A trial court opinion involving allegations of spoliation of text messages on a mobile phone in the Southern District of New York has gotten attention because of the application of legal preservation standards.  Ronnie Van Zant, Inc. v. Pyle 2017 BL 3018, S.D.N.Y. 17 Civ. 3360 (RWS), 8/23/17) is an interesting read, not just because it involves odd characters, intrigue and drama surrounding one of the greatest Southern Rock bands of all time.  It also includes some instructive information about the application of the “practical ability” test for preservation, and the uphill battle for witnesses who lose credibility in testimony about what they did and did not do in a preservation effort.

Not long after the tragic plane crash that resulted in the deaths of Lynyrd Skynyrd lead singer Ronnie Van Zandt and his co-founding band member Steven Gaines,  Artimus Pyle, the former drummer, entered an agreement with the surviving heirs and other members of the band.  The agreement involved promises to never perform as “Lynard Skynyrd,” or to generally profit from the name of the band or the tragic deaths of Van Zant or Gaines without approval of the original parties to the agreement.  Their dramatically named “blood oath” agreement was more concretely memorialized in a Consent Order in 1988, following other litigation, which Pyle signed.

Over 20 years after the 1988 Consent Order, the drama that spawned the litigation began in a story that sounds like it came from a Netflix mini-series.  A film director named Jared Cohn, who worked under contract for an independent record label-turned movie producer, Cleopatra Records, Inc. (“Cleopatra”) reached out to Pyle about making a movie centered around the band and Pyle’s life in it.  Cohn was hired by the founder and co-owner of Cleopatra Records, Brian Perera, who is another interesting character in his own right. Pyle met and consulted with Perera on multiple occasions about ideas for a film generally depicting his life and the plane crash, which Pyle survived.  In their first conversations, Pyle did not mention the 1988 Consent Order, but the Order eventually was delivered to Cleopatra.  The copy of the Order was also eventually followed by a “cease and desist” letter and other correspondence from the Plaintiffs’ counsel.  All the while, Cleopatra’s movie production work continued. Continue Reading Spoliation and Southern Rock

Seyfarth eDiscovery Partner Richard Lutkus, along with William Lederer from Relativity and Patrick Zeller of Gilead Sciences, Inc., will host a panel discussion titled “Brave New Words: Cloud Data Collection, Processing, and Hosting” at this year’s RelativityFest on October 24, 2017.

This session will provide attendees with information about new data collection methods with tools like Heureka and Harvester, along with considerations for working with RelativityOne, data privacy, and security. Additionally, best practices surrounding the General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR), international data transfer with EU entities, secure management of hosting (wiping cloud data) and SSD wiping technologies will be discussed.

RelativityFest is an annual conference designed to educate and connect the e-discovery community. The three-day festival in Chicago will feature panel discussions, hands-on labs, and breakout sessions to discuss best practices. For more information, or to register to attend, please visit https://relativityfest.com/.

Seyfarth eDiscovery attorneys Jason Priebe and Natalya Northrip will present “A Practical Roadmap for EU Data Protection and Cross-Border Discovery” at this year’s RelativityFest on October 24, 2017.

This presentation will provide attendees with practical tips for leveraging the new Sedona International Principles to help in your compliance with stringent GDPR requirements, and in seeking immediate help under the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield.

RelativityFest is an annual conference designed to educate and connect the eDiscovery community. The three-day festival will feature panel discussions, hands-on labs, and breakout sessions to discuss best practices for eDiscovery, Information Governance, and Data Privacy. For more information, or to register to attend, please visit https://relativityfest.com/.

Court Denies Plaintiff’s Motion to Compel

In Mirmina v. Genpact LLC, 2017 BL 260425, D. Conn., Civil No. 3:16CV00614 (AWT), the Court denied Plaintiff’s motion to compel additional responsive electronic communications despite the fact that an individual directly involved in the underlying claims of the suit “self-identified” potentially responsive emails.  The Court based its decision a number of important  factors:

  • Defendant Genpact’s in-house counsel produced an affidavit outlining the process used to preserve and search potentially responsive emails;
  • Genpact’s in-house counsel supervised the preservation and search process;
  • Plaintiff Mirmina was unable to identify any authority stating that self-identification was improper;
  • Mirmina was also unable to identify any emails that Genpact had not produced and was merely speculating that Genpact’s email production was deficient.

