eDiscovery Daily Blog

eDiscovery Case Law: Rajala v. McGuire Woods

Yesterday, we took a look at “Pension Committee”, Judge Shira Scheindlin’s significant opinion regarding the duty for plaintiffs (as well as defendants) to preserve ESI and sanctions for failing to live up to that duty.

The holiday week look back at cases continues with Rajala v. McGuire Woods LLP, (D. Kan. July 22, 2010), which addresses the applicability of Federal Rule of Evidence 502(d) and (e) in McGuire Woods’ request for a clawback provision for privileged documents.

As part of negotiations over an appropriate protective order covering the treatment of confidential information, defendant McGuire Woods drafted a proposed order that included a clawback provision. Plaintiff opposed inclusion of a clawback provision in the agreement, arguing that the protective order should not deal with privilege issues and that “[t]he parties are free to enter stipulations at other times over other discovery issues, including … waiver of privileges and clawbacks… There is no need to force the issue here.” The protective order was subsequently entered without a clawback provision. After further meet and confer sessions, plaintiff still would not enter into a clawback agreement, and defendant filed a motion for entry of a clawback provision.

Agreeing with defendant’s arguments, the Court held that both Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(f) and Federal Rule of Evidence 502 contemplated the use of clawback provisions and that “entry of an order containing a clawback provision is not dependent on the agreement of the parties.” Because of the extensive amount of ESI in the litigation, and because defendant is a law firm with thousands of clients and a high risk of potential inadvertent disclosure, the Magistrate Judge concluded that defendant had made the requisite showing of good cause for entry of a clawback provision:

“[T]his case is precisely the type of case that would benefit from a clawback provision. Such a provision will permit the parties to conduct and respond to discovery in an expeditious manner, without the need for time-consuming and costly pre-production privilege reviews, and at the same time preserve the parties’ rights to assert the attorney-client privilege or work product immunity.”

So, what do you think?  Is this the most significant eDiscovery case of 2010?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Case Summary Source: Sidley Austin LLP.

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