Tagged: Records Retention Policy

The Destruction of a “Startling Amount of Discovery”: District Court Imposes Severe, Case-Ending Sanctions Pursuant to Rule 37(e)(2)

The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington recently entered a default judgment order of terminating sanctions against defendants pursuant to Rule 37(e)(2), as a result of defendants’ wholesale destruction of a “startling amount of discovery” as part of defendants’ adoption of a document disposition program during the course of the litigation. The district court found that the defendants “purposefully destroyed” relevant electronically stored information (ESI) “to avoid their litigation obligations.” This decision highlights the importance of extreme caution in the adoption of a document disposition or information governance program, which necessarily eliminates typically large quantities of ESI, during the time period when the duty to preserve relevant ESI has been triggered. In Moreno v. Correctional Healthcare Companies, Inc., plaintiffs filed constitutional claims against defendants–providers of healthcare services to inmates–after plaintiffs’ eighteen-year-old son died while in defendants’ custody. In January 2018, prior to filing the lawsuit, plaintiffs sent a letter to defendants notifying defendants of their plan to file a lawsuit and advising defendants to “preserve all paper and electronic records that may be relevant to our clients’ claims” including “all e-mails and other electronic and paper records regardless of where they are maintained.” Plaintiffs filed the lawsuit in October 2018 and, in December 2018, served discovery requests on defendants, seeking certain categories...

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.

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.

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.

SEC Document Destruction Policy Suspended

The SEC recently admonished its enforcement staff attorneys to cease any efforts to purge documents from investigative files amidst criticism that the agency wrongfully destroyed thousands of documents related to high profile enforcement matters, including major fraud investigations involving Wall Street banks. The cease order was disclosed in a letter last month from the SEC’s general counsel. The order was precipitated by a whistleblower — long-time SEC enforcement attorney Darcy Flynn — who advised key congressional representatives that the agency had destroyed thousands of investigative files from preliminary enforcement investigations (internally referred to as “MUIs” — or matters under inquiry).

New York Appellate Court Refuses to Amend Confidentiality Order to Address Runaway Data Issue

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.

New York Courts Address ESI Inconsistencies at State and Federal Level: An Erie Solution?

A panel of New York state and federal judges recently convened to discuss the differing standards between New York state and federal law governing the pre-litigation preservation of ESI and to make recommendations to resolve such inconsistencies. The panel’s findings are reported in the publication, Harmonizing the Pre-Litigation Obligation to Preserve Electronically Stored Information in New York State and Federal Courts. The critical issue is determining when a litigant’s duty to preserve ESI is triggered, how that duty is fulfilled, and the potential consequences for breaching the duty. The panel recognized that the disparate treatment that litigants may receive in New York state courts versus federal courts could lead to a great deal of confusion and uncertainty, even for parties that cautiously implement ESI strategies with an eye towards future litigation. For example, the trend in New York federal courts has been in favor of the adoption of per se culpability when determining a litigant’s state of mind. In Zubulake, the court held that once the duty to preserve ESI attached, any destruction of documents would be, at a minimum, negligent. In Pension Committee, the court held that failure to issue a written litigation hold constituted “gross negligence.” State courts, on the other hand, have largely declined to adopt such per se rules, preferring instead to analyze a litigant’s culpability on a case-by-case basis, as the courts did in cases such as Deer Park and Ecor Solutions.

Gibbons E-Discovery Task Force Reaches New Heights

On October 28, the Gibbons E-Discovery Task Force hosted its fourth annual full day E-Discovery Conference, with more than 100 clients, in-house counsel and other contacts in attendance. Devoted to the latest developments in electronic discovery and corporate information management, this program included speakers who are among the most respected names in the e-discovery field, including former United States Magistrate Judges John Hughes and Ronald Hedges, e-discovery authority Michael Arkfeld, and representatives of leading corporations and e-discovery service providers. Among the Gibbons attorneys who presented and moderated panels were Task Force Chair, Mark S. Sidoti, Chair of the firm’s Employment Law Department, Christine A. Amalfe, and Task Force members, Luis J. Diaz, Phillip J. Duffy, Scott J. Etish, Lan Hoang and Jeffrey L. Nagel.

Gibbons to Host 4th Annual E-Discovery Conference – October 28, 2010

The Gibbons E-Discovery Task Force will host its fourth annual full day E-Discovery Conference on October 28, 2010, in the firm’s Newark, NJ office. Devoted to the latest developments in electronic discovery and corporate information management, this program will include speakers who are among the most respected names in the e-discovery field, including former United States Magistrate judges John Hughes and Ronald Hedges, e-discovery authority Michael Arkfeld, and representatives of leading corporations and e-discovery service providers.