Case Background

Scott Mirmina, a former Genpact recruitment manager, sued his previous employer, a professional services firm, alleging age, race, and gender discrimination.

In May of 2017, Plaintiff Mirmina filed a Motion to Compel additional responses to specific discovery requests.  This motion was denied in June 2017, except for materials described in Genpact’s initial disclosures that had not yet been produced.

In July of 2017, Mirmina filed another Motion to Compel asking the court to force Genpact to produce additional responsive emails.  Mirmina stated that he was “concerned” that Genpact had withheld responsive emails and that Genpact’s search for responsive emails was inadequate because an employee directly involved with the underlying issues in the litigation had self-identified potentially responsive emails.

The Court denied Mirmina’s Motion to Compel after Genpact’s counsel described the process used to identify responsive emails.  Specifically, Genpact’s in-house counsel averred that they:

  • issued a timely and detailed litigation hold to potential ESI custodians;
  • provided instructions to the custodians on how to search for potentially responsive emails;
  • provided custodians with specific search parameters to identify potentially responsive emails;
  • explained importance of thoroughly searching for potentially responsive emails; and
  • provided guidance to custodians when they had questions about the search process.

The Court also determined that Mirmina’s allegations that responsive emails had not been produced was based on mere speculation.  The court held that this speculation was insufficient to require Genpact to conduct additional searches for potentially responsive emails.

Practical Takeaways

Self-identification of potentially responsive documents by custodians is not usually recommended.  There are obvious risks involved, including custodians not wanting to produce documents that could be damaging for themselves or their employer.  Further, there are risks involved in having custodians determine what may or may not be responsive to document requests. However, the Court’s decision in this matter describes a scenario in which self -identification of emails may be defensible.

The Court indicated that the primary driver for denying Mirmina’s Motion to Compel was the affidavit provided by Genpact’s in-house counsel detailing Defendant’s document identification and preservation process.  The most important practical takeaway from the Court’s ruling was that self-identification can be defensible, so long as a rigorous process is followed and documented.  This process includes drafting a timely and detailed litigation hold notice, providing instruction to custodians on how to identify potentially relevant documents, and answering questions that custodians may have throughout the process.

Finally, the Court made clear that purely “speculating” that an opposing party’s production is deficient is not enough to compel additional searches or document productions.  In order to compel an additional search for communications, a moving party must provide evidence to support its claim of a deficient production.

Tuesday June 20, 2017

1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Eastern

12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Central

11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Mountain

10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Pacific

Registration

There is no cost to attend this program, however, registration is required.

 

Discovery is often the most expensive, frustrating and burdensome aspect of litigation and many cases settle before discovery is complete in order to avoid these costs.  A new mandatory pilot program in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois will change all that by requiring extensive discovery early on in litigation.    Effective June 1, 2017, the Federal Court in the Northern District of Illinois will embark upon a three-year mandatory pilot program, known as the Mandatory Initial Discovery Pilot Project (MIDPP) which imposes court-ordered discovery and early production of electronically stored information (ESI) in almost all civil cases.  Please join Seyfarth attorneys to learn about the new pilot program and how it will affect litigation involving your company. In this webinar, the panel will review the MIDPP and answer the following questions:

  • Who does the MIDPP affect?
  • What does the MIDPP require?
  • When does the MIDPP take affect?
  • Where is the MIDPP taking place?
  • Why was the MIDPP implemented?
  • How do companies comply with the MIDPP?

Speakers 

Jordan Vick – Seyfarth Shaw

Lou Chronowski – Seyfarth Shaw

Jay Carle – Seyfarth Shaw

 

If you have any questions, please contact events@seyfarth.com.

*CLE Credit for this webinar has been awarded in the following states: CA, IL, NJ and NY. CLE Credit is pending for GA, TX and VA. Please note that in order to receive full credit for attending this webinar, the registrant must be present for the entire session.

