eDiscoveryDaily

Judge’s Ruling on Scope Under Rule 26 Brings a Mixed Bag of Motions Granted and Denied: eDiscovery Case Law

In TMJ Grp., LLC v. IMCMV Holdings, No. 17-4677 (E.D. La. April 6, 2018), Louisiana Magistrate Judge Janis van Meerveld ruled on Motions to Compel by both parties, both of which were granted in part and denied in part.

Case Background

The plaintiff, TMJ, alleged that it had been fraudulently induced to invest in two Margaritaville restaurants (one in the Mall of America and one in New Orleans) by the defendants. An interesting aspect of the discovery motions is TMJ’s allegation that it sought and obtained financing for the investment at issue in this lawsuit from FNBC Bank and that IMCMV altered financial figures in the financial statements so that FNBC would approve the financing after initially rejecting it.

IMCMV’s Motion to Compel

The first item at issue was the defendant’s motion to compel the redacted communications between FNBC and the plaintiff, which were ordered for in-camera review, as well as several depositions given after the discovery deadline. As a result, issues arose around scope of discovery under FRCP Rule 26.

The plaintiff submitted much of their document production right before or on the discovery deadline (around 3,700 pages) and as a result, the defendant said it didn’t have all the relevant documents available for the depositions where some FNBC documents were discussed, and because it did not have sufficient time to review those documents prior to the deposition, they argue that they “had an incomplete picture of the relationship, agreements, and documents, exchanged between FNBC and TMJ.”

The defendant also sought to compel the deposition of one or more former FNBC representatives, pointing out that the FNBC representatives are listed on both parties’ witness lists. However, because they did not have all of the FNBC documents prior to the discovery deadline, they initially decided not to depose FNBC. The late production of documents caused them to revisit this decision.

The plaintiff opposed the deposition of any FNBC representatives, claiming the request is untimely, because they identified FNBC personnel in its initial disclosures and earlier document production and that the defendant had long had sufficient information to determine whether to take such depositions. The plaintiff insisted it would be prejudiced if the depositions were allowed, given that trial was imminent.

TMJ’s Motion to Compel

The plaintiff’s motion to compel sought certain financial documents, including tax returns and schedules, financial statements, and accounting ledgers for all of the defendant’s other Margaritaville restaurants, insisting the documents were relevant, because the defendant’s financial forecasts were based on comparable IMCMV owned restaurants, which influenced their decision to invest.

The defendant claimed these financials were irrelevant and disproportional as the other restaurants are not a part of this litigation. The defendant explained that this data was already produced in Excel files which was considered by their expert.

The plaintiff also demanded responses to its interrogatories regarding the reasoning behind changes to financial statements made while the investments at issue here were being negotiated, alleging that the defendant altered them to make the investment appear more attractive to the plaintiff and FNBC. The plaintiff makes note that their identical responses to the three requests aren’t “boilerplate,” but that they meaningfully explain how changes were made by stating that “in preparing financial projections, [IMCMV] takes into account planned seating capacity, estimated revenue per seat per year, the financial results of other Margaritaville-themed restaurants, the location, market competitors, and the labor market.”

The plaintiff also sought text messages between the parties, pointing out that they frequently corresponded in this manner. The defendant responded that their former chief development officer left the company, and they had not been able to access his iPhone. The defendant requested passcodes from the former CDO, but those didn’t work. Another individual who also was no longer working for IMCMV, had custody of the phone in the interim, but he had reset the phone and added a new passcode. The defendant then contacted Apple and its carrier, AT&T, who both indicated that the passcode could not be bypassed without resetting the phone.

Judge’s Ruling

Regarding IMCMV’s motions, there was no real dispute that a deposition of an FNBC representative is within the scope of discovery. Judge van Meerveld ruled that “a second deposition of Motwani [an FNBC Bank representative] is appropriate here in light of the documents produced after his deposition. The scope of the deposition shall be limited to the documents produced after Motwani’s deposition, and any other documents or issues required to give context to, provide clarification of, to contrast with, or explain discrepancies with the documents produced after Motwani’s deposition. This could, therefore, permit reference to earlier produced documents.” Accordingly, an extension of the discovery deadline was provided, and the defendant “may proceed with a deposition of one FNBC representative and, if necessary due to that representative’s inability to provide complete answers, a second FNBC representative.”

In regard to the plaintiff’s motions, Judge van Meerwald agreed that “the financial documents for the other Margaritaville restaurants are not relevant or proportional to the needs of this case. TMJ already has the key performance indicators extracted from those financials for the purpose of creating the business cases and pro formas for the proposed investment. The relevance of the financial statements of the other restaurants is too tangential to justify the burden of production.” As to these documents, the motion to compel was denied.

As to the plaintiff’s demand that certain financial documents be produced in Excel rather than PDF format, the court found the burden to the defendant “too great to justify IMCMV undertaking that endeavor here. However, the Court has ordered the parties to work together to provide the documents in their native format. If this is unsuccessful, the parties may contact the chambers of the undersigned to set up a telephone conference to discuss.”

