eDiscovery Daily Blog

2013 eDiscovery Year in Review: eDiscovery Case Law, Part 4

As we noted on Thursday, Friday and yesterday, eDiscoveryDaily published 78 posts related to eDiscovery case decisions and activities over the past year, covering 62 unique cases!  Yesterday, we looked back at cases related to proportionality and the first half of the cases related to sanctions (yes, there were that many).  Today, here are the rest of the cases related to sanctions.

We grouped those cases into common subject themes and have been reviewing them over the previous three posts.  Today is the last post in the series.  Perhaps you missed some of these cases?  Now is your chance to catch up!


Of the 62 cases we covered this past year, over 40% of them (26 total cases) related to sanctions, either due to spoliation issues or inadequate or untimely productions, many of which were granted, but some were denied.  Oh, and, apparently, having your case dismissed isn’t the worst that can happen to you for spoliation of data.  Here are the remaining 13 cases:

Judge Rules Against Spoliation Sanctions when the Evidence Doesn’t Support the Case.  In Cottle-Banks v. Cox Commc’ns, Inc., California District Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel denied the plaintiff’s motion for spolation sanctions because the plaintiff was unable to show that deleted recordings of customer calls would have likely been relevant and supportive of her claim.

Spoliation of Data Can Get You Sent Up the River.  Sometimes, eDiscovery can literally be a fishing expedition. I got a kick out of Ralph Losey’s article on E-Discovery Law Today (Fishing Expedition Discovers Laptop Cast into Indian River) where the defendant employee in a RICO case in Simon Property Group, Inc. v. Lauria threw her laptop into a river. Needless to say, given the intentional spoliation of evidence, the court imposed struck all of the defenses raised by the defendant and scheduled the case for trial on the issue of damages.

Adverse Inference Sanction for Defendant who Failed to Stop Automatic Deletion.  Remember the adverse inference instructions in the Zubulake v. UBS Warburg and Apple v. Samsung cases? This case has characteristics of both of those. In Pillay v. Millard Refrigerated Servs., Inc., Illinois District Judge Joan H. Lefkow granted the plaintiff’s motion for an adverse inference jury instruction due to the defendant’s failure to stop automatic deletion of employee productivity tracking data used as a reason for terminating a disabled employee.

Appellate Court Upholds District Court Discretion for Determining the Strength of Adverse Inference Sanction.  In Flagg v. City of Detroit, the Sixth Circuit held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in issuing a permissive rather than mandatory adverse inference instruction for the defendant’s deletion of emails, noting that the district court has discretion in determining the strength of the inference to be applied.

eDiscovery Vendors Are Not Immune to eDiscovery Sanctions.  In Nuance Communications Inc. v. Abbyy Software House et al., California District Judge Jeffrey S. White refused Wednesday to dismiss Nuance Communications Inc.’s patent infringement suit against Lexmark International Inc. and Abbyy Software House, and awarded reimbursement of plaintiff’s attorneys’ fees and costs in excess of $130,000 as part of discovery abuse sanctions resulting from the late production of relevant documents from Abbyy.

Hard Drive Turned Over to Criminal Defendant – Eight Years Later.  If you think discovery violations by the other side can cause you problems, imagine being this guy. As reported by WRAL.com in Durham, North Carolina, the defense in State of North Carolina v. Raven S. Abaroa filed a Motion to Dismiss the Case for Discovery Violations after the state produced a forensic image of a hard drive (in the middle of trial) that had been locked away in the Durham Police Department for eight years.

When Lawyers Get Sued, They Have Preservation Obligations Too.  In Distefano v. Law Offices of Barbara H. Katsos, PC., New York Magistrate Judge A. Kathleen Tomlinson found that the defendant (an attorney who was being sued by the plaintiff she previously represented for breach of contract, negligence/legal malpractice, and breach of fiduciary duty/duty of care) had a duty to preserve information from a discarded computer and ordered a hearing for the defendant to address a number of questions to determine the potential relevance of the destroyed data and whether the defendant had a sufficiently culpable state of mind.

Plaintiff Receives Adverse Inference Sanction for Deleting Facebook Profile.  In Gatto v. United Air Lines, Inc., New Jersey Magistrate Judge Steven C. Mannion issued an adverse inference sanction against the plaintiff for failing to preserve data due to the fact that he either, deactivated his Facebook account and allowed the account to be automatically deleted after fourteen days, or that he deleted the account outright. Judge Mannion denied the defendant’s request for attorney’s fees and costs for “the time and effort it was forced to expend in an effort to obtain discovery”.

The Hammer Comes Down on Losing Plaintiff for Spoliation of Data.  Apparently, having your case dismissed isn’t the worst that can happen to you for egregious spoliation of data. You can also be ordered to pay the winning party over $200,000 in fees and costs for the case. In Taylor v. Mitre Corp., Virginia District Judge Liam O’Grady partially granted the prevailing defendant’s motion for fees and costs after the court dismissed the case due to the plaintiff’s spoliation of evidence.

Defendants Sanctioned, Sort Of, for Failure to Preserve Text Messages.  In Christou v. Beatport, LLC, Colorado District Judge R. Brooke Jackson ruled that the plaintiffs could introduce evidence at trial to show the defendants failure to preserve text messages after the key defendant’s iPhone was lost. However, the judge also ruled that the defendants could present “evidence in explanation…and argue that no adverse inference should be drawn”.

JP Morgan Chase Sanctioned for a Failure to Preserve Skill Codes.  In EEOC v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, District Judge Gregory L. Frost granted the EEOC’s motion for sanctions for spoliation of data, entitling the plaintiff to “a permissive adverse jury instruction related to the spoliation if this litigation proceeds to a jury trial”, and denied the defendant’s motion for summary judgment.

EEOC Sanctioned for Failing to Comply with Motion to Compel Production.  As noted previously in this blog, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was ordered to turn over social media information related to a class action case alleging sexual harassment and retaliation. Apparently, they were less than cooperative in complying with that order. In EEOC v. Original Honeybaked Ham Co. of Georgia, Colorado Magistrate Judge Michael E. Hegarty sanctioned the EEOC for failing to provide discovery of social media content.

Blind Reliance on Vendor for Discovery Results in Sanctions.  In Peerless Indus., Inc. v. Crimson AV, LLC, Illinois Magistrate Judge Susan E. Cox sanctioned the defendant for a “hands off approach” to discovery by relying on a vendor for conducting the discovery from a closely related non-party to the suit.

That’s our eDiscovery case review for 2013.  Let’s do it again next year!

So, what do you think?  Did you miss any of these?  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 Discovery. eDiscoveryDaily is made available by CloudNine Discovery solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscoveryDaily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.