In Realpage Inc. v. Enter. Risk Control, LLC, 2017 BL 102339 (E.D. Tex. 2017), the court ordered Enterprise Risk Control, LLC (“Enterprise”) to produce forensic images of devices used by a former Realpage employee to a forensic neutral in order to determine whether any source code was recoverable pertaining to Realpage’s allegations of misappropriation.

Background

After leaving employment with Realpage in 2012, Tom Bean (“Bean”) started his own software development company named IDC. Bean and IDC were hired by former Realpage employee, and active Enterprise employee, Lonnie Derden (“Derden”) to design a vendor compliance application that was “completely different” than the one in place at Realpage. In July 2013, Enterprise hired Bean as a full-time employee and it was at that time that Bean transferred all of his source code for the vendor compliance application from IDC’s computers to Enterprise’s computers. According to Bean’s affidavit, he deleted all versions of his source code from IDC’s computers after the transfer.

Pursuant to this lawsuit, Enterprise made the vendor compliance application source code from July 2013 to the present available to Realpage for their analysis. During their review, Realpage found comments in the source code referencing dates from 2012 and early 2013, which Realpage argued indicated that versions of the source code from that point in time must exist. While the court rejected this argument, they recognized that Realpage’s complaints surround code that existed on or before the date that Bean transferred the source code to Enterprise. The court concluded that “a tailored [forensic] examination is appropriate at this time to determine whether the missing code is recoverable or to enable effective cross-examination as to its destruction.” Id. at *2. Continue Reading Court Orders Enterprise to Engage in Forensic Imaging and Analysis

In January 2017, The Sedona Conference Working Group on International Electronic Information Management, Discovery, and Disclosure (WG6) issued the much-anticipated International Litigation Principles on Discovery, Disclosure & Data Protection in Civil Litigation (Transitional Edition). This publication updates the 2011  International Litigation Principles, which preceded the 2013 Snowden revelations and the Schrems decision invalidating the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor.  It also incorporates adoption and implementation of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield, and the approval of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which is set to replace the 1995 EU Data Privacy Directive in May 2018.  Many of these developments are consistent with the focus on “proportionality” of discovery in the 2015 amendments of the U.S. Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

Given the complex and dynamic EU data protection  landscape – where the new Privacy Shield has not been tested, and before the GDPR has even taken effect, – WG6 has aptly designated this as a “Transitional” edition.  This edition provides interim best practices and practical guidance for courts, counsel and corporate clients on safely navigating the competing and conflicting issues involved in cross-border transfers of EU personal data in the context of transnational litigation and regulatory proceedings.  Following are the publication’s Six Transitional International Litigation Principles:

Continue Reading The Sedona Conference WG6 Issues “Transitional” International Litigation Principles

Natalya Northrip and Emily Dorner will be presenting on two interesting eDiscovery topics this April; presentations will focus on litigation hold maintenance and best practices, as well as recordkeeping for human resources professionals.  Presentations will take place on April 6, and April 26, respectively.  Summaries of presentation content and links to sign up are provided below!  Friends of Seyfarth can use the following promo code for 35% off: SPKR35

Effectively Drafting and Managing Litigation Holds

When an organization becomes a party to a lawsuit or when it reasonably anticipates litigation, it must suspend its routine document retention/destruction policy and put in place a “litigation hold” to ensure the preservation of potentially relevant documents. In this webinar, you will learn what a litigation hold is, how to draft and manage a litigation hold, and the consequences of failing to satisfy your preservation obligations.  Among other things, you’ll learn about:

  • The duty to preserve
  • Scope and timing of preservation
  • Possession, custody and control of relevant information
  • Effective preservation strategies
  • How to draft litigation hold notices
  • The dangers of self-identification of relevant information
  • How to ensure proper management of legal holds
  • Sanctions for spoliation of evidence

Sign up here!

Document Retention and Destruction for HR Professionals

Every HR department will have a variety of records with varying retention requirements. Failure to keep these records for the prescribed periods of time may lead to evidence spoliation, fines, and the inability to properly respond to a governmental investigation or audit. In this webinar, you will learn how to develop an effective records program for HR that supports good information management and helps an organization manage risk. Among other things, you will learn about:

  • How to create and implement a records retention program
  • What are records retention schedules
  • Special handling for employee medical records
  • When to retain I-9 Forms, and for how long
  • Document retention in the face of pending or current litigation
  • Retention or disposition of former employee personnel files

Sign up here!

