Electronic Discovery

The Files are Already Electronic, How Hard Can They Be to Load?: eDiscovery Throwback Thursdays

Here’s our latest blog post in our Throwback Thursdays series where we are revisiting some of the eDiscovery best practice posts we have covered over the years and discuss whether any of those recommended best practices have changed since we originally covered them.

This post was originally published on July 25, 2013, when eDiscovery Daily was less than three years old.  It was a throwback post of sorts even back then as it referenced several earlier posts and was inspired for today’s post by Craig Ball’s new primer – Processing in E-Discovery – which I covered yesterday on our blog.  Craig’s new primer immediately confronts a myth that many attorneys believe with regard to electronic files and how easily (and quickly) they can be made ready for production.  Spoiler alert!  There’s a lot more to it than most attorneys realize.  Craig’s primer does a thorough job of explaining the ins and outs of that, but if you haven’t gotten a chance to read it all yet – you should – here are a few specific reasons that I explained over six years ago why the files need processing to be reviewable and useful.  Enjoy!

Since hard copy discovery became electronic discovery, I’ve worked with a number of clients who expect that working with electronic files in a review tool is simply a matter of loading the files and getting started.  Unfortunately, it’s not that simple!

Back when most discovery was paper based, the usefulness of the documents was understandably limited.  Documents were paper and they all required conversion to image to be viewed electronically, optical character recognition (OCR) to capture their text (though not 100% accurately) and coding (i.e., data entry) to capture key data elements (e.g., author, recipient, subject, document date, document type, names mentioned, etc.).  It was a problem, but it was a consistent problem – all documents needed the same treatment to make them searchable and usable electronically.

Though electronic files are already electronic, that doesn’t mean that they’re ready for review as is.  They don’t just represent one problem, they can represent a whole collection of problems.  For example:

These are just a few examples of why working with electronic files for review isn’t necessarily straightforward.  Of course, when processed correctly, electronic files include considerable metadata that provides useful information about how and when the files were created and used, and by whom.  They’re way more useful than paper documents.  So, it’s still preferable to work with electronic files instead of hard copy files whenever they are available.  But, despite what you might think, that doesn’t make them ready to review as is.

So, what do you think?  Do you work with attorneys who still expect the files to be available for review immediately?  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.

Why Process in eDiscovery? Isn’t it “Review Ready”?: eDiscovery Best Practices

As I’ll point out in tomorrow’s blog post (spoiler alert!), I’ve been asked a variation of this question for years.  But, perhaps the best answer to this question lies in Craig Ball’s new primer – Processing in E-Discovery.

Craig, who introduced the new primer in his latest blog post – the 200th of his excellent Ball in Your Court blog – asked the questions posed in the title of this post in the beginning of that primer (after the Introduction) and confronts a myth that many attorneys believe with regard to electronic files and how easily (and quickly) they can be made ready for production.  As Craig explains:

“Though all electronically stored information is inherently electronically searchable, computers don’t structure or search all ESI in the same way; so, we must process ESI to normalize it to achieve uniformity for indexing and search.”

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  In the Introduction, Craig says this:

“Talk to lawyers about e‐discovery processing and you’ll likely get a blank stare suggesting no clue what you’re talking about.  Why would lawyers want anything to do with something so disagreeably technical? Indeed, processing is technical and strikes attorneys as something they need not know. That’s lamentable because processing is a phase of e‐discovery where things can go terribly awry in terms of cost and outcome. Lawyers who understand the fundamentals of ESI processing are better situated to avoid costly mistakes and resolve them when they happen.”

Then, Craig illustrates the point with a variation of the Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM) which extracts processing as “an essential prerequisite” to Review, Analysis and Production (while noting that the EDRM model is a “conceptual view, not a workflow”).

As Craig discusses, to understand eDiscovery processing is to understand the basics of computers – from bits and bytes to ASCII and Unicode to Hex and Base64 and Encoding.  How to identify files based on file extensions, binary file signatures and file structure.  Why data compression makes smart phones, digitized music, streaming video and digital photography possible.  And, much more.

Want to know how “E-Discovery” would be written in a binary ASCII sequence?  Here you go:

0100010100101101010001000110100101110011011000110110111101110110011001010111001001111001

Craig covers the gamut of processing – from ingestion to data extraction and document filters, from recursion and embedded object extraction to family tracking and exceptions reporting, from lexical preprocessing to building a database and Concordance(!) index.

