An opinion from Judge Rebecca Doherty in In re Actos (Pioglitazone) Products Liability Litigation, MDL No. 11-2299, provides valuable lessons on the consequences of drafting overly-broad litigation hold notices, as well as the importance of providing evidence from knowledgeable witnesses in defense of document retention procedures.
Litigants who fail to meet e-discovery obligations run the risk not only of being sanctioned, but also of being subject to a court order compelling them to retain an e-discovery vendor. While the use of e-discovery vendors is becoming a common practice, it may add considerable expense to the already costly discovery phase of litigation. Additionally, compelled retention of a vendor may reduce litigants’ control over their own document production.
Nothing “Safe” About It: Companies That Falsely Certify Compliance with the U.S.- E.U Safe-Harbor Framework May Receive Years of Regulatory Oversight
In 2000, the European Commission and U.S. Department of Commerce developed the so-called “U.S.-E.U. Safe-Harbor Framework” as a way to foster data transfer between the United States and E.U. countries notwithstanding concerns that U.S. privacy laws do not offer the same level of protection as E.U. laws with respect to personally identifiable information. As part of the safe-harbor framework, companies that choose to enter the program must publicly declare compliance with the safe-harbor requirements, which include adherence to seven privacy principles touching on the areas of notice, access, data integrity, individual choice (opt in/out rules), security, third-party transfer, and enforcement. The principle of “enforcement” includes making sure that procedures are in place to verify a company’s adherence to the rules and a sanctions regime sufficient to ensure compliance.
Recently, the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department considered whether to adopt and apply the Zubulake standard for the spoliation of electronically-stored information (“ESI”) to a claim for spoliation of an audiotape recording or whether existing New York spoliation doctrine was sufficient. Strong v. City of New York involved a June 30, 2009, accident in which an NYPD vehicle collided with another vehicle, jumped the sidewalk curb and struck five pedestrians, including plaintiff, Kevin Strong. Within 30 days of the accident, three plaintiffs commenced personal injury actions and these were consolidated for trial. On September 21, 2009, less than 90 days after the accident, the City joined issue and interposed the “emergency operation” defense, claiming the police officer’s vehicle was an authorized emergency vehicle engaged in an emergency operation at the time of the accident and, therefore, the City could only be held liable if the officer had acted with reckless disregard for the safety of others.
Coming to a Close: Reflections on the Proposed Amendments to F.R.C.P. 37 Debate at the 2013 Georgetown Advanced eDiscovery Institute as the End of the Public Comment Period Nears
The proposed amendments to F.R.C.P. 37(e) would establish a single standard by which courts will assess culpability and issue sanctions for failure to preserve electronically stored information (“ESI”). Our previous blog post discusses the rule. The proposed amendments to F.R.C.P. 37(e) were recommended for adoption in 2010 and, on June 3, 2013, they were approved for public comment (as part of a package of amendments to several federal rules) by the Judicial Conference of the United States’ Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure. On August 15, 2013, the Committee officially published for public comment the full slate of proposed rule changes. Unsurprisingly, the proposed amendments have generated considerable feedback from the legal community and, indeed, the discussion took center stage at the 2013 Georgetown Advanced eDiscovery Institute on November 22, 2013. With little more than a week to go before the comment period expires, and with, to date, more than 600 comments already posted addressing various aspects of the proposed rule amendments, we thought it might be a good time to reflect upon the discussion at Georgetown, especially for those considering weighing in before the end of the public comment period.
An Arizona federal court has determined that default judgment, an adverse instruction and monetary damages are proper remedies for in-house counsel’s failure to take the proper steps to preserve potentially relevant evidence after receiving notice of potential litigation. In Day v. LSI Corporation, Docket No. CIV-11-186-TUC-CKJ, the United States District Court for the District of Arizona granted, in part, the plaintiff-employee’s motion for entry of a default judgment and imposed additional sanctions against the defendant-employer, concluding that the employer’s in-house attorney had a “culpable mind” and acted willfully in failing to carry out the company’s preservation obligations.
New Jersey State Courts Enter the E-Discovery Arena in Earnest; Award Sanctions for Email Spoliation
On June 18, 2012, an Appellate Court in New Jersey issued Goldmark v. Mellina, which held that asserting the attorney-client privilege does not excuse counsel and parties from their obligation to preserve relevant e-mails or other documents. There, the Court upheld the trial judge’s award of $5,502.50 in sanctions against a prominent New Jersey law firm because it had failed to timely produce electronic documents, which had temporarily disappeared, even though the lapse was not knowing. Because there were virtually no prior opinions (published or unpublished) addressing e-discovery in this jurisdiction, Goldmark is an important first-step towards providing e-discovery guidance to New Jersey practitioners.
In a recent decision out of the New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan, a spoliator’s worst fears were recognized when the Court dismissed its entire Complaint as a sanction for failing to preserve electronic evidence. The decision, 915 Broadway Associates, LLC, v. Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker, LLP, 2012 NY Slip. Op. 50285U (N.Y. Sup. February 16, 2012), is instructive in its clear statement and analysis of New York’s spoliation law and its demonstration of the Court’s willingness to impose the ultimate spoliation sanction where warranted.
Surf at Your Own Risk: For the First Time in New Jersey, Judge Holds Juror In Contempt for Internet Use During Deliberations
Last month, the Hon. Peter E. Doyne, A.J.S.C. found jury foreperson Daniel M. Kaminsky to be in criminal contempt pursuant to R. 1:10-2 for violating several orders of the trial judge that prohibited jurors from engaging in any independent research during trial as set forth in In re Kaminsky, (N.J. Sup. Ct., Bergen County, Mar. 12, 2012). After a mistrial was declared in the underlying criminal drug case and two fellow jurors reported Kaminsky’s Internet use, the Court found beyond a reasonable doubt, in the context of an Order to Show Cause hearing and related in camera proceedings, that (1) Kaminsky conducted independent research; (2) the act was contemptuous; and (3) the conduct was willful and contumacious, “with a complete disregard of the court’s authority and instructions.” Although the foreperson was subject to a maximum punishment of six months in prison, a $1,000 fine or both, he was only fined $500.
Lester v. Allied Part 2: “Clean Up” of Compromising Social Media Evidence Can Result in Severe Sanctions
Though some practitioners might be in denial, the follow-up sanctions orders in Lester v. Allied Concrete Co. et al. dated May 27, 2011 and September 23, 2011 should leave no room for doubt that preservation of social media is as important as any other electronic data or discovery. Similarly, the penalty for intentionally destroying such evidence may reach beyond the purse strings.