Electronic Discovery

eDiscovery Law: Texas Rule 196.4 Protects Parties from "Undue Burden or Cost"


A recent article published in Texas Lawyer and reprinted on Law.com raises the question of extensive and costly eDiscovery requests and how to handle them. The authors of Keep E-Discovery Costs from Torpedoing Litigation Budgets present a hypothetical scenario where the opposing counsel has requested production of 10 years of legacy electronic data – a prospect that could cost more in recovery expenses than the value of the entire lawsuit. What is the best approach for counsel to take under the circumstances and what kind of legal recourse is there if producing extensive amounts of electronic information doesn't make sense?

Meet Texas Rule 196.4

The answer – in the state of Texas, at least – is found in Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 196.4. Like Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(2), Rule 196.4 states that parties must comply with "reasonable" production requests, but are not forced to produce electronic information for discovery if it cannot be retrieved "through reasonable efforts."  So, when it comes to unduly burdensome discovery requests, don’t mess with Texas!

Rule 196.4 also includes a provision that makes it possible to shift the cost of extensive discovery production to the requesting party. However, an attorney's ability to make a case for challenging a production request or shifting the cost of such production depends on thorough knowledge of the client's information systems. It's paramount to know the details of the client's data storage, backup systems, old and new equipment in order to make an objection on grounds of either Texas or Federal law.

Rule 196.4 Still Being Clarified

Courts are still ruling on how and when this rule applies, so it remains a useful recourse but not a foolproof procedure for issues surrounding extensive (and expensive) production. Therefore, courts have used Federal Rule 26(b)(2) and federal case law to help apply an understanding of what’s reasonably accessible.  In In Re Weekley Homes, LP (2009), the Texas Supreme Court addressed when a trial court may order production of information that is not reasonably available, but instructed trial courts to consider "the reasonable availability of information on a case-by-case basis" which leaves the implementation of these rules open-ended for the moment.

The Texas Lawyer article references other important cases, including the landmark Zubulake v. UBS Warburg LLC (2003) opinion (Zubulake I) which famously adopted a classification system of five categories of media on which electronic data is commonly stored, from most accessible to least, as follows:

  1. Active, online data, such as hard drives;
  2. Near-line data, such as an older robotic storage devices like optical disks;
  3. Offline storage/archives, such as removable media that can be labeled and stored on a shelf like CDs and floppy disks;
  4. Backup tapes, which are sequential access devices not intended for recovery of individual files; and
  5. Erased, fragmented or damaged data.

Understanding these five categories of media and their accessibility is a must for anyone to be prepared to respond to discovery requests, especially like the one posed hypothetically at the beginning of the article.

So, what do you think? Have you ever been hit with a production request with a scope that would have raised eDiscovery costs beyond the value of the suit itself? If so, what did you do? Please share any comments you might have or if you'd like to know more about a particular topic.

eDiscovery Case Law: "Untimely" Motion for Sanctions for Spoliation Denied

A recent ruling by the US District Court of Tennessee has denied a motion for sanctions for spoliation on the grounds that the motion was “untimely.”

In Am. Nat’l Prop. & Cas. Co. v. Campbell Ins., Inc., No. 3:08-cv-00604, 2011 WL 3021399 (M.D. Tenn. July 22, 2011), the plaintiff argued that the defendants’ admitted failure to preserve evidence “warrants a harsh penalty,” but the court found in favor of the defense that the motion was untimely.