So, what do you think? Did the judge interpret the idea of scope under Rule 26 correctly?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Case opinion link courtesy of eDiscovery Assistant.

Sponsor: This blog is sponsored by CloudNine, which is a data and legal discovery technology company with proven expertise in simplifying and automating the discovery of data for audits, investigations, and litigation. Used by legal and business customers worldwide including more than 50 of the top 250 Am Law firms and many of the world’s leading corporations, CloudNine’s eDiscovery automation software and services help customers gain insight and intelligence on electronic data.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

eDiscovery for the Rest of Us: eDiscovery Best Practices, Part Three

Editor’s Note: Tom O’Connor is a nationally known consultant, speaker, and writer in the field of computerized litigation support systems.  He has also been a great addition to our webinar program, participating with me on several recent webinars.  Tom has also written several terrific informational overview series for CloudNine, including eDiscovery and the GDPR: Ready or Not, Here it Comes (which we covered as a webcast), Understanding eDiscovery in Criminal Cases (which we also covered as a webcast), ALSP – Not Just Your Daddy’s LPO and Why Is TAR Like a Bag of M&M’s?. Now, Tom has written another terrific overview regarding eDiscovery for the smaller cases titled eDiscovery for the Rest of Us that we’re happy to share on the eDiscovery Daily blog (and will cover later this month in a webcast).  Enjoy! – Doug

Tom’s overview is split into four parts, so we’ll cover each part separately.  Part One was published last Tuesday and Part Two was published last Thursday.  Here’s Part Three.

The Ernie Challenge

To answer the question of what to do for the cases larger than $1,000 but less than the major litigation cases, I drew up the “Ernie Challenge,” with advice from Craig Ball and DLA Piper senior counsel Browning Marean.  Named for my good friend Ernie Svenson, then a solo attorney with a general practice in New Orleans, it was posted on its own blog site at  http://theerniechallenge.wordpress.com/ .

Ernie is very tech savvy and often calls me when he has an EDD question involving what we call the “tweener” cases, those that fit in between the range covered by the Edna Challenge and mega cases suitable for the larger brand name products that dominate the EDD world.

The Ernie Challenge posited a case with roughly 1 terabyte of data to collect and a final amount of 200 gigabytes of data to review, most of that e-mail with the balance being various types of financial data. We also asked for some form of web review tool to work with the clients’ counsel and contract staff in a separate location.

There were several problems in meeting this challenge. First of course was pricing. Many, if not most, eDiscovery vendors at that time had their roots in the per unit commodity pricing days of photocopying and imaging. The standard practice was to charge hundreds of dollars per GB to process the data (which included culling, deduping, and de-nisting of the data set then preparing it for loading into a review software); then charging again — by both GB and user — on a monthly basis to review the data.

As a result, a simple license plus annual maintenance or a monthly subscription fee model for eDiscovery products didn’t exist. Instead, we had to sort through hundreds of products priced by varying and often widely divergent methods.

$X per GB for processing, $X per page for OCR, $X per document for near duplicate detection, $X per page for Bates numbers, $X per user and per GB to host and so on. Each is performed for different units with different unit pricing that can run from a penny to $500 per unit

For example, if a client paid for a forensically sound data collection of 800 GB (the size of the hard drive of one typical computer) and that data set eventually yields 200 GB of reviewable material, a typical eDiscovery company would charge $200 per GB for the processing ($160,000) plus $50 per month per GB ($10,000) and $90 per month per user for the hosting. If the case were to last 18 months, this cost alone would be just under $350,000.00. And if we accept the commonly cited statistic that the review process will account for 60-70% of the total project price, then we’re looking at a project cost that will eventually be close to $1,000,000.00.

For 200 GB of data!

To avoid the shock of those costs being immediately apparent, vendors often using pricing sheets in response to an eDiscovery RFP that looked like the menu in a Chinese restaurant … without English subtitles. And very few people had the experience, let alone the patience, to sort through those sheets. I myself was often called by clients to help them in that process because the separate bids they receive to an RFP don’t even appear to respond to the same proposal!

So, if your case was only worth $400,000 and after analysis and discussion with your client, you believe you cannot spend more than $10,000 for ESI processing and hosting services over the anticipated 18-month life of the case, you had a problem.

And if your case fell within the scope of the EDna Challenge, a small case with an eDiscovery budget of less than $1,000, you had an enormous problem.

By 2011, the question was paramount but we began to see some glimmer of hope. Craig Ball, in an interview at Legal Tech New York with Doug Austin ( https://www.eDiscovery.co/eDiscoverydaily/electronic-discovery/eDiscovery-trends-craig-ball-of-craig-d-ball-pc-2/) said “…  I’m seeing some behind the firewall products, even desktop products, that are going to be able to allow lawyers and people with relatively little technical expertise to handle small and medium sized cases.”

