eDiscovery Daily Blog

eDiscovery Trends: Sometimes the Vendor Sues the Law Firm – And Wins!


The eDiscovery malpractice case involving McDermott, Will & Emery has captured considerable interest in the industry and this blog, with recent posts here, here and here to relate developments in the case associated with inadvertent production of 3,900 privileged documents.

Sometimes, the “shoe is on the other foot”, so to speak.

As noted in David’s Snow’s article on Law Technology News entitled Is Cataphora Case a Sign of Vendor-Law Firm Fights to Come?, Cataphora (which has its legal division acquired by Ernst & Young since the case was filed) won a judgment of $317,113 against several big-time mass-torts plaintiffs firms in a breach of contract case.

In Cataphora, Inc. v. Parker et al., Cataphora sued the plaintiffs firms associated with the Chinese drywall multidistrict litigation for breach-of-contract, for cancelling the contract for pre-trial document review after receiving an invoice for an up-front fee of $366,000. Cataphora never did the work.

According to Roger Chadderdon, technology counsel at Cataphora, who represented the company in court, “We got screwed,”. “Their strategy from day one was to drag this out as long as possible to make it go away.”  He says the plaintiffs firms told Cataphora, “Sue us if you dare.”

They dared, and the jury decided in favor of Cataphora, that the contract was enforceable, and issued the award. This case was tried in the Northern District of California Magistrate court – an appeal is expected.

The plaintiffs firms associated with this litigation have been involved in a wide variety of multimillion dollar class-action lawsuits, ranging from Vioxx to the BP oil spill to the Toyota acceleration defect to the Bridgestone / Firestone tire cases.

“These guys are the worst of hypocrites that you can possibly find,” Chadderdon says. “They claim to be trying to help the little guy, but what they’re doing is trying to put more money in their own pockets. Everybody knows that, but this is a case that illustrates it beyond what I have ever seen.”

Snow’s article quotes Tom O’Connor, a previous thought leader on this blog, for reactions, and O’Connor asked the question “How many vendors have you ever heard of suing lawyers and winning?”,  O’Connor noted that “Mostly the dirty linen in this stuff never goes public.  In the old days, they'd settle the case. From the firm point of view, nobody wanted their business practices aired. That's not the sort of lawsuit that ever would've been filed 5 years ago.”

As Snow’s article notes, the Above the Law blog has a more extensive write-up on the case for more information.

So, what do you think?  Do the McDermott and Cataphora cases signal a trend of contentious relationships between vendor and law firm?  Or are they aberrations?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.