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.
Despite recent decisions from courts of last resort on State and federal levels, some jurisdictions are not extending full protection to otherwise privileged communications made through work-issued computers and PDAs. We last wrote on this issue after the New Jersey Supreme Court held that an employee did not waive the attorney-client privilege when using a company computer to communicate with her attorney via a personal password-protected e-mail account. Stengart v. Loving Care Agency. A short time later, in Quon v. Arch Wireless, the United States Supreme Court determined that the search of an employee’s text messages on a work-issued pager was reasonable and did not violate the employee’s Fourth Amendment rights. In the wake of these holdings, courts in other jurisdictions continue to make their own path through this new area of law. In Holmes v. Petrovich Development Company, LLC, the latest in the line of cases, the California Court of Appeals held that an employee’s e-mail communications with her attorney from her work computer did not constitute “‘a confidential communication between client and lawyer'” under Section 954 of the California Evidence Code.
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.