And that is the essence of our Small Case Dilemma. Where are those programs? Are there really applications that attorneys can use themselves to process and host data? Is there really a way to process and review a couple of hundred GB of data for a reasonable price?

By 2012, the products Craig Ball mentioned had materialized. In the book we wrote as a follow up to our ABA TechShow session (Electronic Discovery for Small Cases (ABA, 2012), Bruce Olson and I listed several, including:

And at the same time, pricing began to drop substantially. Not only did unit pricing lower dramatically but we also began to see drop a trend away from the unit pricing model towards a flat fee or “all in” pricing. These sort of bundled flat rate prices, whether it be “per gigabyte,” “per drive,” or even “per case,” cover all the variables currently priced by the big boys as separate line items.

This development stemmed from two factors: (1) increased pricing competition among vendors and (2) newer cheaper technology. Faster processing products were being sold directly to corporate legal departments and law firms while the cost of hosting is being driven down by non-legal services such as Amazon and Microsoft. These developments give clients the option of using an in-house solution that cost far less than the prices stated above which then caused vendors to drop their prices accordingly.

We’ll publish Part 4 – The EDna Challenge, 2016, What’s Next and Conclusion – on Thursday.

So, what do you think?  Do smaller litigation cases get shortchanged when it comes to eDiscovery technology?  As always, please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Sponsor: This blog is sponsored by CloudNine, which is a data and legal discovery technology company with proven expertise in simplifying and automating the discovery of data for audits, investigations, and litigation. Used by legal and business customers worldwide including more than 50 of the top 250 Am Law firms and many of the world’s leading corporations, CloudNine’s eDiscovery automation software and services help customers gain insight and intelligence on electronic data.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

Fourth Circuit Rules that Warrantless Cell Phone is Warranted: Data Privacy Trends

Don’t let my cute title confuse you.  In this case, the Fourth Circuit issued an interesting decision regarding whether a warrant is required to search an individual’s cell phone.

According to Sharon Nelson’s terrific Ride the Lightning blog (4th Circuit Says Border Search of Phones Requires Individualized Suspicion (But Not a Warrant)), on May 9th, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision in US v. Kolsuz, ruling that in light of the immense privacy concerns, forensic searches of electronic devices seized at the border must be justified by individualized suspicion, or some reason to believe that a particular traveler had committed a crime.  But not a warrant.

The appeals court said border patrol officers had reasonable suspicion to conduct a forensic search of Hamza Kolsuz’s cellphone, and they were entitled to rely on that standard based on case law that suggested it was, at most, all that was required. The officers had seized Kolsuz’s phone after they found firearms parts that required an export license in his checked luggage. It was the third time weapons parts were found in his luggage.  That certainly seems like reasonable suspicion to me.

The forensic search of Kolsuz’s phone produced information that included personal contact lists, e-mails, messenger conversations, photographs, videos, calendar, web browsing history, call logs and GPS tracking history. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison after a conviction for violating the Arms Export Control Act and conspiracy.

The federal government had contended that searches of electronic devices require no warrant or individualized suspicion under an exception that allows searches of suitcases at the border.  Tom O’Connor discussed the Border Entry exception as part of his Understanding eDiscovery in Criminal Cases on our blog here.

The decision is the first federal appellate ruling to require individualized suspicion in a border search of a cellphone since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Riley v. California in 2014 (which Tom O’Connor also discussed on our blog here) that police generally can’t search the contents of a cellphone seized during an arrest, unless they get a warrant, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

Under Riley’s recognition of the extensive information stored on cellphones, the Fourth Circuit said, the forensic search of Kolsuz’s phone should be considered a nonroutine border search that requires some measure of individualized suspicion.

The EFF and the ACLU had filed amicus briefs urging the Fourth Circuit to go further and hold that probable cause is needed before a search of electronic devices, whether it’s a manual search or one using forensic software.

After arguments in the case, the Department of Homeland Security adopted a policy that treats forensic searches of digital devices as nonroutine border searches requiring reasonable suspicion of activity that violates the customs laws or in cases raising national security concerns, according to the opinion.

The ACLU and the EFF have filed a separate lawsuit that challenges warrantless searches of electronic devices at the border.  In her blog, Sharon notes that she “remain(s) on their side.”  We can agree to disagree on this one… :o)

So, what do you think?  Should cell phone and other electronic device searches at the border require a warrant?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Sponsor: This blog is sponsored by CloudNine, which is a data and legal discovery technology company with proven expertise in simplifying and automating the discovery of data for audits, investigations, and litigation. Used by legal and business customers worldwide including more than 50 of the top 250 Am Law firms and many of the world’s leading corporations, CloudNine’s eDiscovery automation software and services help customers gain insight and intelligence on electronic data.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

Here’s One Way to Comply with GDPR – Block All EU Users: Data Privacy Trends

Believe it or not, Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is set to go into effect in one just one week(!), on May 25th.  Many organizations are scrambling to comply with the new regulation and a lot of them won’t have compliance sorted out in the next week.  As a result, some companies have realized it’s just too much of a hassle and decided to block all access to EU users.

