Category: General Litigation

Opening Pandora’s Box: A Preliminary Showing of Spoliation May Result in the Compelled Production of a Litigation Hold Notice

In Radiation Oncology Servs. of Cent. N.Y., P.C. v. Our Lady of Lourdes Mem’l Hosp., Inc., the New York Supreme Court reminded litigants that while litigation holds are generally protected by the attorney-client privilege or under the attorney work product doctrine, a preliminary showing of spoliation of evidence may compel the production of an offending party’s litigation hold documentation. In this litigation involving clinical privileges related to an exclusive radiation oncology services agreement, the plaintiffs identified seven specific instances of spoliation by the defendants. These included certain emails that the defendants produced in hard copy form, but for which they were unable to produce the corresponding electronic version and the related metadata – which the court seemed to globally refer to as the “electronically stored information,” or ESI, relating to the emails – because they had been deleted. The plaintiffs successfully argued that the failure to produce the ESI constituted spoliation because it deprived them of the ability to understand whether there were follow-up discussions with other individuals about the content of the communications, including those who may have been copied on the communications or follow-up emails. The court granted the plaintiffs’ motion to compel the production of the defendants’ litigation hold notice because it found that the permanent deletion of the ESI “potentially deprived...

Pushing the Limit: The District of Oregon Concludes that the Attorney-Client Privilege May Apply to Communications Not Involving Attorneys

In Ozgur v. Daimler Trucks N. Am. LLC, Judge Mosman, from the United States District Court for the District of Oregon, found that certain emails in the possession of Daimler Trucks North America LLC (“Daimler”) and that were sought by plaintiff were protected by the attorney-client privilege, as the communications were made for the purpose of obtaining legal advice, despite some of the emails not including an attorney as an author or recipient. In this action, plaintiff filed suit against Daimler for age discrimination in connection with his unsuccessful job application for a position opening posted by Daimler. The position that Daimler posted was already held by a foreign national whom Daimler sought to sponsor for a H1B1 visa so that he could remain in his position. In order to sponsor its employee, Daimler had to advertise the position and establish that there were no U.S. citizens who were willing and able to perform the position, then submit such proof to the Department of Labor. To assist in complying with the Department of Labor and immigration laws, Daimler retained outside immigration counsel. The emails disputed in this proceeding were communications involving outside counsel and Daimler employees, including a recruiting manager and a hiring manager. In determining whether the disputed emails were privileged, the court stated...

District Court Denies Protective Order in Putative Class Action: Production of Relevant ESI May Be Time Consuming and Expensive, But Not Unduly Burdensome

The District Court for the Eastern District of California recently denied a defendant’s motion for a protective order in a putative class action, finding that the information requested by plaintiff was relevant and subject to pre-certification discovery, and that defendant did not show that the electronically stored information (ESI) was inaccessible due to undue burden or cost, pursuant to Rule 26(b)(2)(C). Additionally, the court determined that even if defendant could show that the ESI was “inaccessible,” plaintiff demonstrated “good cause” to order production of the ESI notwithstanding the potential burden and cost. In Sung Gon Kang v. Credit Bureau Connection Inc., plaintiff, a consumer, filed a putative class action alleging that defendant provided businesses with inaccurate consumer credit information, including that plaintiff and the proposed class of consumers were included on the United States Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) list. A consumer is ineligible for credit in the United States if he or she is included on the list. Plaintiff sought to “represent classes consisting of individuals ‘about whom Defendant … sold a consumer report to a third party’ that included an OFAC Hit.” The discovery dispute centered on defendant’s objections to plaintiff’s first set of written discovery requests. Specifically, defendant objected to requests seeking the identities of individuals who had an...

