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.
Some traditional practices from the paper era don’t translate well to the world of e-communication. And some are downright dangerous. Back in the day, attorneys would often “bcc” their clients on correspondence to adversaries, an efficient and relatively safe means of keeping the client apprised. No longer in the age of email, where the ability to instantly respond invites quick, at times reactionary, replies that can easily fall into the wrong hands, with potentially devastating consequences.
That was the lesson of a recent case out of the New York State Supreme Court, Nassau County, where the court refused to order a forensic examination of a plaintiff’s personal computer hard drive. DeRiggi v. Krischen arose out of the death of a woman during a routine surgical procedure to treat lower back pain. Plaintiffs alleged that her death was the result of perforation of the left common iliac vein by a “Spine Jet HydroDisectomy” system utilized during the procedure. Plaintiffs further alleged, among other things, that the manufacturer of the system misrepresented the risks affiliated with its use, and one of the plaintiffs, the decedent’s husband, testified at deposition that he and his wife visited the manufacturer’s website prior to the surgery and read that the procedure “felt like a bee sting and nothing more.”
The 2010 E-Discovery Landscape: Panel Discussion on the Essential E-Discovery Decisions of 2010 at Gibbons Fourth Annual E-Discovery Conference
Gibbons’ Fourth Annual E-Discovery Conference kicked off with a panel discussion on the essential e-discovery decisions from 2010. The panel, comprised of renowned e-discovery authority Michael Arkfeld of Arkfeld & Associates, Scott J. Etish, Esq., an associate at Gibbons and member of the firm’s E-Discovery Task Force, and the Hon. John J. Hughes, United States Magistrate Judge for the District of New Jersey (Retired), addressed numerous recent decisions related to the following areas: (1) the need for outside and inside counsel to monitor compliance; (2) obtaining electronically stored information from foreign companies; (3) cooperation between adverse parties; (4) social media discovery; (5) searches and inadvertently disclosed privilege documents; and (6) legal holds and sanctions. The panel provided guidance as to best practices related to numerous areas, including navigating e-discovery challenges in the aftermath of the seminal Pension Committee, Rimkus and Victor Stanley II decisions. A brief summary of all of the cases the panel discussed is available here, and a copy of the PowerPoint slides the panel used is available here.