According to Above the Law (Companies Respond To The GDPR By Blocking All EU Users, written by “Techdirt”), F-Secure’s Mikko Hypponen has tracked a bunch of examples of sites that give you some simple javascript to block EU visitors.  Hypponen highlighted one site (currently offline, but can be seen at the Internet Archive) called GDPR Shield that does that (assuming the requestor has Javascript turned on, and their location is determined accurately — both of which may be big assumptions). Hypponen also noted several other sites cutting off EU users, including: Ragnarok Online, Verve, Brent Ozar, Unroll.me, SMNC, Tunngle, Drawbridge and Steel Root.

Hypponen also noted the very different reactions to all of this from EU readers and US readers. EU folks seem to be generally supportive of the GDPR and think that companies shutting down service are either stupid & ignorant or evil and thus should shut down. On the US side, he noted people are smug about how this serves the EU right and will harm the EU.

I can understand the prospects of a penalty of €20 million or 4% of worldwide revenue (whichever is greater) can cause organizations to take drastic steps.  But, should those steps include blocking EU users altogether?  Seems like a great way to cut off a lot of potential revenue.  What’s better: to be penalized for not complying with GDPR or to give up potential business in a drastic attempt to avoid the penalty?

Back in February, Tom O’Connor and I discussed the aspects of GDPR and steps to comply in a webcast we conducted on the topic (and we didn’t advocate shutting out the EU users).  It’s not too late to check it out!  One week to go!

So, what do you think?  Are you ready for GDPR?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Sponsor: This blog is sponsored by CloudNine, which is a data and legal discovery technology company with proven expertise in simplifying and automating the discovery of data for audits, investigations, and litigation. Used by legal and business customers worldwide including more than 50 of the top 250 Am Law firms and many of the world’s leading corporations, CloudNine’s eDiscovery automation software and services help customers gain insight and intelligence on electronic data.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

eDiscovery for the Rest of Us: eDiscovery Best Practices, Part Two

Editor’s Note: Tom O’Connor is a nationally known consultant, speaker, and writer in the field of computerized litigation support systems.  He has also been a great addition to our webinar program, participating with me on several recent webinars.  Tom has also written several terrific informational overview series for CloudNine, including eDiscovery and the GDPR: Ready or Not, Here it Comes (which we covered as a webcast), Understanding eDiscovery in Criminal Cases (which we also covered as a webcast), ALSP – Not Just Your Daddy’s LPO and Why Is TAR Like a Bag of M&M’s?. Now, Tom has written another terrific overview regarding eDiscovery for the smaller cases titled eDiscovery for the Rest of Us that we’re happy to share on the eDiscovery Daily blog (and will cover later this month in a webcast).  Enjoy! – Doug

Tom’s overview is split into four parts, so we’ll cover each part separately.  Part One was published on Tuesday.  Here’s Part Two.

eDiscovery: The Early Years

The first formalized changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure were made in December of 2006 as the culmination of a period of debate and review that started in March 2000. Prior to the codified changes, there were several prominent lawsuits touching on the subject, most notably the matter popularly known as the Zubulake case. (Zubulake v. UBS Warburg, 220 F.R.D. 212 (S.D.N.Y. 2003))

Throughout the case, the plaintiff claimed that the evidence needed to prove the case existed in emails stored on UBS’ own computer systems. Because the emails requested were either never found or destroyed, the court found that it was more likely that they existed than not. The court found that while the corporation’s counsel directed that all potential discovery evidence, including emails, be preserved, the staff that the directive applied to did not follow through. This resulted in significant sanctions against UBS.

That case and the subsequent rule changes effectively forced civil litigants into a compliance mode with respect to their proper retention and management of electronically stored information (ESI). The risks that litigants then began to face because of improper management of ESI include spoliation of evidence, adverse inference, summary judgment, and sanctions. In some cases, such as Qualcomm Inc., v. Broadcom Corp., 548 F.3d 1004 (Fed. Cir. 2008), attorneys were even brought before their state bar association to answer to charges of misconduct.

At roughly the same time, the EDRM was started to deliver leadership, standards, best practices, tools, guides, and test data sets to improve electronic discovery work flow processes.  The original EDRM project (it is now owned by Duke University School of Law) came up with the following chart to show a general work flow for eDiscovery projects.

The problems faced by these new rules was the multiplicity of data in electronic formats. Examples of the types of data included in e-discovery are not just documents but e-mail, databases, web sites, instant messaging and any other electronically stored information that could be relevant evidence in litigation. Also included in e-discovery is “raw data”, which Forensic Investigators can review for hidden evidence.

Litigators may review material from e-discovery in one of several formats: printed paper, PDF images (with or without searchable text) or as single- or multi-page TIFF images. The original file format is also known as the “native” format.