Yes, it’s technical.  But, a very important read if you’re an attorney wanting to better understand eDiscovery processing and what’s involved and why the files need to be processed in the first place.  Many attorneys don’t understand what’s involved and that leads to unreasonable expectations and missed deadlines.

Craig’s new primer is a 55-page PDF file that is chock-full of good information about eDiscovery processing – a must read for attorneys and eDiscovery professionals alike.  He wrote it for the upcoming Georgetown Law Center Advanced E-Discovery Institute on November 21 and 22, which you can still register for (and get a discount for, per Craig’s blog post).  My only quibble with it is the spelling of “E-Discovery”, but that’s a quibble for another day (you’re welcome, Ari Kaplan!).  :o)

So, what do you think?  Are you mystified by eDiscovery processing?  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.

Time for Another Murder (Possibly) Witnessed by Alexa: eDiscovery Trends

It’s been a while since we covered a good murder case with Internet of Things (IoT) implications.  Here’s a new case in Florida where police have submitted a search warrant to Amazon for recordings from an Echo device in a household where a man was charged with killing his partner with a spear(!).

In People (After Fla. Woman Is Impaled by a Spear, Police Seek Clues From Amazon Alexa Recordings, written by KC Baker), the author reports that Florida police are trying to find out what – if anything – the voice-controlled Amazon Echo Dot smart speakers (commonly known as “Alexa”) heard on July 12 when a Hallandale Beach woman died during a fight with her boyfriend. The incident left her impaled by a spear and him charged with murder, the South Florida SunSentinel reports.

Silvia Galva, 32, and Adam Reechard Crespo, 43, who is reportedly either her boyfriend or husband, were allegedly fighting in their condo after a night out. Crespo told police he was trying to pull Galva off the bed when she grabbed a spear that snapped and pierced her chest as he continued to pull her up.  Crespo then told police he pulled the blade out of the victim’s chest, hoping it was “not too bad,” the Sun Sentinel reports.

The defendant’s actions, the police report goes on to say, “caused the victim to grab the spear to keep herself on the bed. The force used by the defendant to remove the victim cause the shaft to break and in an unknown way caused the blade to pierce the victim which caused the loss of life.”

Crespo was arrested and charged with murder without premeditation, the SunSentinel reports.

In August, Hallandale Beach Police obtained a search warrant for the recordings on two of the Amazon voice assistants that were in the apartment where Galva was killed, the Sun Sentinel reports.

The search warrant, later obtained by CBS Miami, says “It is believed that the evidence of crimes — audio recordings capturing the attack on victim Silvia Crespo…and any events that preceded or succeeded the attack — may be found on the server(s) maintained by or for Amazon.com for all recordings made by the aforementioned Echo smart speakers.”

Amazon turned over recordings to the authorities, who are analyzing the data, Hallandale Beach Police Department spokesman Sgt. Pedro Abut told the SunSentinel.

“It is believed that evidence of crimes, audio recordings capturing the attack on victim Silvia Crespo that occurred in the main bedroom … may be found on the server maintained by or for Amazon,” police wrote in their probable cause statement seeking the warrant, the SunSentinel reports.  Still, it’s unclear how much information the recordings will yield since the Echo supposedly only records when users utter the word “Alexa” or a “wake” word of their choice and don’t usually record entire conversations, according to an Amazon spokesperson.

Crespo’s attorney, Christopher O’Toole, told PEOPLE he feels the recordings can only bolster the case of his client, who he says is innocent.

We’ve certainly seen other murder cases that involve Amazon Echo recordings potentially having data, including this one and this one.  And, we’ve also seen murder cases involving other IoT devices as well, including these this one and this one involving Fitbit devices.  It’s tougher than ever to get away with murder these days!

So, what do you think?  Are you aware of any civil cases where IoT devices came into play?  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.

