eDiscovery Daily Blog
Case Law: Spoliate Evidence and Go to Jail?!?
One of the most well-known cases in eDiscovery is Victor Stanley (VSI) v. Creative Pipe (CPI) and is a prime example of what NOT to do when conducting a search for relevant ESI in litigation – Victor Stanley, Inc. v. Creative Pipe, Inc., 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 42025 (D. Md. May 29, 2008), – including not testing the search methodology, resulting in inadvertent disclosure of 185 privileged documents, and the waiving of privilege of same. If you’re not familiar with this case, Google it and you’ll find plenty of sites/articles that discuss its significance.
If that was a blow to Creative Pipe and their president, Mark Pappas, the order issued on September 9th for that same case (now widely referenced as “Victor Stanley II”) makes the May 2008 order pale in comparison.
Judge Grimm found that “Defendants…deleted, destroyed, and otherwise failed to preserve evidence; and repeatedly misrepresented the completeness of their discovery production to opposing counsel and the Court.” As a result, he ordered “that Pappas’s pervasive and willful violation of serial Court orders to preserve and produce ESI evidence be treated as contempt of court, and that he be imprisoned for a period not to exceed two years, unless and until he pays to Plaintiff the attorney’s fees and costs that will be awarded to Plaintiff as the prevailing party pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(b)(2)(C).”
Clearly, Judge Grimm felt that Pappas’ and CPI’s behavior in this case over four years represented intentional destruction of evidence and he ruled accordingly on plaintiff’s motion regarding same. Perhaps his view of their actions can be summarized by footnote 19 in the order:
“CPI named one of its product lines the “Fuvista” line. Pappas admitted during discovery that “Fuvista” stood for “F**k you Victor Stanley,” (Pappas Dep. 22:20-24, Pl.’s Mot. Ex. 5, ECF No. 341-5), demonstrating that Pappas’s wit transcended sophomoric pranks such as logging into VSI’s web site as “Fred Bass” and extended to inventing insulting acronyms to name his competing products. When disclosed, the meaning of this acronym removes any doubt about his motive and intent. No doubt Pappas regarded this as hilarious at the time. It is less likely that he still does.”
So, what do you think? Is this the start of a trend – prison sentences for evidence spoliation? Or, is this an extreme example of clear intentional evidence destruction? Please share any comments you might have (including examples of other cases where sanctions included jail time) or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.
More to come on this case in the future…
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