The Sedona Conference Working Group on Electronic Document Retention & Production (WG1) has released its Commentary on Proportionality in Electronic Discovery. The public comment period on the Commentary closed on January 31, 2017. This Commentary was much anticipated given the revamping of Rules 26(b)(1) and 37(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in December 2015, which directly affected the scope of eDiscovery in federal litigation. The 2015 amendments were aimed at curbing gamesmanship and abuses in eDiscovery by elevating the importance of “proportionality” as the guiding principle governing the entire discovery process and by setting forth the framework for addressing the loss of electronically stored information (ESI) that was required to be preserved.

Under the amended Rule 26(b)(1), “parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party’s claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case….” (emphasis added). Rule 26(b)(1) also now includes the considerations that bear on proportionality, which were moved from the previous Rule 26(b)(2)(C)(iii), rearranged and expanded. The proportionality factors that courts will take into account are as follows: (1) the importance of the issues at stake; (2) the amount in controversy; (3) the parties’ relative access to relevant data; (4) the parties’ resources; (5) the importance of discovery for resolution; and (6) the burden or expense relative to benefit.

The amended Rule 37(e) provides guidance on the scope of the preservation effort that the court expects from litigants. Specifically, amendments to Rule 37(e) affected judicial analysis of sanctions for the loss of ESI (1) that “should have been preserved” in the anticipation or conduct of litigation (2) because a party failed to take “reasonable steps” to preserve it and (3) that cannot be restored or replaced through additional discovery. Upon making this finding, a court has to conduct additional analysis, the goal of which is to differentiate “bad faith” conduct from mere negligence, and order sanctions in accordance with the level of egregiousness. Under the amended Rule 37(e), courts will focus on a party’s intent to deprive its opponent of the benefits of the lost ESI and the resulting prejudice to the opponent. Where the court finds “bad faith” conduct, it may order the harsher sanctions, including adverse inference instruction, default judgment or dismissal. However, only measures limited to curing the prejudice are appropriate for cases where culpability is lacking.

Parties engaged in or preparing for litigation should consider how these amendments impact their overall litigation strategy, as well as their eDiscovery process. While the concepts of proportionality and good-faith discovery conduct are anything but new, the 2015 amendments provide the parties and courts with a more robust and defined framework for their application.

To help federal litigants and courts apply the new amendments in designing the eDiscovery process and resolving eDiscovery disputes, the Commentary on Proportionality offers Six Principles for consideration. The following are the key takeaways.

Continue Reading Key Takeaways from the Sedona Conference Commentary on Proportionality in Electronic Discovery

In an interesting decision regarding the spoliation of evidence via a mobile device, Magistrate Judge Terry F. Moorer determined that the newly amended Federal Rule 37(e) – enacted on December 1, 2015 – did not apply to the spoliation case, as the case was filed prior to the rule’s enactment.  (Morrison v. Charles J. Veale, M.D., P.C., 2017 BL 21478, M.D. Ala., No. 3:14-cv-1020-TFM, 1/25/17).

Karla Morrison, a former employee of the medical practice Charles J. Veale, M.D., P.C. sued her employer in October of 2014 alleging that the practice violated the Fair Labor Standards Act.  Following the close of discovery in August of 2016, the defendant filed a motion for sanctions for spoliation of evidence alleging that Morrison logged into her office email account after her termination and deleted emails from the account.  The defendant bolstered this argument by alleging that Morrison added 2-step verification to her log-in process in April 2015 – almost 6 months after her termination.  Morrison admitted to accessing her office email days after her termination to “close out” items, but denied any further use of the account.

For those unfamiliar, 2-step verification is an additional security measure that confirms a user’s identity through two components, usually a password followed by a code sent to a personal device, for example.  When in place, it adds an additional level of security to an account, thus making it less susceptible to hacking.  Continue Reading Interesting Sanctions Analysis Applies “Old” Bad Faith Standard Post-December 2015 Amendments