Tagged: Email

Blowing Things Out of Proportion: S.D.N.Y. Finds Hyperlinked Documents Are Not Necessarily Attachments and Rejects a Revamping of Production Protocols

The Southern District of New York recently held that hyperlinked documents should not necessarily be considered “attachments” and declined to require a responding party to utilize a collection tool proposed by the requesting party, which would have collected all hyperlinked documents and maintained their familial relationship with the parent document. This is a novel and important issue that has not received such thorough treatment by other courts. With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing many employees to work from home and increasing the use of cloud-storage apps for documents, the issues related to the treatment of hyperlinked documents and litigants’ obligations in collecting and producing these documents are unlikely to disappear anytime soon. In Nichols v. Noom Inc., the plaintiffs initiated a class action suit against Noom for a litany of allegations centered around false advertising. Prior to commencing discovery, Noom agreed to collect and search relevant data from multiple Google App sources (i.e., Gmail, G-chat, Google Drive). The parties agreed to utilize Google Vault to collect the relevant documents from Google Drive, despite the fact that Google Vault would not be able to collect file path metadata for each document. Additionally, the parties never agreed to the method of collection for emails stored on Gmail. While Noom wanted to use Google Vault to collect the relevant emails,...

NLRB Rules Employees “Presumptively Permitted” to Use Employer Email Systems for Statutorily Protected Communications

On December 11, 2014, in Purple Communications, Inc. and Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO, Cases 21-CA-095151, 21-RC-091532, and 21-RC-091584, the National Labor Relations Board (the “Board” or “NLRB”) held that “employee use of email for statutorily protected communications on nonworking time must presumptively be permitted by employers who have chosen to give employees access to their email systems.”

Think Before You Send: Communications to an Attorney Using Work Email May Not Be Protected Under the Attorney-Client Privilege

Generally, a confidential email sent to one’s personal attorney is protected under the attorney-client privilege. But what if the communication is sent using a business email account? Will a corporate policy entitling the company to access “all communications” sent on work computers undermine the privilege? Followers of this blog will recall, among other posts, our detailed recap of the extensive discussion of this issue at our Annual E-Discovery Conference in the wake of the New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision in Stengart v. Loving Care Agency, Inc., upholding the privilege where the employee used a company computer to communicate with her attorney via a personal password-protected internet based e-mail account, and sanctioning the employer’s attorneys for failing to turn over the protected communications. Readers may also recall our discussion of US v. Hamilton, where the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that a husband waived the marital communications privilege when he sent messages from his work email account to his wife, but took no steps to protect their sanctity. Since those decisions, courts nationwide have continued to wrestle with these issues. Most recently, a Delaware Court held an employee waived the attorney client privilege where he used his work email account to email his lawyer with knowledge of the company’s policy establishing its right to access all communications on work computers.

“Persnickety, Persistent” Questions: The Stored Communications Act

The Stored Communications Act (“SCA”) prohibits internet service providers from disclosing the “content” of electronic communications. What constitutes “content” of an electronic communication? It may be easier to rephrase the question: What doesn’t constitute content? According to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, the answer is: very little.

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.

Inadvertent Production of Two Privileged Pages Among Over Two Million May Waive the Attorney-Client Privilege

The burdens associated with a massive document review of electronically-stored information (“ESI”) will not, in and of themselves, preclude a court from finding that a party has waived the attorney-client privilege with respect to an inadvertently produced document. In Jacob v. Duane Reade, Inc., Magistrate Judge Katz of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York held that a privileged, two-page email that was inadvertently produced during the review of over two million documents in less than one month did not have to be returned and that the privilege had been waived because the producing party, Duane Reade, had failed to timely request its return. Duane Reade had used an outside vendor and review team to conduct its review of this large volume of ESI. The document in question concerned a meeting among several individuals, including an in-house attorney at Duane Reade. Duane Reade argued that the email was inadvertently produced because it was neither from nor to an attorney, and only included advice received at a meeting from an in-house attorney, identified in the email only by the first name “Julie.”

The Fifth Annual Gibbons E-Discovery Conference Closes With Helpful Guidance on Drafting Records Management Policies

An effective and up-to-date set of records management policies may help companies reduce the likelihood of sanctions and other adverse consequences by ensuring records are retained and preserved in accordance with legal requirements, according to Gibbons Director Phillip Duffy; TechLaw Solutions’ Northeast Regional Director Michael Landau; and Inventus LLC Senior Consultant Bryan Melchionda.

ABA Formal Opinion 11-460 is at Odds With Stengart v. Loving Care Agency, Inc.

The American Bar Association recently published Formal Opinion 11-460 to provide guidance to attorneys regarding their ethical duty upon discovering emails between a third party and the third party’s attorney. The Opinion interprets Model Rule 4.4(b) literally, concluding that neither that rule nor any other requires an attorney to notify opposing counsel of receipt of potentially privileged communications. The Opinion is of particular note because it directly contradicts the New Jersey Supreme Court’s opinion in Stengart v. Loving Care Agency. Inc. 201 N.J. 300 (2010).

DuPont v. Kolon: A Lesson In How To Avoid Sanctions For Spoliation Of Evidence

Two recent decisions in the same case illustrate that, when it comes to imposing sanctions for spoliation of evidence, what matters is not simply whether you’ve intentionally deleted relevant evidence, but how you go about deleting it, and what the record reflects about your intentions. Although both the plaintiff and the defendant in E.I. du Pont De Nemours and Co. v. Kolon Industries, Inc., Civil Action No. 3:09cv58, demonstrated that the other intentionally destroyed relevant evidence, as is detailed below, the Court sanctioned only defendant Kolon Industries, Inc. (“Kolon”) based on its manifest bad faith (read the decision here). As is discussed in an earlier post on Gibbons’ E-Discovery Law Alert (which you can read here), plaintiff E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (“DuPont”) escaped a similar fate based on its demonstrable good faith. In short, this case teaches that the intentional deletion of relevant evidence does not per se lead to sanctions. Rather, the parties’ conduct — or misconduct, as the case may be — must be judged contextually.

Knockout Punch: Claims of Futility & Computer Crashes Not Enough to Prevent Key Word Searches Requested by Former Champ

Sports. Steroids. E-Discovery? Former middleweight champion Shane Mosley asserted claims of defamation against defendant Victor Conte, owner of Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative (BALCO), regarding Conte’s statements that Mosely allegedly used illegal steroids in his championship bout with Oscar De La Hoya. Mosely requested that a computer forensics expert be permitted to conduct key word searches on defendant’s computer hard drives and equipment. Defendant objected, claiming that all relevant documents had been disclosed and that a computer search would be futile. The New York Supreme Court disagreed. Mosley v. Conte, No. 110623/2008, 2010 N.Y. Misc. (Sup. Ct. New York Co. Aug. 17, 2010).