Court Denies Motion to Bar Plaintiff From Making Adverse Comments Regarding Defendant’s Failure to Produce Key File: eDiscovery Case Law

In Saulsberry v. Savannah River Remediation, LLC, No.: 1:16-cv-02792-JMC (D.S.C. Sep. 19, 2019), South Carolina District Court Judge J. Michelle Childs denied without prejudice the defendant’s Motion in Limine to Bar Plaintiff from Making Adverse Comments Regarding Defendant’s Failure to Produce Certain Records, finding that defendant “has not demonstrated that the contents of the missing Lash Investigative File would necessarily replicate, but not add to, the information provided in the record.”

Case Background

In this Title VII and § 1981 disparate treatment action filed by the plaintiff, she had previously made an internal EEO Complaint in 2013 which allegedly arose from her participation in the 2012 investigation of Robert Lash after which she contended that she was “targeted by her managers and treated differently”.  During discovery, the plaintiff filed a Motion to Compel the contents of the Lash Investigation, but the defendant admitted that it never produced the Lash Investigative File and also admitted that, although there was a physical Lash Investigative File, it submitted written discovery responses stating that no notes or other documentary evidence existed regarding the [Lash] investigation.

However, two deposed witnesses suggested that “documentary evidence which should be in hard copy of the [Lash] Investigative File” and the plaintiff indicated that she had provided some documents from the file to the EEO Director, as part of her internal EEO claim in September of 2013.  Nonetheless, the defendant was unable to locate the file.  The plaintiff contended that the Lash Investigative File was relevant to several of her remaining claims, while the defendant claimed that the file was no longer relevant to any remaining claim and filed a motion to have the court to bar the plaintiff’s ability to elicit testimony regarding the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the file, contending the issue of “’why’ [Saulsberry] was included in the WFR is no longer relevant” to the claims before the court.

Judge’s Ruling

Judge Childs stated: “While the court agrees that the disappearance of the Lash Investigative File is relevant to the WFR claims which are no longer before the court, the court does not necessarily agree that the Lash Investigative File is not also relevant to the claims presently before the court.”  The plaintiff had argued that her remaining race and retaliation claims relate to her participation in the Lash investigation and also contended that evidence of her ‘protected activity’ (that prohibited her from being rehired for a position) was in the Lash File.  As a result, Judge Childs stated: “This court, therefore, shall not, at this time, prohibit Saulsberry from introducing evidence, or eliciting testimony regarding the Lash File and the circumstances surrounding its disappearance.”

With regard to the defendant’s argument that the plaintiff should be “precluded from seeking an adverse inference charge regarding the lost file”, Judge Childs stated: “The court has a similar view on this issue… SRR has not demonstrated that the contents of the missing Lash Investigative File would necessarily replicate, but not add to, the information provided in the record. Further, ‘Even if a court determines not to exclude secondary evidence, it may still permit the jury to draw unfavorable inferences against the party responsible for the loss or destruction of the original evidence.’ Vodusek, 71 F.3d at 156.  As a result, in denying the defendant’s motion, Judge Childs stated “the court declines to substantively exclude, at this time, all references to the disappearance of the Lash Investigative File or indefinitely preclude Saulsbury from making a showing that an adverse inference instruction based on its disappearance is warranted. Moreover, SRR has not addressed or demonstrated what, if any, prejudice would result if its motion is denied.”

So, what do you think?  Should parties be able to bar opposing parties for commenting about lost records in court proceedings?  Please let us know if 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.

Here’s a Webcast That Will Discuss the DO’S and DON’TS of 30(b)(6) Witness Depositions: eDiscovery Webcasts

As we learned in Tom O’Connor’s recent six part blog series, Rule 30(b)(6) permits a party to notice or subpoena the deposition of an organization which then must then designate one or more individuals who consent to testify on its behalf about information “known or reasonably available to the organization.”  But, how should it be conducted to maximize the discovery obtained, what are some strategies to consider to help ensure a successful deposition and what are some common mistakes to avoid?  And, what are some eDiscovery related topics about which a 30(b)(6) witness should be prepared to testify?  Here’s a webcast that will answer those questions – and more!