The EDna Challenge, 2009

In 2009, noted e-discovery consultant Craig Ball wrote a fascinating article in Law Technology News called  “E-Discovery for Everybody.”  That column came to be known as the “EDna Challenge” (Craig likes visual puns) because in it, Craig posited a solo practitioner named Edna with an e-discovery budget of $1,000 and asked how she could possibly perform any e-discovery on that amount.  He then solicited a wide-ranging number of answers from a variety of consultants and vendors and compiled them into the article, which is now posted on his website at http://www.craigball.com/E-Discovery%20for%20Everybody.pdf .

Craig asked people to suggest a program or programs with the following criteria:

  1. Preserve relevant metadata;
  2. Incorporate de-duplication, as feasible;
  3. Support robust search of Outlook mail and productivity formats;
  4. Allow for efficient workflow;
  5. Enable rudimentary redaction;
  6. Run well on most late-model personal computers; and
  7. Require no more than $1,000.00 in new software or hardware, though it’s fine to use fully-functional “free trial” software so long as you can access the data for the 2-3 year life of the case

The problem as Ball defined it still exists now:

“The vast majority of cases filed, developed and tried in the United States are not multimillion dollar dust ups between big companies. The evidence in modest cases is digital, too. Solo and small firm counsel like Edna need affordable, user-friendly tools designed for desktop eDiscovery — tools that preserve metadata, offer efficient workflow and ably handle the common file formats that account for nearly all of the ESI seen in day-to-day litigation. Using the tools and techniques described by my thoughtful colleagues, Edna will get the job done on time and under budget. The pieces are there, though the integration falls short.”

However, Craig did offer a little future optimism here:

“One possible bright spot was the emergence of hosted options. No one was sure the job could be begun–let alone completed–using SaaS on so tight a budget; but, there was enough mention of Saas to make it seem like a possibility, now or someday soon.”

And what about cases that fall between the Edna budget limit of $1,000 and major litigation like Pension Committee, a $550 million case arising out of the liquidation of hedge funds? (Pension Committee of the University of Montreal Pension Plan v. Banc of America Securities, LLC, 685 F.Supp.2d 456, 465 (S.D.N.Y.2010)?

We’ll publish Part 3 – The Ernie Challenge – next Tuesday.

So, what do you think?  Do smaller litigation cases get shortchanged when it comes to eDiscovery technology?  As always, please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Sponsor: This blog is sponsored by CloudNine, which is a data and legal discovery technology company with proven expertise in simplifying and automating the discovery of data for audits, investigations, and litigation. Used by legal and business customers worldwide including more than 50 of the top 250 Am Law firms and many of the world’s leading corporations, CloudNine’s eDiscovery automation software and services help customers gain insight and intelligence on electronic data.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

Former Employee Sanctioned for Lying Under Oath, Destruction of ESI: eDiscovery Case Law

In Heggen v. Maxim Healthcare Servs., Inc., No. 1:16-cv-00440-TLS-SLC (N.D. Ind. April 27, 2018), Indiana Magistrate Judge Susan Collins ruled that the plaintiff’s destruction of requested cellphone recordings, as well as lying under oath, were sanctionable under FRCP Rule 37.

Case Background

The plaintiff filed the case against her former employer – a provider of temporary medical staffing, home health care, and wellness services – with claims of sexual harassment and retaliation. The plaintiff stated under oath that she chose to leave these employers “voluntarily” because the two clients with whom she worked were going into a nursing home.

However, the defendant pointed out that records show that the plaintiff was terminated after she refused to discuss a complaint that the plaintiff stole $300 from a client under her care, as well as mismanagement of the client’s financial assets. A discovery request to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development revealed that the plaintiff had worked for Interim Health Care immediately prior to joining the defendant, even though she responded to the first request for production with a different former employer, and then stated a second employer during her deposition. Based on the records from Interim, the defendant claimed that the circumstances of the plaintiff’s departure from Interim were “strikingly similar” to the plaintiff’s time at the defendant, including that a patient’s medications went missing – the plaintiff then tested positive for the missing medications on a drug test, and the plaintiff failed to return to work after the complaint.

The clearest contention that the defendant brought is that the plaintiff destroyed key evidence in at least three different ways and this, along with the other actions by the plaintiff, the defendant contended was grounds for a dismissal sanction. The plaintiff testified at her deposition that she made about seven recordings of unidentified defendant employees and said these recordings supported her claims against the defendant, she also testified that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) had the recordings, because she deleted the recordings from her cell phone since she “didn’t want them to have [her] phone lost and have them be out there.” She claimed she had emailed the recordings to the EEOC, but couldn’t find any copy of the emails transmitting the recordings. After sending the emails, she performed a factory reset of her phone (an older Apple model) that basically had “broke[n] down,” and that she was trying to get working again. The reset deleted all of the data stored on it, including the recordings.

