Tagged: FRE 502

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...

Non-Consensual “Quick Peek” Revisited: FRE 502(d) Cannot Be Used to Compel Production of Potentially Privileged Information Without a Privilege Review

The District Court for the District of Columbia recently confirmed that FRE 502(d) orders cannot be used to force a responding party to produce potentially privileged documents without the opportunity to first review them. In doing so, the court found that such an order would not only violate the producing parties’ right to determine in the first instance how it reviews and produces, but would potentially compel the production of privileged information and thus would constitute “an abuse of discretion.” In Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. George Washington University, the EEOC filed a discrimination action on behalf of a former executive assistant against defendant, George Washington University, alleging that defendant’s former athletic director treated the former executive assistant less favorably compared to her male co-worker, a former special assistant. The discovery dispute concerned four requests for production of documents served by plaintiff: three seeking thousands of emails from the work accounts of defendant’s former athletic director and his two assistants; and one seeking information related to workplace complaints against the former athletic director. Defendant argued that plaintiff’s requests were overbroad and unduly burdensome—that is, that compliance with the requests would impose costs that were “not proportional to the needs of the case,” under the proportionality dictates of FRCP 26. By its decision, the court resolved...

Inadvertent Production Deemed Waiver of Privilege Where Counsel Was Reckless and Clawback Agreement Was Unclear

The Southern District of Ohio recently clarified the relationship between FRE 502 and clawback agreements in its finding that a party’s counsel was “completely reckless” in producing the same privileged documents on two separate occasions. In Irth Sols., LLC v. Windstream Commc’ns LLC, the parties entered into a clawback agreement that was memorialized in three bullet points in an email exchange between counsel. The agreement provided that an inadvertent disclosure (a term not defined in the agreement) would not waive the attorney-client privilege. The parties further agreed that, “based on the scale of the case,” it was unnecessary to ask the court to enter an order under Rule 502(d), whereby the court may order “that the privilege or protection is not waived by disclosure connected with the litigation pending before the court.” Defendant then produced documents, 43 of which defendant later discovered were privileged. Defense counsel argued the reviewing defense attorney failed to designate the documents privileged because he was not familiar with the name of defendant’s in-house counsel and the second level review neither caught this error nor flagged search words such as “legal.” Upon discovering the error, defense counsel requested a clawback of the 43 documents. Plaintiff’s counsel sequestered the 43 documents but challenged the clawback agreement’s application, arguing the disclosure resulted from...

Ineffective Privilege Review Leads to Inadvertent Waiver in Rolling Document Production

Recently, a federal court in Illinois held in Thorncreek Apartments III, LLC v. Village or Park Forest that a defendant waived the attorney-client privilege when it inadvertently produced 159 documents that it later claimed were privileged. The defendant’s failure to take reasonably adequate measures to prevent such disclosure serves as a lesson for all attorneys, especially those who manage large, rolling document productions with the help of a vendor.

Courts Embrace Sua Sponte Imposition of Rule 502 Clawback Provisions

In 2008, Congress adopted Federal Rule of Evidence 502. FRE 502 was designed to promote discovery by providing litigants with a tool to control review costs in large-scale document or electronic evidence productions while avoiding the risk of wholesale subject matter waiver in cases of inadvertent production of privileged materials. Under Rule 502, where privileged material (or other information protected from disclosure) is inadvertently revealed, the disclosing party retains the privilege so long as it took reasonable steps both to prevent the disclosure and to rectify its mistake. Although it is still in its infancy, Rule 502 nonetheless appears to be living up to expectations. Indeed, as two recent federal decisions demonstrate, FRE 502 is not simply a tool available to litigants but rather, it is yet another weapon in a judge’s arsenal, permitting the court to manage discovery and protect privilege, through sua sponte entry of clawback orders.

Judge Grimm Authors Tutorial on Federal Rule of Evidence 502

Magistrate Judge Paul W. Grimm, a renowned authority on e-discovery, recently published an article in the Richmond Journal of Law and Technology discussing Federal Rule of Evidence 502. Judge Grimm’s article, “Federal Rule of Evidence 502: Has It Lived Up To Its Potential?,” provides a comprehensive analysis of Rule 502, offers frank criticism of court decisions interpreting the rule and outlines do’s and don’ts for practitioners.

Think Before You “Data Dump” or Privileges Could Be Waived

When a party voluntarily dumps data on its adversary without first conducting a meaningful privilege review, that party may be deemed to have waived any applicable privileges, particularly where it fails to timely argue that a privilege review would be too costly. That is the lesson of In re Fontainebleau Las Vegas Contract Litig., 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 4105 (S.D. Fla. Jan. 7, 2011), a cautionary tale of the dangers of data dumping. After repeatedly failing to meet court-ordered production deadlines, in response to a subpoena, Fontainebleau Resorts, LLC (“FBR”) essentially dumped on the requesting parties (the “Term Lenders”) three servers containing approximately 800 GB of data–without first conducting any meaningful privilege review. Consequently, in its January 7th decision, the court granted the Term Lenders’ motion seeking a declaration that FBR waived its privilege claims. Had FBR litigated this matter differently, it might have protected its privileged information.

Mt. Hawley and the Cost-Saving and Practical Benefits of Fed. R. Evid. 502

The decision in Mt. Hawley Insurance Company v. Felman Production, Inc. demonstrates the importance of a court-approved stipulation regarding the production of electronically stored information (“ESI”). The court in Mt. Hawley found that the plaintiff had waived the attorney-client privilege and work product doctrine for certain documents because counsel had failed to take “reasonable precautions” to ensure that such otherwise privileged documents were not inadvertently disclosed. Such precautions should have included, for example, sampling its production and not delaying to recover privileged documents after their production was known. Importantly, the parties had not agreed to a non-waiver provision when negotiating the production of ESI, as permitted by Fed. R. Evid. 502 (“Rule 502”). Magistrate Judge Stanley’s decision ultimately was affirmed by Judge Robert C. Chambers in Felman Productions, Inc. v. Industrial Risk Insurers.