Gibbons Law Alert Blog

Parties’ Obligations Under the Federal Rules “Reign” Supreme and Render Language in ESI Protocol Unnecessary

In Raine Group v. Reign Capital, the Southern District of New York highlighted parties’ affirmative obligations under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 26 and 34 when conducting ESI searches and determining the identities of custodians and locations of relevant documents or information. In particular, the court emphasized that an agreement regarding keyword search terms should work in “tandem” with the responding party’s independent and inherent obligations to search for and produce documents that are “reasonably accessible, relevant, and responsive within the meaning of Rule 34.” The court also made clear that parties have a fair degree of autonomy in determining what is “reasonable” under Rules 26 and 34. In this trademark infringement case, the plaintiff, a merchant bank with more than 100 employees, objected to certain provisions proposed by the defendant, a two-person real estate firm, in the parties’ ESI protocol and proposed search terms. After the parties’ failure to reach a resolution, the court intervened. The court ruled that the defendant’s proposed language regarding the parties’ search obligations in the ESI protocol was unnecessary, given the scope of Fed. R. Civ. P. 26 and 34, and because the provisions were overbroad. Specifically, the defendant’s proposal including the following provisions: “The parties also acknowledge that, apart from this ESI protocol, each party has an independent...

Increasing Patent Damage Awards with Pre-Judgment Interest

In VLSI Technology LLC v. Intel Corporation, the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas recently awarded pre-judgment and post-judgment interest on a jury’s damage award in a patent infringement case. An issue examined by the court was whether the patentee was entitled to pre-judgment interest during periods in which the patentee did not own the patent. The defendant argued that since the patentee only acquired the patent rights in December 2018 and was not formed as an entity until 2016, pre-judgment interest from 2013 would be a windfall. The court dismissed this argument and indicated that the patentee “acquired the Asserted Patents and is therefore entitled to all the rights associated with patent ownership, including the rights to collect damages and interest from infringers.” The court then awarded pre-judgment interest beginning on the date of infringement (i.e., 2013) to the date of judgment. In support of this holding, the court cited the Federal Circuit’s decision in Energy Transp. Grp., Inc. v. William Demant Holding A/S, 697 F.3d 1342, 1358 (Fed. Cir. 2012) stating that “award of pre-judgment interest is the rule, not the exception.” The court also noted that there was no exceptional circumstances such as an undue delay in filing the lawsuit that would warrant denying pre-judgment interest in this...

NJDEP Issues Rule Proposal Implementing Environmental Justice Legislation

On June 6, 2022, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) issued its proposed rule (“Rule Proposal”) implementing regulations under the groundbreaking Environmental Justice Law (“EJ Law”) signed by Governor Phil Murphy in September of 2020, which we reported on at that time. The EJ Law requires the NJDEP to evaluate the environmental and public health impacts of certain facilities on vulnerable communities (referred to as Overburdened Communities (“OBCs”)) when reviewing certain permit applications. We also reported that on October 22, 2020, the NJDEP began the public process of developing regulations to implement the requirements under the EJ Law. The Rule Proposal was the culmination of an extensive and lengthy public process that included numerous meetings with various stakeholders. The next step is a 90-day public comment period expiring on September 4, 2022, during which time the NJDEP will hold four public hearings in the month of July. In the EJ Law, the Legislature had determined that all residents of the state of New Jersey, regardless of income, race, ethnicity, color, or national origin, have a right to live, work, learn, and recreate in a clean and healthy environment. The Legislature further found that the OBCs have been, and continue to be, subject to a disproportionately high number of environmental and public health stressors,...

New Jersey Appellate Division Broadens Scope of Sham Affidavit Doctrine

Last month, in an opinion approved for publication, the New Jersey Appellate Division, in Metro Marketing, LLC, et al. v. Nationwide Vehicle Assurance, Inc., et al., addressed whether a party who switched sides mid-litigation entered a “sham affidavit,” a self-serving certification that directly contradicts prior representations in order to create an issue of fact, after the side-switching took place. In this non-compete litigation between rival telemarketing firms, the plaintiffs sued their former employees for misappropriation of trade secrets. Two scenarios arose in which the sham-affidavit doctrine was potentially implicated. The first was after a defendant who had been deposed returned to the plaintiffs’ employ and submitted a certification directly contradicting his prior deposition testimony. The second was after a co-defendant, who was also rehired by one of the plaintiffs’ companies after his deposition, contradicted his former testimony during a secretly recorded phone call. The trial court excluded both pieces of evidence and granted summary judgment to the defendants, dismissing all of the plaintiffs’ claims. On appeal, the Appellate Division ruled that the court below properly excluded contradictory testimony of the first defendant. On this issue of first impression, the court held that the sham-affidavit doctrine could apply in a side-switching scenario where: (1) a co-defendant is deposed; (2) that deponent thereafter obtains a job with...