On Tuesday, November 19 at noon CST (1:00pm EST, 10:00am PST), CloudNine will conduct the webcast DO’S and DON’TS of a 30(b)(6) Witness Deposition.  This CLE-approved* webcast session will (obviously) discuss the DO’S and DON’TS of preparing for and conducting a 30(b)(6) witness deposition. Key topics include:

  • Initial Considerations for 30(b)(6) Witness Depositions
  • Proposed Changes to Rule 30(b)(6)
  • Potential eDiscovery Topics for Your 30(b)(6) Witnesses
  • Common Mistakes in Preparing 30(b)(6) Witnesses
  • Specific Strategies to Consider for 30(b)(6) Witness Depositions
  • Case Study: Example of a Hostile 30(b)(6) Witness Presentation
  • 39 Rules for Corporate 30(b)(6) Witness Depositions

As always, I’ll be presenting the webcast, along with Tom O’Connor.  To register for it, click here. Even if you can’t make it, go ahead and register to get a link to the slides and to the recording of the webcast (if you want to check it out later).  If you want to learn the ins and outs of preparing for and conducting a 30(b)(6) witness deposition, this is the webcast for you!

So, what do you think?  Have you ever been a 30(b)(6) deponent?  Or been involved in preparing one for testimony?  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.

No Joke, It’s Ten Years of eDiscovery Horrors!

Today is Halloween!  This is our tenth(!) year to identify stories to try to “scare” you with tales of eDiscovery, data privacy and cybersecurity horrors because we are, after all, an eDiscovery blog.  Let’s see how we do this year.  Is it just me, or is it getting crazier out there?

Does this scare you?

Did you know that capturing a biometric fingerprint at a theme park could be a violation of privacy rights?

What about this?

Data security fines are becoming prevalent, such as this one for about $56.8 million.  Wait – I’ll see that and raise you $230 million.  Wait – I’ll see that and raise you $5 billion.  Oh, and there’s more than just GDPR or CCPA to worry about.  Speaking of CCPA, will it be a “dumpster fire” when it rolls out next January?

Or this?

Even after a jury verdict, it’s not too late for sanctions for spoliation of ESI significant enough to cause the judgment to be vacated and the case to be remanded for a new trial.

How about this?

Here’s a “cautionary tale about how not to conduct discovery in federal court”.  ‘Nuff said.

Or maybe this?

Clubber Lang predicted “pain” in Rocky IIIThis guy predicts “carnage” resulting from consolidation within the legal tech industry.

Have you considered this?

In this case, two defendants failed to disengage the auto-delete function on their phones, but also each wiped and discarded their phone – one did it twice – since the case began.  Yet, the judge still chose to defer adverse inference sanctions.

Finally, how about this?

In the days after he got fired, he used the stolen login credentials from a former colleague and deleted 23 servers of data in all, which related to clients of the company, for an estimated company loss of $700,000.  Maybe two-factor authentication would have helped here?

Scary, huh?  If the possibility of huge data privacy fines, sanctions even after the case seems to be over, “carnage” within the legal tech industry or your fired IT guy deleting client data doesn’t scare you, then the folks at eDiscovery Daily will do our best to provide useful information and best practices to enable you to relax and sleep soundly, even on Halloween!

Of course, if you seriously want to get into the spirit of Halloween and be terrified, check out this video.  There is nothing funny about this, believe me!

What do you think?  Is there a particular eDiscovery issue that scares you?  Please share your comments and let us know if you’d like more information on a particular topic.

Happy Halloween!

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.

Court Denies Petitioners’ Motion to Quash, But Also Finds Subpoena Is Not Within Scope of Discovery: eDiscovery Case Law

In the case In re Verizon Wireless, Nos.: TDC-19-1744 | TDC-19-1799 | TDC-19-1806 | TDC-19-1808 | TDC-19-2118 | TDC-19-2119 | TDC-19-2120 | TDC-19-2121 | TDC-19-2122 | TDC-19-2123 (D. Md. Sept. 16, 2019), Maryland Magistrate Judge Charles B. Day denied the petitioners’ Motions to Quash the respondents’ subpoena, finding that the petitioners did not have sufficient standing to have the subpoena quashed for phone numbers owned by Prince George’s County.  However, Judge Day also found that the subpoena was overbroad and was not within the scope of discovery and, as a result, granted the petitioners’ Motions for Protective Orders.

Case Background

In this case involving claims of discrimination and retaliation against officers of color, the plaintiffs in the case served a subpoena on non-party Verizon Wireless in May 2019 seeking information as follows concerning 11 phone numbers identified in the subpoena:

“Records relating to the phone numbers attached…for the period January 1, 2016 through the present, including the time, date, duration, and destination/origin phone number for all incoming/outgoing calls, and the time, date, destination/origin phone number, and content for all text messages.”