She felt that emailing the recordings to EEOC was a form of preservation and “thought it was okay to get rid of them[.]” Copies of three of the recordings were found, and the plaintiff submitted transcripts of these recordings with her response brief, and she also provided a copy of the recordings and transcripts to the defendant. However, there was no explanation for the other missing recordings.

The defendant had sought the recordings from the plaintiff for months through traditional discovery and because it did not have the recordings when it deposed the plaintiff, it felt that resulted in prejudice against them. They also argued that there was a significant difference between original recordings and copies of recordings. What the plaintiff submitted appeared to be at least two different layers of recorded conversations: “an ongoing face-to-face interaction between individuals who are supposedly simultaneously listening to and participating in a different interaction by telephone, all recorded on top of each other.”  Also, because they were copies, there was no way to delve into the original metadata of the recordings. Further, while the original recordings were made on an iPhone, the files produced were in 3GP format, a format generally used by Android phones, raising even more questions.

Judge’s Ruling

Judge Collins ruled that the defendant’s failure under oath to disclose Interim as a prior employer and for her destruction of the original cell phone recordings was sanctionable. But noted that a sanction for discovery abuse must be “a proportionate response to the circumstances.”

Judge Collins stated, “The draconian sanction of dismissal is not presently warranted here. Rather, the present circumstances warrant the imposition of lesser sanctions in the form of a monetary penalty—that is, ordering Heggen to pay the reasonable expenses, including attorney’s fees, that Maxim incurred in filing the motion to compel [See FRCP Rule 37]. The Court has no reason, at least at this juncture, to conclude that the imposition of this monetary penalty would be fruitless. The Court will also consider a spoliation instruction upon a pretrial motion by counsel should this case go to trial. The motion for sanctions is otherwise denied. Heggen is duly warned that any additional discovery transgressions may result in further sanctions against her, up to and including dismissal of this case.”

So, what do you think?  Was the ruling correct or was a sanction of dismissal warranted in this case?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Case opinion link courtesy of eDiscovery Assistant.

Sponsor: This blog is sponsored by CloudNine, which is a data and legal discovery technology company with proven expertise in simplifying and automating the discovery of data for audits, investigations, and litigation. Used by legal and business customers worldwide including more than 50 of the top 250 Am Law firms and many of the world’s leading corporations, CloudNine’s eDiscovery automation software and services help customers gain insight and intelligence on electronic data.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

eDiscovery for the Rest of Us: eDiscovery Best Practices

Editor’s Note: Tom O’Connor is a nationally known consultant, speaker, and writer in the field of computerized litigation support systems.  He has also been a great addition to our webinar program, participating with me on several recent webinars.  Tom has also written several terrific informational overview series for CloudNine, including eDiscovery and the GDPR: Ready or Not, Here it Comes (which we covered as a webcast), Understanding eDiscovery in Criminal Cases (which we also covered as a webcast), ALSP – Not Just Your Daddy’s LPO and Why Is TAR Like a Bag of M&M’s?. Now, Tom has written another terrific overview regarding eDiscovery for the smaller cases titled eDiscovery for the Rest of Us that we’re happy to share on the eDiscovery Daily blog (and will cover later this month in a webcast).  Enjoy! – Doug

Tom’s overview is split into four parts, so we’ll cover each part separately.  Here’s the first part.

Introduction

With the high number of eDiscovery vendors and the huge amount of ED conferences, webinars and seminars, you might ask why we would talk about eDiscovery for “the rest of us”.  eDiscovery was initially seen as the exclusive domain of large firms with large cases in Federal court.  But the fact is that firms of all sizes now must know how to handle electronic discovery efficiently and cost-effectively. Why?

First, most attorneys in private practice are employed by law firms with fewer than 20 lawyers and, in fact, half of all U.S lawyers in private practice are solo practitioners.  Smaller firms mean smaller cases. With the increase in digital activity by people in all areas of their lives, we are now seeing e-discovery become an issue in domestic disputes, employment cases and even criminal matters. All case types handled by small firms.

And the initial Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governing ESI have now been emulated in over 2/3 of the states with even an agreed-upon e-discovery exchange protocol between the offices of the U.S. Attorney and the Federal Defenders for criminal cases finding its way into state matters. Coast-to-coast, from California to Florida and from states as populous as New Jersey to mostly rural states such as Louisiana and Alabama, e-discovery is now a local issue.

Indeed, when Bruce Olson and I first gave a presentation called eDiscovery for Small Cases at the ABA TechShow in March of 2010, we didn’t expect much of a turnout.  But the room was packed and we both realized we had struck a nerve.

Why?  Bruce and I called it the Small Case Dilemma.  We’ll explore that issue and others in this paper, as follows:

  1. eDiscovery: The Early Years
  2. The EDna Challenge, 2009
  3. The Ernie Challenge
  4. The EDna Challenge, 2016
  5. What’s Next?
  6. Conclusion

We’ll publish Part 2 – eDiscovery: The Early Years and The EDna Challenge, 2009 – on Thursday.