Cooperation Is Key: E.D.N.Y. Decision Illustrates the Risk of Refusing to Cooperate in Discovery

While litigation is inherently adversarial, counsel and litigants would be well-served to recognize that “zealous advocacy” and cooperation need not be mutually exclusive, especially in cases with significant amounts of electronically stored information (ESI). A recent decision from the District Court for the Eastern District of New York illustrates the risk a party and/or counsel takes in refusing to engage in the meet and confer process. This decision also reaffirms the fact that, when parties are working on crafting ESI search terms, it is the parties, not the court, who are in the best position to resolve such discovery disputes through the meet and confer process required under FRCP 26. Cooperation during the discovery process is not only economical in avoiding potential costly disputes, but also required by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. In particular, Rule 1 instructs the parties must help the court to “secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding.” To effectuate that goal, Rule 26(f) requires cooperation by the parties in formulating a discovery plan and meaningfully meeting and conferring in the event a discovery dispute arises. In the event the parties fail to cooperate, Rule 37 provides the court the ability to sanction a party for failing “to cooperate in discovery.” Additionally, many times, the...

More Than $750,000 Awarded in TAR Fees Serves as Both Warning and Guidance to E-Discovery Practitioners

Last month, we discussed a recent decision from the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, Lawson v. Spirit AeroSystems, Inc.,  in which the court granted defendant’s motion to shift costs for electronically stored information (ESI) related to expenses incurred undertaking Technology Assisted Review (TAR) for approximately 322,000 documents, at plaintiff’s insistence. The court reasoned that there was good cause warranting cost-shifting because plaintiff insisted on pursuing TAR after it became disproportionate to the needs of the case. Recently, the court entertained defendant’s fee application, in which defendant sought $791,700.21 in expenses incurred in connection with TAR and $83,000 in costs and fees incurred conferring with plaintiff and related motion practice. Plaintiff objected to the amount sought, arguing that reasonable TAR expenses did not exceed $330,000. The court ultimately awarded defendant $754,029.46 in TAR-related expenses and a yet-to-be determined amount of expenses in connection with the fee application. In reviewing the fee application, the court noted that its finding of disproportionality was only reinforced by the parties’ intervening cross-motions for summary judgment, in which only one of the almost 100 exhibits submitted by plaintiff originated from defendant’s TAR production. This lone exhibit was submitted “to support an unremarkable factual contention.” In determining the amount of expenses to allocate to plaintiff, the court examined...

Court Dismisses Complaint and Sanctions Plaintiff for Fabricating ESI

The Southern District of New York recently issued significant sanctions in a case with a background story fit for Hollywood. In Carrington v. Graden, plaintiff brought claims against entertainment giants Paramount Pictures and Viacom, Inc. for sexual misconduct, unfair competition, fraud, misappropriation, federal antitrust violations, and New York State and City labor violations. Plaintiff attached various exhibits to his complaint that contained emails purportedly between defendants and non-parties. After it was discovered, through an arduous cat-and-mouse game between defendants and plaintiff, that plaintiff completely fabricated the emails that were presented in support of his claim, the court dismissed plaintiff’s claims with prejudice against all defendants and granted defendants’ application for attorneys’ fees and costs incurred in connection with their work regarding the authenticity of the emails. At the onset of the litigation, defendants sent plaintiff’s counsel a preservation notice for electronically stored information (ESI) and documents, after noting that the documents plaintiff referenced and attached as exhibits to his complaint “appeared highly questionable and inaccurate.” Significantly, the emails were not produced as native-format email communications, rather, they were all produced as email forwards from plaintiff to his attorney. Defendants, as part of a pre-motion submission to the court in connection with their anticipated motion to dismiss, submitted affidavits from the individuals who were represented as...

The Destruction of a “Startling Amount of Discovery”: District Court Imposes Severe, Case-Ending Sanctions Pursuant to Rule 37(e)(2)

The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington recently entered a default judgment order of terminating sanctions against defendants pursuant to Rule 37(e)(2), as a result of defendants’ wholesale destruction of a “startling amount of discovery” as part of defendants’ adoption of a document disposition program during the course of the litigation. The district court found that the defendants “purposefully destroyed” relevant electronically stored information (ESI) “to avoid their litigation obligations.” This decision highlights the importance of extreme caution in the adoption of a document disposition or information governance program, which necessarily eliminates typically large quantities of ESI, during the time period when the duty to preserve relevant ESI has been triggered. In Moreno v. Correctional Healthcare Companies, Inc., plaintiffs filed constitutional claims against defendants–providers of healthcare services to inmates–after plaintiffs’ eighteen-year-old son died while in defendants’ custody. In January 2018, prior to filing the lawsuit, plaintiffs sent a letter to defendants notifying defendants of their plan to file a lawsuit and advising defendants to “preserve all paper and electronic records that may be relevant to our clients’ claims” including “all e-mails and other electronic and paper records regardless of where they are maintained.” Plaintiffs filed the lawsuit in October 2018 and, in December 2018, served discovery requests on defendants, seeking certain categories...

