Tagged: Legal Decisions & Court Rules

Court Threatens to Compel Hiring of Vendor if Document Production Problems Persist

Litigants who fail to meet e-discovery obligations run the risk not only of being sanctioned, but also of being subject to a court order compelling them to retain an e-discovery vendor. While the use of e-discovery vendors is becoming a common practice, it may add considerable expense to the already costly discovery phase of litigation. Additionally, compelled retention of a vendor may reduce litigants’ control over their own document production.

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.

Reeling in Fishing Expeditions: Proposed Amendments to the Federal Rules Are Aimed at Narrowing the Scope of Discovery and Increasing Judicial Management

Litigants frustrated by endless discovery and skyrocketing costs may find solace in knowing that change may be on the way. Proposed amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, as well as recent case law, signal efforts to narrow the scope of permissible discovery and increase judicial management of issues that arise. The proposed amendments — guided by the overarching goal of the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action embodied in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 1– are aimed at reeling in so-called “fishing expeditions” in which litigants attempt to use discovery to uncover additional causes of action not previously known, or, more nefariously, foist undue cost and burden on their adversary in the hopes of gaining a strategic advantage.

Can You Find Me Now?: New Jersey Supreme Court Says Police Need a Warrant to Access Location Information From a Cell Phone

“Advances in technology offer great benefits to society in many areas. At the same time, they can pose significant risks to individual privacy rights.” So begins the recently-issued unanimous decision of the New Jersey Supreme Court in State v. Earls, in which the Court found that “cell-phone users have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their cell-phone location information” and, therefore, under the New Jersey Constitution, “police must obtain a search warrant before accessing that information.” Coming at a time when the public’s attention is particularly focused on the tension between technology and privacy, this opinion represents a groundbreaking new rule of law on the constitutional limits of new methods of tracking and surveillance. (See also the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2011 decision in United States v. Jones and the New York Court of Appeals’ recent opinion in Cunningham v. New York State Department of Labor.) With this unprecedented decision, the New Jersey Supreme Court becomes the first state supreme court to find a constitutionally-protected privacy right in the location of a personal cell phone.

Father’s “Lifestyle” as Portrayed on Internet Causes Dramatic Increase in Child Support Obligations

A recent New Jersey Appellate Division decision in Fitzgerald v. Duff provides a potent reminder that if you are involved in litigation, anything you do or say online might be used against you in court. The Fitzgerald proceedings concerned a father’s attempt to modify a previously-entered child support order by submitting his 2011 income tax return, which reported a taxable income of $21,000 from a cash tattoo business. In opposition, the child’s legal custodian filed a certification opposing modification of the support order, suggesting that much of the defendant’s income was unreported, and that a much higher child support obligation was warranted. To support that position, the custodian submitted copies of defendant’s web site, Facebook photographs, and various social media comments evincing his success. The website identified multiple locations at which the tattoo parlor operated and plans for its imminent expansion, featured three staff tattoo artists, and advertised that defendant provided tattoo services for professional football players. The Facebook photographs depicted defendant throwing $100 bills, his speed boat, a 2011 Chevrolet Camaro (plaintiff also maintained defendant owned a Lincoln Navigator), his elaborate tropical wedding, and accompanying diamond engagement and wedding bands. Finally, comments from the father’s Myspace page included statements that in four hours he earns $250, his schedule had “been packed so [he could] pay for this wedding,” and that he purchased television advertising spots.

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.

Somebody’s Watching You — New York Court of Appeals Says State Can Place GPS Device on Employee’s Car, But Can Only Collect Data During Work Hours

In its recent 4-3 decision in Cunningham v. New York State Department of Labor, the New York Court of Appeals added to the growing body of case law addressing the constitutional implications of global positioning system (GPS) technology. In Cunningham, the Court found that the Department of Labor’s attaching of a GPS device to an employee’s personal car that was used for work purposes fell within the “workplace exception” to the warrant requirement, however, the search as conducted was unreasonable because the car’s location was tracked in the evenings, on weekends, and while the employee was on vacation. Interestingly, the Court suppressed all of the evidence collected by the GPS device, not just the data collected during non-work hours, citing the “extraordinary capacity” of GPS devices to permit “constant, relentless tracking of anything.”

Court Denies Direct Access to Computer, Phones, and Email Account Absent a Finding of Improper Conduct or Non-Compliance With Discovery Rules

In a recent decision in Carolina Bedding Direct, LLC v. Downen, United States Magistrate Judge Monte C. Richardson shed light on the limitations placed on discovery by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26 and the circumstances under which a requesting party will be denied wholesale access to a responding party’s computer, cell phone, and email account. The decision also reinforces that courts are unlikely to question a responding party’s certification of compliance with discovery requests absent a real showing of improper conduct, even if it is shown that the responding party failed to produce its own email and text messages that were later produced by another party.

NYC Teacher Nearly Loses Job Due to Facebook Comments About Her Students

Recently, a New York City public school teacher nearly lost her job after posting derogatory remarks on her private Facebook page about hating her students, whom she called “devil[‘]s spawns.” Although a hearing officer concluded that her employment should be terminated, the Supreme Court vacated that decision, which a unanimous panel of the Appellate Division affirmed.