So, what do you think?  Do smaller litigation cases get shortchanged when it comes to eDiscovery technology?  As always, please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Sponsor: This blog is sponsored by CloudNine, which is a data and legal discovery technology company with proven expertise in simplifying and automating the discovery of data for audits, investigations, and litigation. Used by legal and business customers worldwide including more than 50 of the top 250 Am Law firms and many of the world’s leading corporations, CloudNine’s eDiscovery automation software and services help customers gain insight and intelligence on electronic data.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

Could We Be Close to a Second State to Approve a Technology CLE Requirement?: eDiscovery Trends

In 2016, Florida became the first state to mandate technology training for lawyers, when it adopted a rule requiring lawyers to complete three hours of CLE every three years “in approved technology programs.”  We covered it here.  That requirement went into effect on January 1, 2017 and CloudNine has certainly been providing several CLE courses that are technology approved in Florida.  We’ve been wondering when a second state was going to follow suit and we may be close to an answer.

According to Robert Ambrogi and his Law Sites blog (A Second State Moves Closer to Mandating Technology Training for Lawyers), the North Carolina State Bar Council has approved a proposed amendment to lawyers’ annual CLE requirements that would mandate that one hour of the required 12 hours of CLE training annually be devoted to technology training.

The council adopted the proposed amendment on April 20. The proposed amendment now goes to the North Carolina Supreme Court for approval.

The proposed amendment would also add a definition of technology training, as follows:

“Technology training” shall mean a program, or a segment of a program, devoted to education on information technology (IT) or cybersecurity (see N.C. Gen. Stat. §143B-1320(a)(11), or successor statutory provision, for a definition of “information technology”), including education on an information technology product, device, platform, application, or other tool, process, or methodology. To be eligible for CLE accreditation as a technology training program, the program must satisfy the accreditation standards in Rule .1519 of this subchapter: specifically, the primary objective of the program must be to increase the participant’s professional competence and proficiency as a lawyer. Such programs include, but are not limited to, education on the following: a) an IT tool, process, or methodology designed to perform tasks that are specific or uniquely suited to the practice of law; b) using a generic IT tool process or methodology to increase the efficiency of performing tasks necessary to the practice of law; c) the investigation, collection, and introduction of social media evidence; d) e-discovery; e) electronic filing of legal documents; f) digital forensics for legal investigation or litigation; and g) practice management software. See Rule .1602 of this subchapter for additional information on accreditation of technology training programs.

However, as Kevin O’Keefe notes in his Real Lawyers blog (via a tweet by Richard Granat), the same North Carolina has just passed regulation restricting the distribution of self-help legal software over the Internet.  Go figure.

Regardless, I will be very interested to see what happens in the state that I’m now spending a lot of my time (because of our recent acquisition, of course).

So, what do you think?  Will we see more states require technology CLE?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Sponsor: This blog is sponsored by CloudNine, which is a data and legal discovery technology company with proven expertise in simplifying and automating the discovery of data for audits, investigations, and litigation. Used by legal and business customers worldwide including more than 50 of the top 250 Am Law firms and many of the world’s leading corporations, CloudNine’s eDiscovery automation software and services help customers gain insight and intelligence on electronic data.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

A Fresh Comparison of TAR and Keyword Search: eDiscovery Best Practices

Bill Dimm of Hot Neuron (the company that provides the product Clustify that provides document clustering and predictive coding technologies, among others) is one of the smartest men I know about technology assisted review (TAR).  So, I’m always interested to hear what he has to say about TAR, how it can be used and how effective it is when compared to other methods (such as keyword searching).  His latest blog post on the Clustify site talk about an interesting exercise that did exactly that: compared TAR to keyword search in a real classroom scenario.

In TAR vs. Keyword Search Challenge on the Clustify blog, Bill challenged the audience during the NorCal eDiscovery & IG Retreat to create keyword searches that would work better than technology-assisted review (predictive coding) for two topics.  Half of the room was tasked with finding articles about biology (science-oriented articles, excluding medical treatment) and the other half searched for articles about current law (excluding proposed laws or politics).  Bill then ran one of the searches against TAR in Clustify live during the presentation (the others he couldn’t do during the session due to time constraints, but did afterward and covered those on his blog, providing the specific searches to which he compared TAR).

To evaluate the results, Bill measured the recall from the top 3,000 and top 6,000 hits on the search query (3% and 6% of the population respectively) and also included the recall achieved by looking at all docs that matched the search query, just to see what recall the search queries could achieve if you didn’t worry about pulling in a ton of non-relevant docs.  For the TAR results he used TAR 3.0 (which is like Continuous Active Learning, but applied to cluster centers only) trained with (a whopping) two seed documents (one relevant from a keyword search and one random non-relevant document) followed by 20 iterations of 10 top-scoring cluster centers, for a total of 202 training documents.  To compare to the top 3,000 search query matches, the 202 training documents plus 2,798 top-scoring documents were used for TAR, so the total document review (including training) would be the same for TAR and the search query.

