When a party voluntarily dumps data on its adversary without first conducting a meaningful privilege review, that party may be deemed to have waived any applicable privileges, particularly where it fails to timely argue that a privilege review would be too costly. That is the lesson of In re Fontainebleau Las Vegas Contract Litig., 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 4105 (S.D. Fla. Jan. 7, 2011), a cautionary tale of the dangers of data dumping. After repeatedly failing to meet court-ordered production deadlines, in response to a subpoena, Fontainebleau Resorts, LLC (“FBR”) essentially dumped on the requesting parties (the “Term Lenders”) three servers containing approximately 800 GB of data–without first conducting any meaningful privilege review. Consequently, in its January 7th decision, the court granted the Term Lenders’ motion seeking a declaration that FBR waived its privilege claims. Had FBR litigated this matter differently, it might have protected its privileged information.
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.