The petitioners filed respective Motions to Quash in June 2019.  In July 2019, the plaintiffs informed Verizon by letter that they were withdrawing their subpoena request for text message records associated with the phone numbers and filed oppositions to the Named-Defendants’ Motions to Quash the same day (and filed oppositions to the Nonparty Petitioners’ Motions to Quash in August).  Later in July, the Named-Defendants filed replies to Plaintiffs’ Oppositions.

The petitioners argued that: 1) the subpoena was overly broad as it sought records and text content relating to a phone number for an entire three-year period without limiting the scope to the allegations raised in the Amended Complaint; 2) it was not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible information and that it is not proportional to the needs of the case; and 3) even though Prince George’s County owns most of the phone numbers and issued them to employees to be used for conducting official business, the subpoena would capture not only “privileged and personal” information (such as communications with family or medical providers), it would also capture information about irrelevant police business.

Judge’s Ruling

Noting that Prince George’s County’s Electronic Information Policy “specifically states that employees have ‘no expectation of privacy regarding any information created, sent, received, or stored through or by Prince George’s County Governments electronic information systems’”, Judge Day stated: “The policy contains no caveat for disclosures to third parties, this includes the incidental personal use that is permitted by the policy. In short, while it may be permitted use, the employee is on notice that he or she should have no expectation of privacy when he or she uses a county-owned phone number.”  As a result, Judge Day ruled: “Petitioners do not have the requisite standing to have the Subpoena quashed” and denied the Motions to Quash.

However, Judge Day went on to state: “While the door of ‘standing’ is closed and locked, Petitioners effectively obtain the relief through another door regarding the scope of discovery. As discussed earlier, Petitioners contend that the Subpoena is overbroad and not proportional to the needs of this case. While they have not provided justification to have the Subpoena quashed, they do have standing to challenge the Subpoena for purposes of obtaining a protective order.”  Referring to the “storehouses of phone numbers, dates, and times of calls that would be injected into this case that have no relation to the claims and defenses of the parties” as “troubling”, Judge Day stated that “the broad swath of information sought here is not justifiable” and that “Respondents ask for too much to obtain too little”.  As a result, Judge Day granted the petitioners request that a protective order be put in place to prohibit the plaintiffs from seeking this information in the future.

So, what do you think?  Should producing a list of phone logs be considered unduly burdensome?  Please let us know if 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.

McDonalds May Soon Know Whether “You Want Fries with That” Before You Even Get There: Data Privacy Trends

In this day and age of using customer data and artificial intelligence (AI) to predict customer needs, is anybody really surprised by this headline?  Whether you are or not, the fast-food chain is turning to AI and machine learning in the hopes of predicting what customers want before they decide.

In The New York Times article (Would You Like Fries With That? McDonald’s Already Knows the Answer, written by David Yaffe-Bellany; hat tip to Peter Vogel of Foley & Lardner with the reference), McDonald’s has a new plan to sell more Big Macs: Act like Big Tech.

Over the last seven months, McDonald’s has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to acquire technology companies that specialize in artificial intelligence and machine learning. And the fast-food chain has even established a new tech hub in the heart of Silicon Valley — the McD Tech Labs — where a team of engineers and data scientists is working on voice-recognition software.

The goal? To turn McDonald’s, a chain better known for supersized portions than for supercomputers, into a “saltier, greasier version of Amazon”.

In recent years, fast-food sales have slowed across the United States, as Americans turn to healthier alternatives. While it has performed better than many of its rivals, McDonald’s has lost customers, closed restaurants and seen its quarterly sales dip below analysts’ expectations.

The chain’s new emphasis on technology is a bid to reverse that trend. So far, the technological advances can be experienced mostly at the company’s thousands of drive-throughs, where for years menu boards have displayed a familiar array of McDonald’s favorites: Big Macs, Quarter Pounders, Chicken McNuggets.

Now, the chain has digital boards programmed to market that food more strategically, taking into account such factors as the time of day, the weather, the popularity of certain menu items and the length of the wait. On a hot afternoon, for example, the board might promote soda rather than coffee. At the conclusion of every transaction, screens now display a list of recommendations, nudging customers to order more.

