Author: Robert D. Brown, Jr.

Predictable? — DOJ Approves Use of Predictive Coding in AB InBev-Grupo Modelo Merger Investigation

On May 6, 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice’s (“DOJ”) Antitrust Division approved Constellation Brands Inc.’s (“Constellation”) and Crown Imports LLC’s (“Crown”) request to use predictive coding to determine which documents were most relevant and responsive to the DOJ’s requests. Constellation is a potential buyer of assets from the huge AB InBev-Grupo Modelo merger, and Crown is a joint venture between Grupo Modelo and Constellation. Reportedly, Constellation and Crown identified in excess of one million documents that would require manual review before being handed over to the Justice Department for scrutiny. After several seed sets were run using the automated data review software and compared manually, DOJ was satisfied that the predictive coding software would identify the most relevant documents and approved its use. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, the predictive coding software used by the parties was developed by kCura Corporation, a software vendor for many entities including DOJ.

Florida Joins the Growing Number of States That Have Adopted Specific Rules Addressing Electronic Discovery

Effective September 1, 2012, Florida joined the long list of states that have adopted specific rules of procedure governing electronic discovery, which follows the July 5, 2012, announcement by the Supreme Court of Florida of its proposed amendments to seven civil procedure rules aimed at addressing the specific dilemmas facing litigants when e-discovery is sought. Florida’s Supreme Court approved and adopted the amendments in a formal opinion issued on July 5, 2012. While these amendments generally mirror the amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure first adopted by the United States Supreme Court in 2006, they diverge from the Federal Rules in some critical areas.

How a Case Can Crash and Burn: Why a Litigant Should Not Set Afire a Computer After It Crashes (Preservation 101)

In Evans v. Mobile County Health Department, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 8530 (S.D. Ala. Jan. 24, 2012) , a magistrate judge sitting in the Southern District of Alabama (Southern Division) was recently faced with the question of whether plaintiff’s intentional burning of a personal computer, which contained discoverable ESI, was worthy of an imposition of sanctions.The defendant, Mobile County Health Department, filed motions to compel discovery and to impose sanctions stemming from plaintiff’s alleged spoliation of critical information and repeated failures to produce discoverable documents and ESI. Based upon the facts and arguments presented to the magistrate, most notably plaintiff Evans’ admission that she destroyed and replaced her personal computer, the Court granted defendant’s motions.

The Fifth Annual Gibbons E-Discovery Conference Kicks Off with an Interactive and Thought-Provoking Overview of the Past Year’s Pivotal E-Discovery Case Decisions

The Fifth Annual Gibbons E-Discovery Conference kicked off with an interactive overview of the important judicial decisions from 2011 that shaped and redefined the e-discovery landscape. Before an audience of general and in-house counsel, representing companies throughout the tri-state area, the esteemed panel of speakers, including Michael R. Arkfeld, Paul E. Asfendis, and Mara E. Zazzali-Hogan, moderated by Scott J. Etish, tackled the issues faced by the courts over the past year. Through a series of hypotheticals, the panelists and attendees analyzed and discussed how to handle the tough e-discovery issues that arose and how the courts’ decisions again reshaped the e-discovery landscape as we know it. Litigation hold protocols and spoliation concerns, the use of social media in discovery with its attendant ethical concerns, and the use of social media and the Internet in the courtroom were the hot topics of the day. This interactive overview of the past year’s hot button, e-discovery issues was an instant success and clearly set the tone for the remainder of the conference.

New York’s Appellate Division Finds Facebook Accounts Off-Limits When Discovery Demands are Non-Specific

In McCann v. Harleysville Insurance Co. of New York, 910 N.Y.S.2d 614, 2010 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 8396 (N.Y. App. Div. Nov. 12, 2010), New York’s Appellate Division, Fourth Department affirmed the trial court’s refusal to compel Plaintiff to produce information regarding or provide access to her Facebook account. Plaintiff was injured in an auto accident with one of Harleysville’s insured. She filed a personal injury suit against the insured, which resulted in a settlement. Plaintiff thereafter commenced a new action directly against Harleysville for certain uninsured/underinsured auto insurance benefits.

No Privilege for Information Posted on Social Network Sites — Court Orders Production of Plaintiff’s Social Network Account Usernames and Passwords

A Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas has ordered the production of a plaintiff’s social network account passwords and usernames in the recent decision of McMillen v. Hummingbird Speedway, Inc., Case No. 113-2010 CD (Pa. Ct. of Common Pleas, Jefferson Cty. September 9, 2010) In this case, McMillen sued Hummingbird Speedway Inc. and others for injuries he allegedly suffered when he was rear-ended during a cool down lap after a stock car race in 2007 on Hummingbird’s premises. During discovery, Hummingbird requested that plaintiff disclose information regarding social network websites that plaintiff belonged to and asked that plaintiff turn over his log-in and passwords for his accounts. McMillen responded that he had accounts on Facebook and MySpace but objected to any request for his log-in and passwords on the basis that the requested information was privileged and would lead to the production of private communications. Ultimately, Hummingbird filed a motion to compel the production of the requested information as they wanted “to determine whether or not plaintiff has made any other comments which impeach and contradict his disability and damages claims.” The court found that such information is not protected by any evidentiary privileges under Pennsylvania law and thus, is discoverable.

Accessing an Adversary’s Public Social Networking Information — N.Y. Professional Ethics Opinion 843

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and MySpace are among the top social media websites that have culturally transformed electronic communications and social interactions. Inevitably, these platforms have also affected litigation practice and present myriad ethical dilemmas. One such dilemma is whether an attorney can access an adverse party’s social networking website to obtain information about the party, including impeachment material.