The New Jersey Appellate Division Expands Hostile Environment Liability Under the LAD

On June 2, 2022, in Morris v. Rutgers-Newark University, the New Jersey Appellate Division decided, in a case of first impression, the extent to which a plaintiff alleging harassment in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“the LAD”) can use acts of harassment against others to establish the existence of a hostile environment. The case involved claims brought by members of the women’s basketball team of Rutgers-Newark University (“the University”), who were subjected to a hostile educational environment by the Interim Head Coach of the team. Although the case involved allegations of a hostile educational environment, the court’s decision is likely to be viewed equally applicable to hostile work environment claims and thus is one employers should be aware of. Background The plaintiffs included five players and the team manager for the University’s women’s basketball team for the 2014-2015 season, five of whom identified themselves as Black or African American while one identified as Hispanic. Four of the plaintiffs identified themselves as either lesbian, gay, or bisexual. In addition to the University, the defendants included the team’s Interim Head Coach for that season, the University’s Athletic Director, and the University’s Associate Provost. The plaintiffs brought suit in the Law Division of the Superior Court under the LAD alleging they were the victims of...

Gibbons Recognized as a Leading Firm in 2022 ‘Chambers USA Guide’

The 2022 edition of the Chambers USA Guide to America’s Leading Lawyers for Business features the highest numbers of Gibbons P.C. practices and attorneys ever ranked in the publication in one year. The 2022 guide recognized 12 Gibbons practice areas, with 27 firm attorneys earning individual rankings. Three attorneys and one practice were selected for the first time this year. One of the legal industry’s leading client- and peer-review resources, Chambers annually rates the nation’s leading business lawyers and law firms through both comprehensive interviews with top companies, attorneys, and business executives, and extensive supplementary research. For the full list of Gibbons practice areas and attorneys highlighted in the 2022 guide, please click here.

Reminder to Alcoholic Beverage Licensees: Annual TTB Filing Due July 1, 2022

Businesses that sell or serve alcoholic beverages, such as liquor stores, grocery stores, bars, and restaurants, not only must obtain the appropriate retail license within the jurisdictions in which they operate, but also are subject to Alcohol Dealer Registration with the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (“TTB”) within the U.S. Department of the Treasury. This often overlooked registration requirement must be satisfied prior to commencement of alcoholic beverage sales, and any changes in the ownership of the business, business locations, and certain other information must be disclosed annually in a filing that is due July 1. The registration requirement arises from Title 26 of the United States Code (specifically, Subtitle E, Chapter 51 of the Internal Revenue Code) and applies to any “dealer,” which is defined in 27 CFR § 31.1 as “[a]ny person who sells, or offers for sale, any distilled spirits, wines, or beer.” Thus, retail dealers include liquor stores, restaurants, bars, private clubs, fraternal organizations, grocery stores, supermarkets, hotels, sports stadiums, caterers, trains, aircraft, and vessels. Wholesalers and importers are also included within the definition of “dealer.” Subject to certain exceptions, both retail dealers and wholesale dealers must comply with the applicable registration requirements. Registration entails filing TTB Form 5630.5d before engaging in business and on or before July 1...

Crash Course: Court Provides Refresher on Rule 37(e) Spoliation Sanctions

A recent decision from the District of Arizona provided a refresher for litigants and judges alike in the framework under which electronically stored information (ESI) spoliation sanctions must be addressed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(e). The author of the opinion – District Judge David Campbell – expressed his frustration that Rule 37(e) continues to be ignored by some judges and litigants in the application and adjudication of motions seeking ESI spoliation sanctions. Judge Campbell’s frustration is easily understood, as he chaired the Advisory Committee on the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure during the 2015 revision to Rule 37(e). In Fast v. GoDaddy.com LLC, Judge Campbell seized the opportunity to meticulously explain each requirement of Rule 37(e) and then apply those requirements to adjudicate the spoliation claims before him. In this case, involving sex and disability discrimination claims, the plaintiff claimed she was fired for lacking the technical skills required for her employment, and that male employees with lesser technical skills were retained by the defendants. At the close of discovery, the defendants asserted discovery violations against the plaintiff, seeking sanctions for the spoliation of relevant ESI under Rule 37(e) and for the failure to produce relevant information under Rule 37(c)(1). Since the 2015 amendments to Rule 37(e), there has been controversy as...

IRS Provides Important Guidance for Employer Leave Programs for Donations to Aid Ukraine

Since the Russian Federation invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, many employers have adopted or are considering adopting employer leave-based donation programs to aid citizens and residents of Ukraine, persons working, traveling, or currently present in Ukraine, or refugees from Ukraine. On May 19, 2022, the IRS issued Notice 2022-28, which provides important guidance on the federal income and employment tax treatment of cash payments made by employers to charitable organizations under these programs. The guidance is similar to the guidance in Notice 2001-69, as modified and superseded by Notice 2003-2, on charitable donations made after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Under employer leave-based donation programs, employees can elect to forgo vacation, sick, or personal leave in exchange for their employers making cash payments to charitable organizations to aid the victims of the invasion. The organizations must qualify as charitable organizations under Section 170(c) of the Internal Revenue Code. Payments made before January 1, 2023 will not be treated as gross income, wages, or other compensation to the employees. Similarly, employees electing or who have the opportunity to elect to forgo the leave that funds the payments will not be treated as in constructive receipt of taxable income. Employers should not include the payments in Boxes 1, 3, or 5 of the electing...