Tagged: Document Retention

Let’s Not Just Chat About It: District Court Sanctions Google for Failing to Preserve Chat Messages in Antitrust Suit

In a highly anticipated opinion addressing allegations that Google failed to preserve relevant internal chat messages – despite assuring the court in a case management conference that it had – United States District Court Judge James Donato of the Northern District of California ordered Google to cover the plaintiffs’ legal costs in pursuing a Rule 37 motion and left open the possibility of the plaintiffs later pursuing nonmonetary sanctions. Judge Donato’s scathing opinion in In re Google Play Consumer Antitrust Litigation represents yet another cautionary tale for attorneys certifying that a client has taken appropriate steps to preserve all pertinent electronic discovery without providing meaningful oversight. While Judge Donato chose to focus his criticism (and ultimate sanction) on Google, he clearly was concerned with the lack of oversight and misleading representation by both Google and its attorneys. The Google cases arise from a highly publicized multidistrict litigation (MDL) involving allegations that Google Play Store’s practices were anticompetitive in violation of antitrust laws. The plaintiffs include several gaming companies, Attorneys Generals of 38 states (and the District of Columbia), and numerous consumer plaintiffs. The plaintiffs alleged that Google engaged in exclusionary conduct leading to Google monopolizing the Android app distribution market. After a long and tortured procedural history that included extensive discovery and motion practice, the...

A Poor Substitute: The Eastern District of Texas Holds That Facebook Screenshots Are Not Sufficient to Avoid Sanctions Under Rule 37

In Edwards v. Junior State of America Foundation, the Eastern District of Texas determined that screenshots of social media messages are not sufficient evidentiary substitutes for spoliated native files. As a result of the plaintiffs’ discovery misconduct and spoliation of relevant electronically stored information (ESI), the court imposed sanctions under Rule 37(c) and (e) against the plaintiffs for failing to preserve Facebook messages in native format, including its metadata, which prevented the defendant from authenticating the messages. The plaintiffs filed a complaint against the defendant alleging that a student member of the defendant, a youth organization, sent “racist and homophobic Facebook messages” to one of the plaintiffs (the “Messages”). After the alleged Messages were sent, the student’s father filed a complaint with the youth organization which included .jpeg “snapshot” images of the Messages. During the litigation, the defendant served written discovery requests on the plaintiffs, seeking production of ESI from the plaintiff’s Facebook Messenger account to authenticate the alleged Messages, including the production of the Messages in HTML or JSON format. The native format of Facebook messages can typically be retrieved and produced in HTML or JSON format and contain metadata that can be used for authenticity purposes. The defendant’s request for native format would have allowed the defendant to authenticate the Messages. The plaintiffs never...

Don’t Jump the Gun: The Northern District of California Compels the Production of Litigation Hold Letters, Holding Duty to Preserve Not Terminated When Related Lawsuits Were Resolved

In Thomas v. Cricket Wireless, LLC (“Thomas II”), Judge Tse of the Northern District of California compelled the production of defendant Cricket Wireless LLC’s litigation hold letters, despite the defendant’s privilege and relevance objections. The court compelled the production of such letters to allow the plaintiffs to investigate and possibly prove whether the defendant had engaged in spoliation of evidence in Thomas II and two similar class actions that were brought against the defendant. While the duty to preserve potentially relevant documents is generally terminated at the conclusion of a litigation, Thomas II reminds us that this duty may continue even after a related litigation is dismissed. The plaintiffs in Thomas II filed a putative class action alleging the defendant engaged in false advertisement related to its 4G/LTE coverage services. The defendant had already been sued in two prior lawsuits. In May 2015, different plaintiffs filed suit against the defendant on nearly identical claims in Barraza v. Cricket Wireless, LLC (“Barraza”) before Judge Alsup. Barraza was resolved when both named plaintiffs accepted the defendant’s offer of judgment for the full value of their claims. At a hearing before the dismissal, Judge Alsup asked whether there was “any scenario under which the merits of the case could come back to life” and whether there was “any kind...