The result: TAR beat keyword search across the board for both tasks.  The top 3,000 documents returned by TAR achieved higher recall than the top 6,000 documents for any keyword search.  Based on this exercise, TAR achieved better results (higher recall) with half as much document review compared to any of the keyword searches.  The top 6,000 documents returned by TAR achieved higher recall than all of the documents matching any individual keyword search, even when the keyword search returned 27,000 documents.

Bill acknowledges that the audience had limited time to construct queries, they weren’t familiar with the data set, and they couldn’t do sampling to tune their queries, so the keyword searching wasn’t optimal.  Then again, for many of the attorneys I’ve worked with, that sounds pretty normal.  :o)

One reader commented about email headers and footers cluttering up results and Bill pointed out that “Clustify has the ability to ignore email header data (even if embedded in the middle of the email due to replies) and footers” – which I’ve seen and is actually pretty cool.  Irrespective of the specifics of the technology, Bill’s example is a terrific fresh example of how TAR can outperform keyword search – as Bill notes in his response to the commenter “humans could probably do better if they could test their queries, but they would probably still lose”.  Very interesting.  You’ll want to check out the details of his test via the link here.

So, what do you think?  Do you think this is a valid comparison of TAR and keyword searching?  Why or why not?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Sponsor: This blog is sponsored by CloudNine, which is a data and legal discovery technology company with proven expertise in simplifying and automating the discovery of data for audits, investigations, and litigation. Used by legal and business customers worldwide including more than 50 of the top 250 Am Law firms and many of the world’s leading corporations, CloudNine’s eDiscovery automation software and services help customers gain insight and intelligence on electronic data.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

Former Football Players Sanctioned for Failure to Produce: eDiscovery Case Law

In Michael E. Davis, et al. v. Electronic Arts, Inc., No. 10-cv-03328-RS, (N.D. Cal., April 3, 2018), California Magistrate Judge Donna M. Ryu ruled that the plaintiff’s failure to fully comply with the discovery requests by the defendant were sanctionable under FRCP Rule 37, which states, “Such sanctions may include ordering a party to pay the reasonable expenses, including attorneys’ fees, caused by its failure to comply with the order or rule.”

Case Background

Three former NFL players claimed that Electronic Arts (EA) used their likenesses in the Madden NFL videogame series without authorization. In July 2017, EA moved to compel plaintiffs to provide further responses to discovery, and the court ordered the parties to meet and confer regarding the disputes set forth in the letters and to file joint letters regarding any remaining disputes. After a hearing, the Court granted in part EA’s motions to compel further responses to requests for the production of documents (“RFPs”), interrogatories, and requests for admission (“RFA”), setting a deadline for response on September 28, 2017.

A day after the deadline, the plaintiffs responded by saying they had, “engaged in a reasonable and diligent search” but found no responsive documents to certain requests. The plaintiffs also said the requested privilege log was rendered unusable due to a computer error even though both the plaintiffs and the plaintiffs’ attorney had stated in an earlier hearing that they had regular communications via email regarding the case.

EA requested sanctions of $45,000 against the plaintiffs under Rule 37. However, the billing records EA provided to the court did not segregate the fees by task or category, which makes it difficult to evaluate the reasonableness of the time expended, or to calculate precise sums that should be allowed or disallowed. But even with the problems with EA’s billing records, it was clear that EA incurred substantial attorneys’ fees in attempting to obtain plaintiffs’ compliance and seeking court intervention.

Judge’s Ruling

Given the inconsistencies between counsel and plaintiffs’ statements about communications regarding this litigation, Judge Ryu expressed concern about the adequacy of the plaintiffs’ search for responsive documents and ordered them to “search thoroughly all . . . email, going all the way back, for communications between [Plaintiffs] and other people who are not lawyers about this case.”

Judge Ryu also ruled that the plaintiffs’ response to the defendant’s discovery request was deficient and found monetary sanctions appropriate in this case, in addition to the evidentiary sanctions, as their conduct forced EA and the court to continue to expend significant resources to address plaintiffs’ failure to meet its discovery obligations and provide basic discovery.

“A sanction of $25,000 is justified in these circumstances and acknowledges that this amount represents a significant discount from the actual attorneys’ fees incurred by EA as a result of plaintiffs’ counsel’s actions. The court finds that $25,000, coupled with the evidentiary consequences set forth above, are an appropriate sanction here.”

So, what do you think?  Was the ruling correct or were sanctions unwarranted in this case?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Case opinion link courtesy of eDiscovery Assistant.

Sponsor: This blog is sponsored by CloudNine, which is a data and legal discovery technology company with proven expertise in simplifying and automating the discovery of data for audits, investigations, and litigation. Used by legal and business customers worldwide including more than 50 of the top 250 Am Law firms and many of the world’s leading corporations, CloudNine’s eDiscovery automation software and services help customers gain insight and intelligence on electronic data.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.