At some drive-throughs, McDonald’s has tested technology that can recognize license-plate numbers, allowing the company to tailor a list of suggested purchases to a customer’s previous orders – as long as the person agrees to sign away the data.

Sound familiar?  It’s the same “suggestions “approach we’re seeing with Amazon, Netflix, Pandora and other companies.  And, all of that is more and more data to someday potentially manage in eDiscovery.  ;o)

So, what do you think?  Would you want to provide McDonalds with your data (including license plate number) to improve your ordering experience?  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.

According to the ABA, Lawyers are “Failing at Cybersecurity”: Cybersecurity Trends

In these days of increased data privacy emphasis with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), how are lawyers doing with regard to cybersecurity within their firms?  According to the American Bar Association Legal Technology Resource Center’s ABA TechReport 2019, they are “failing at cybersecurity”.

In the ABA Journal article (Lawyers are failing at cybersecurity, says ABA TechReport 2019, by Jason Tashea), the author reports this quote from an accompanying article on cybersecurity released last Wednesday: “In fact, the results are shocking and reflect little, if any, positive movement in the past year or even in the past few years. The lack of effort on security has become a major cause for concern in the profession.”

The annual report looks at how attorneys use all kinds of technology in their practices. Articles on cloud computing, cybersecurity and websites and marketing were released free online. There are six more articles that will be released Wednesdays through Dec. 18.

The survey found that the most popular security measure being used by 35% of respondents was secure socket layers (SSL), which encrypt computer communications, including web traffic. Only 27% make local data backups. Since 2018, the number of respondents reading vendor privacy policies fell from 38% to 28%. A mere 23% investigated a vendor’s history, even though 94% said vendor reputation mattered when deciding who to contract with.

Only 35% of attorneys use SSL?!?  I have a feeling that many more use it, but don’t realize it.

Meanwhile, slightly more than a quarter of respondents (26%) reported their firm had had a security breach.  In addition, 19% of respondents who reported said that they do not know whether their firm has ever experienced a security breach.  So, the percentage of firms that have experienced a security breach could be quite a bit higher.

Consequences of security incidents included consulting fees for repair (37%), downtime/loss of billable hours (35%), expense for replacing hardware or software (20%), destruction or loss of files (15%), notifying law enforcement of breach and notifying clients of the breach (9% each), unauthorized access to other (non-client) sensitive data (4%), and unauthorized access to sensitive client data (3%).

Only 9% of firms notifying clients of the breach?!?  Ruh-roh.

The ABA Legal Technology Resource Center Tech Survey 2019 is available here.  It’s in five volumes, each available for $350 (non-members) or $300 (members).

BTW, the Legal Technology Resource Center of the ABA used to have a publicly available page with Cloud Ethics Opinions Around the U.S., showing a map of states that had a cloud ethics opinion (we’ve covered it a handful of times, the last being about 2 1/2 years ago here, when there were 21 states that had one, including one that the ABA didn’t have on its site).  That page is now inactive and I can’t find it via a search on the website.  If anybody knows if it’s still available in some form on the ABA website, let me know.

So, what do you think?  Are you surprised by any of the ABA findings on cybersecurity?  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.

Wal-Mart is Allowed to Clawback Inadvertent Disclosures, But Still Sanctioned Over What They Revealed: eDiscovery Case Law

In Bellamy v. Wal-Mart Stores, Texas, LLC, No. SA-18-CV-60-XR (W.D. Tex. Aug. 19, 2019), in a case that was discussed earlier this week at Relativity Fest, Texas District Judge Xavier Rodriguez ruled that the defendant was entitled to “claw back” the documents it inadvertently produced in the case, but still considered those documents in analyzing the plaintiff’s motion for sanctions and granted that motion to the extent that he ruled that the defendant could not assert any comparative negligence defense in this case, including arguing that the danger (of a pallet being left unattended in the store) was open and obvious.

Case Background

In this case involving a slip and fall, the plaintiff alleged that she sustained severe injuries to her knees and ankles when she tripped over a pallet in one of the defendant’s stores.  After the Magistrate Judge ordered the defendant to supplement its disclosures and discovery responses and provide the plaintiff with a privilege log as to any withheld documents as part of dismissing an earlier plaintiff motion for sanctions without prejudice, a paralegal in counsel for the defendant’s office inadvertently produced documents that the defendant claimed were privileged under the attorney-client privilege or work product. While arguing that some of the inadvertently produced documents were not privileged, the plaintiff also argued that the inadvertently produced documents demonstrated that defendant’s counsel acted in bad faith and engaged in discovery abuse.