Situational Awareness Matters: Two Courts Evaluate Whether TAR Processes Are Warranted and Reach Very Different Conclusions

Two recent decisions from the United States District Court for the District of Kansas (Lawson v. Spirit AeroSystems, Inc.) and the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division (Livingston v. City of Chicago), highlight the increasing prevalence of Technology Assisted Review (TAR) as an e-discovery tool and its role as an emerging source of discovery disputes. We have previously addressed courts that have “endorsed” the use of predictive coding and/or TAR and have recommended that litigants consider such technologies to promote efficiency in the discovery process. We have also noted that courts have been extremely hesitant to impose affirmative requirements upon litigants to use these technologies. As discussed below, these two recent decisions provide a useful analysis of situations – with vastly different outcomes – where a party has introduced TAR procedures into the discovery process. In Lawson v. Spirit AeroSystems, Inc., plaintiff, the former CEO of defendant Spirit AeroSystems, Inc., filed suit based on his claim that the defendant failed to properly disburse his retirement compensation. Defendant claimed that plaintiff violated a non-compete agreement by engaging in consulting services with one of its competitors during the two-year period subject to the restrictive covenant. Plaintiff refuted these allegations, claiming that the companies he serviced did not engage in the same business as defendant. Though the business...

Unnecessarily Opening Doors — the Southern District of California Provides an Important Reminder of the Value of FRE 502(d) Clawback Agreements

Highlighting numerous preventable mistakes that resulted in the unintentional waiver of attorney-client privilege, a recent Southern District of California decision reinforces the importance of comprehensive clawback agreements specifically pursuant to FRE 502(d) and (e) to prevent analysis of waiver under either FRCP 26 or the common law waiver standard embodied in FRE 502(b). This blog has previously addressed the interplay between Rule 502 and parties’ clawback agreements and recently discussed the limitations of FRE 502(d) and the inability of litigants to use it to compel production of potentially privileged information without a privilege review. In Orthopaedic Hospital v. DJO Global, Inc. and DJO Finance, LLC, the District Court found a waiver of the attorney-client privilege with respect to a privileged document introduced at deposition and the testimony elicited in connection with the privileged document due to the producing party’s failure to “promptly” rectify the inadvertent production under FRE 502(b). The court refused to find a broader subject matter waiver as a result of the introduction of this privileged document. Critically, the parties had proceeded with discovery without having negotiated, entered into, and sought Court approval of a clawback order under FRE 502(d), instead proceeding under a Rule 26 protective order that incorporated the common law clawback standard of FRE 502(b). As we have discussed in...

Gibbons Attorneys Draft NJSBA Amicus Brief Challenging Jury Selection in First In-Person Trial Since Pandemic

Lawrence S. Lustberg and Michael R. Noveck, Director and Fellow, respectively, of the John J. Gibbons Fellowship in Public Interest & Constitutional Law at Gibbons P.C., researched and drafted the amicus brief filed yesterday by the New Jersey State Bar Association (NJSBA), challenging the jury selection process in the first in-person trial to resume in New Jersey since the COVID-19 pandemic state of emergency was declared. Christine A. Amalfe, Chair of the Gibbons Employment & Labor Law Department and NJSBA Secretary and member of its Pandemic Task Force, arranged for the firm to handle the matter pro bono for the bar association. “As it has been doing for 30 years, the Gibbons Fellowship continues to tackle cutting-edge issues of justice and equality in our criminal courts,” said Patrick C. Dunican Jr., Chairman and Managing Director of the firm. “Fairness to the accused is paramount, even as courts face understandable difficulties as they try to return to normal operations while gradually emerging from the COVID crisis, which Larry and Mike argue very effectively in the NJSBA’s brief.” The matter at issue, State v. Dangcil, is a criminal trial in Bergen County that began last week. The NJSBA argued in the brief authored by Mr. Lustberg and Mr. Noveck that the jury management office exercised its own...