eDiscovery Daily Blog

Apparently, in Discovery, Delta is Not Ready When You Are and It Has Cost Them Millions: eDiscovery Case Law

A few years ago, we covered a case law decision in the Delta/Air Tran Baggage Fee Antitrust Litigation, where Delta was ordered to pay plaintiff attorney’s fees and costs for eDiscovery issues in that litigation.  Apparently, Delta’s difficulties in this case have continued, as they have been ordered this week to pay over $2.7 million in sanctions for failing to turn over ESI, to go along with more than $4.7 million in sanctions for earlier discovery violations.

According to the Consumerist (Delta Hit With Another $2.7M In Sanctions In Years-Old Baggage-Fee Collusion Case, by Chris Morran), U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Batten imposed the sanction of $2,718,795.05 against Delta, which was higher than the $1.86 million sanction amount recommended by the Special Master in the case.

In his ruling, Judge Batten stated that: “Since discovery commenced in February 2010, this case has been plagued by a veritable deluge of discovery disputes and a corresponding succession of motions for discovery sanctions against Delta. It is not hyperbolic to say that this lawsuit has turned into litigation about litigation: the time, energy, and resources spent on discovery abuses equals or exceeds those that have been dedicated to litigating the merits of the case. Plaintiffs filed four sanctions motions in as many years, with each motion building on its predecessors.”  Judge Batten also noted that “Delta’s discovery practices have time and time again been shown to be ineffective, inefficient, and inept. Throughout this litigation, Delta’s left hand has not known what its right hand was doing, and ‘it often times appears that this litigation was conducted in an Inspector Clouseau-like fashion.’”

Delta had already been sanctioned $1.3 million for failing to turn over 60,000 pages of documents to the plaintiffs that were found in a box of previously undiscovered backup tapes and another $3.49 million, mostly to cover the cost of hiring an independent researcher to scan through and restore another batch of 29 backup tapes that was eventually discovered.

Summing up the lengthy and difficult discovery period to date, Judge Batten stated: “Without question, it is Delta’s ineptitude and missteps that have caused the vast majority of the excessive time, expenses, and energy that the parties have expended in discovery for the last five years…Delta’s discovery misconduct has rendered the Court’s attempts to manage this litigation and move it toward a resolution on the merits as futile and maddening as Sisyphus’s efforts to roll his boulder to the top of the hill.”

To make matters worse for Delta, Judge Batten also granted class-action status to the case this week.  Of course, as the article notes, Delta made more than $860 million off baggage fees in 2014 alone, so they can afford to fight.

So, what do you think?  Should Delta have received such severe sanctions?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

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.