Judge’s Ruling

While noting that “This Court encourages parties to enter into a Rule 502(d) Order” (which we have covered here previously), Judge Rodriguez also remarked that failing to request such an order “was the first of many mistakes by Defendant’s counsel in this case”, so he performed an analysis under Rule 502(b) to determine whether the defendant had waived privilege for the inadvertently disclosed documents.

Because the plaintiff ultimately conceded the documents were privileged after an in camera review by the Court, the Court decided not to “dwell on this issue”.  But, Judge Rodriguez did remark that “the privilege log was woefully deficient”, noting that he was “unable to ascertain the identities of various recipients of the emails in question.”  Nonetheless, finding that the disclosure was inadvertent, that the defendant took reasonable steps to prevent disclosure and that the defendant promptly took reasonable steps to rectify the error, Judge Rodriguez ruled that “Defendant is entitled to ‘claw back’ the documents it inadvertently produced” under Rule 502(b).

However, Judge Rodriguez also stated: “But that is not the end of this analysis. Although Plaintiff may not further use these documents in this case, preventing their use in analyzing the pending motion for sanctions would result in a perverse result, upending the rules of civil procedure and encouraging discovery abuse.”  In reviewing the inadvertently produced emails, Plaintiff’s counsel became aware of the following:

  • As early as July 23, 2018, Defendant’s counsel knew of the identity of the store manager who interviewed Plaintiff shortly after her accident;
  • As early as July 23, 2018, Defendant’s counsel knew of the identity of the employee who left the pallet unattended;
  • By August 6, 2018, counsel for Defendant knew of the addresses and phone numbers for these two persons; and
  • By February 9, 2019, counsel for Defendant knew the identity of the asset protection manager that was supposed to obtain the surveillance footage.

However, the defendant failed to list these individuals in their Rule 26(a)(1) initial disclosures and failed to timely list them in answers to interrogatories.  Judge Rodriguez stated: “It is apparent from a reading of the materials submitted either Defendant’s counsel was grossly negligent in fulfilling their discovery obligations or they realized they had an uncooperative manager who was refusing to assist in their investigation, and they did not want to disclose the identities of potentially ‘bad’ witnesses.”

In reviewing the inadvertently produced emails, Plaintiff’s counsel also became aware of the following:

  • On November 21, 2016, the manager completed a Document Preservation Directive requesting that surveillance video be collected, along with photos taken at the scene and the statement from the customer;
  • By January 16, 2018, Defendant was aware that the store lost the video and that the store manager was refusing to provide any statement;
  • Wal-Mart’s outside claim investigation agency reported that exposure on this claim was probable and suggested that the claim be “compromise[d] to avoid spoliation potential”; and
  • On June 29, 2018, one of Defendant’s outside counsel wrote an email to “Travis Rodmon-Legal” indicating that the claim file notes video from the scene was saved; “however, the Walmart discovery sources have not been able to provide a video to date.”

Judge Rodriguez stated: “Counsel for Defendant never disclosed to Plaintiff’s counsel that at one time video may have existed that was now lost. Rather, counsel merely kept repeating that video does not exist.”  It was also discovered that the defendant hired an investigator to conduct an undisclosed full social media/background check on the plaintiff on June 20, 2018.

While noting that the defendant had a duty to preserve the video, that it failed to take reasonable steps to preserve that video and that the video cannot be restored or replaced through additional discovery, Judge Rodriguez stated that “Rule 37(e)(2) is not applicable because Plaintiff has failed to establish that Wal-Mart acted with the intent to deprive her of the video.”  But he did rule that “Plaintiff has established prejudice under Rule 37(e)(1)” and, noting that “Defendant has raised a contributory negligence defense in this case” (arguing that the danger of the pallet was open and obvious), ruled that “Defendant may not assert any comparative negligence defense in this case, including arguing that the danger was open and obvious.”

So, what do you think?  Should inadvertently disclosed privileged documents be considered in ruling on sanctions motions?  Please let us know if 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.