5, 2014, Gibbons hosted its Eighth Annual E-Discovery Conference. The day’s first session discussed the year’s significant developments and featured panelists Michael Arkfeld, Principal at Arkfeld & Associates, and two Gibbons E-Discovery Task Force members; Director Jennifer Hradil and Associate Michael Landis.