As previously highlighted by this blog, discovery is best effectuated through cooperation by the parties in a litigation. A baseline to cooperation is adhering to the discovery rules set forth in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Supreme Court of Idaho recently issued a reminder to parties that discovery requests must be narrowly tailored in proportion to the needs of the litigation and that serving overly broad discovery requests is not a court-approved negotiation tactic. Further, prior to seeking court intervention, the parties should cooperate in an effort to resolve any discovery disputes by meeting and conferring with sincerity. In Oswald v. Costco Wholesale Corp., the plaintiff was struck by a car and pinned against another car in one of the defendant’s parking lots, causing significant and permanent injuries. The plaintiff sued the defendant, alleging the parking lot was unsafe in its design and construction. In discovery, the plaintiff propounded extremely broad discovery requests, requesting that the defendant disclose “on a nationwide basis any incident [involving] a vehicle impacting anything.” In turn, the defendant sought a protective order asserting the discovery requests were overly broad and unduly burdensome. The court agreed with the defendant, stating that the plaintiff inappropriately used the “hearing as a sort of negotiation whereby the court is expected to replace...
Tagged: Protective Orders
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...
Inadvertently Produced Privileged Material May Generally Be Used for Purpose of Challenging Assertion of Privilege
A New York federal court has recently held that inadvertently produced privileged documents may be used by the receiving party for the limited purpose of challenging the claim of privilege to the extent that the receiving party became aware of the contents of those documents prior to the assertion of the privilege over those documents. In re Keurig Green Mt. Single Serve Coffee Antitrust Litig. In that case, the parties had entered into a stipulated protective order with a Federal Rule of Evidence 502(d) clawback provision, but the parties relied on two different provisions of the same order to support their arguments concerning whether the privileged document could be relied upon in challenging the claim of privilege. The order stated that “[i]f a party has inadvertently or mistakenly produced Privileged Material, and if the party makes a written request for the return, … the receiving party will also make no use of the information contained in the Privileged Material … regardless of whether the receiving party disputes the claim of privilege.” However, the order also stated that “[t]he receiving party may not use the Privileged Material … for any purpose whatsoever other than moving the Court for an order compelling production of the Privileged Material…” The Court relied on two prior decisions, both authored by...
Discovery of computer source code–either through production, inspection, or deposition–is one of the more contentious aspects of patent litigation. Indeed, “few tasks excite a defendant less . . . . Engineers and management howl at the notion of providing strangers, and especially a fierce competitor, access to the crown jewels. Counsel struggle to understand even exactly what code exists and exactly how it can be made available for reasonable inspection. All sorts of questions are immediately posed. . . . Put simply, source code production is disruptive, expensive, and fraught with monumental opportunities to screw up.” Apple Inc. v. Samsung Elecs. Co., No. 11-1846, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 62971, *10-11 (N.D. Cal. May 4, 2012) (ECF No. 898).
Play Nice or Pay the Price: Failing to Cooperate in Creating Preservation Protocols Can Result in Significant Consequences
The dual issues of over-preservation and proportionality took center stage in a recent Southern District of New York class and collective action litigation, leading to a Magistrate’s opinion in Pippins v. KPMG, No. 11-377 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 7, 2011), and a District Court’s affirmance in Pippins v. KPMG, Civ. No. 11-377 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 3, 2012), which are sending shock waves through the e-discovery community. The effect of those shock waves here is particularly acute for FLSA and other employment-related class action defendants where the targeted company often possesses and controls ESI pertaining to sometimes thousands of potential plaintiffs.
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.
Confidentiality agreements and protective orders are a commonplace, yet indispensable, feature of modern commercial litigation. These agreements are typically the end result of a series of negotiations between counsel specifically designed to balance the seemingly incompatible objectives of ensuring ready access to vital evidence and ensuring that sensitive information, such as trade secrets, remains carefully shrouded from the public eye and industry competitors. The importance of ensuring that sensitive information remains confidential vis-à-vis the world at large during a lawsuit cannot be overstated. Confidentiality agreements often provide detailed provisions addressing who may access information and how information may be used. Once the litigation has concluded, parties are often faced with the sometimes challenging task of ensuring that all confidential information is either returned to the producing party or destroyed. Without proper planning, it may be difficult to put the proverbial genie back into the bottle.
The Sedona Conference’s Proportionality Guidelines Encourage Reasonable Limits on Scope of E-Discovery
The Sedona Conference’s most recent publication, Commentary on Proportionality in Electronic Discovery, sets forth six guidelines for assessing whether a discovery request or obligation should be limited because it is disproportionate to the likely benefit. The Sedona Conference noted that courts have often failed to apply the proportionality doctrine when warranted and that it is increasingly important for courts to do so given the volume and expense associated with discovery of ESI. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide ample authority for, and in some instances mandate, the application of a proportionality analysis. See Rule 26(c), Rule 26(b)(2)(C), and Rule 26(g). The New Jersey Court Rules are closely modeled after the Federal Rules in this respect. See R. 4:10-2(g), 4:10-3.