N.Y. Court Grants Spoliation Sanctions for Destruction of Documents Decades Ago

In Warren v. Amchem Products, Inc., Justice Peter Moulton sanctioned defendant J-M Manufacturing Company for destroying documents in 1990 and 1997 – 24 years and 17 years, respectively, before the Warren Estate filed suit against asbestos manufacturers in 2014. The Court granted plaintiff’s motion for spoliation sanctions and ordered that, should the case proceed to trial, the jury will be instructed that it may infer that the destroyed documents would have supported plaintiff’s claims and would not have supported J-M’s defenses.

Takeda Part Two: Destroy Evidence, Pay the Price — Eli Lilly and Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. Get Hit For $9 Billion Punitive Damages Verdict

Recently, in In re Actos (Pioglitazone) Products Liability Litigation, MDL No. 11-2299, a Louisiana federal jury awarded $9 billion in punitive damages against Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. (“Takeda”) and Eli Lilly & Co. (“Lilly”). The verdict was delivered on the heels of Judge Rebecca Doherty’s January opinion, which lambasted Takeda for failing to (1) enforce its own litigation hold and (2) follow its document retention procedures, which led to the destruction of relevant evidence that Judge Doherty found would have likely been beneficial for the plaintiffs’ case.

Negligent Spoliation May Result in Sanctions Under New York Law

Recently, the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department considered whether to adopt and apply the Zubulake standard for the spoliation of electronically-stored information (“ESI”) to a claim for spoliation of an audiotape recording or whether existing New York spoliation doctrine was sufficient. Strong v. City of New York involved a June 30, 2009, accident in which an NYPD vehicle collided with another vehicle, jumped the sidewalk curb and struck five pedestrians, including plaintiff, Kevin Strong. Within 30 days of the accident, three plaintiffs commenced personal injury actions and these were consolidated for trial. On September 21, 2009, less than 90 days after the accident, the City joined issue and interposed the “emergency operation” defense, claiming the police officer’s vehicle was an authorized emergency vehicle engaged in an emergency operation at the time of the accident and, therefore, the City could only be held liable if the officer had acted with reckless disregard for the safety of others.

Coming to a Close: Reflections on the Proposed Amendments to F.R.C.P. 37 Debate at the 2013 Georgetown Advanced eDiscovery Institute as the End of the Public Comment Period Nears

The proposed amendments to F.R.C.P. 37(e) would establish a single standard by which courts will assess culpability and issue sanctions for failure to preserve electronically stored information (“ESI”). Our previous blog post discusses the rule. The proposed amendments to F.R.C.P. 37(e) were recommended for adoption in 2010 and, on June 3, 2013, they were approved for public comment (as part of a package of amendments to several federal rules) by the Judicial Conference of the United States’ Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure. On August 15, 2013, the Committee officially published for public comment the full slate of proposed rule changes. Unsurprisingly, the proposed amendments have generated considerable feedback from the legal community and, indeed, the discussion took center stage at the 2013 Georgetown Advanced eDiscovery Institute on November 22, 2013. With little more than a week to go before the comment period expires, and with, to date, more than 600 comments already posted addressing various aspects of the proposed rule amendments, we thought it might be a good time to reflect upon the discussion at Georgetown, especially for those considering weighing in before the end of the public comment period.

Use of Work Computer Results in Waiver of Marital Communication Privilege

In U.S. v. Hamilton, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit found that a husband who sent messages from his work email account to his wife, yet took no steps to protect the sanctity of those emails, waived the marital communications privilege, thus subjecting the emails to disclosure during discovery. This case serves as an important reminder that employees do not necessarily enjoy an expectation of privacy in the emails they send from their work accounts or while using their employers’ computers.

Independent Agents Subject to Litigation Hold

In Haskins v. First American Title Insurance Co., the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey expanded the reach of a “litigation hold” to include independent agents of a title insurance company. The Court held that once litigation was reasonably anticipated, First American Title Insurance Company (“First American”) had a duty to instruct its independent insurance agents to preserve all potentially relevant documents and to suspend routine destruction of such documents. The ruling in Haskins gives important e-discovery guidance for many companies, as it clarifies that document preservation rules apply to independent agents in addition to a company’s in-house employees.