  • The defendants, Tommy Campbell, Marshall C. Campbell and Campbell Insurance, Inc. were previously found to have failed to preserve email evidence from the period between April and July 2009. The plaintiff claimed that these emails contained “damning evidence” and that this discovery spoliation was deliberate.
  • This spoliation was discovered in May 2010, but the plaintiff did not file a motion for sanctions until July 16, 2011 – more than fourteen months after the spoliation was discovered and almost five months after discovery closed in February of 2011.
  • With the trial less than seven weeks way, the court considered this motion for sanctions for spoliation in the light of the summary of the law on spoliation that was provided in Goodman v. Praxair Services, Inc., 632 F.Supp.2d 494 (D.Md.2009). Among other points, the district court in Goodman v. Praxair encouraged courts to be aware of the time between the close of discovery and a motion related to spoliation, as well as cautioning against spoliation motions “made on the eve of trial.”
  • The court rejected the plaintiff’s excuse for the timing on the basis that “because the relevant emails were deleted and cannot possibly be produced, the Motion for Sanctions ‘is not a discovery motion.'”
  • Because of the “disruptive” timing of the motion, and the inability of the plaintiff to effectively explain why they delayed so long in filing a motion after this spoliation was encountered in discovery, the court ultimately ruled against the motion for sanctions, calling it “untimely”.

So, what do you think? Does spoliation of evidence “expire” or should timeliness matter at all in a case like this one? Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

eDiscovery Trends: The Challenges of International eDiscovery


Litigation would be simpler if business never crossed international boundaries, but it often does. Global corporations have dozens of offices and thousands of employees scattered around the world, while smaller businesses may outsource call center work or manufacturing to China, India, or other countries that offer inexpensive labor.

As a result, eDiscovery can be complicated by international laws and the regulations regarding discovery across national borders, as well as the usual questions that affect legal discovery within the United States. Even if US courts have jurisdiction over entities from other countries and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure apply to discovery requests, there are still several issues and challenges associated with international eDiscovery, including:

  • Location of Data: Thanks to the widespread use of cloud computing and other types of online storage, the physical location of ESI sought in eDiscovery is not always easy to pinpoint. Information transmitted electronically in an email or text message, can pass through any number of phone lines and routers, to many servers and client machines around the globe, so determining the location of a message can become virtually impossible. As a result, it can be difficult to know which nation's laws on eDiscovery should be applied, much less how to execute them.
  • Expense: Due to the complexity of requesting eDiscovery through foreign channels, and under the legal restrictions imposed by foreign governments, the cost of tracking information across international borders is much higher than eDiscovery conducted solely within the US.
  • International Law: Every nation has its own laws and regulations surrounding electronic data and discovery practices, so it's important to understand legislation in the relevant countries and, when appropriate, take measures to contact the proper authorities before moving forward. Discovery practices that are common and legal in the US can be considered criminal in some other countries, so it’s critical to have foreknowledge of the laws and rules you'll be facing.
  • Cultural Issues: Along with variations in international law comes the difficulty of rationalizing the need for eDiscovery to foreign countries who may have different views on privacy. In a country where pretrial discovery is not the norm, the request for eDiscovery may be a strange and unwelcome concept that can often result in misunderstandings and non-compliance. Explaining American laws and customs becomes a vital role of any attorney seeking international eDiscovery.

In future posts, we will be discussing international eDiscovery issues in more depth, including the Hague Convention, privacy protection laws, blocking statutes and other challenges to eDiscovery abroad.

So, what do you think? Have you experienced these same issues, or are there other challenges you've faced in international eDiscovery? Please share any comments you might have, or let us know if you'd like to know more about a particular topic.

eDiscovery Trends: Some SaaS Benefits for eDiscovery

I found an interesting article on Ezine Articles by Sharon Gonzalez, a freelance technical writer with 15 years experience writing on various technical subjects, especially in the areas of cloud computing, Software as a Service (SaaS), and Internet technologies.  The article entitled EDiscovery on SaaS, discusses some of the benefits of SaaS solutions for eDiscovery.

Gonzalez notes that “use of [the] eDiscovery SaaS model which has brought down the costs of many organizations” because the “model is a vendor hosted infrastructure that is highly secured and the customers can run the applications from their own machines”.  Advantages noted by Gonzalez include:

  • Easy Manageable Services: Legal teams are able to process, analyze and review data files using the eDiscovery tools from the SaaS provider via their own browser and control and secure information within those tools.  No software to install.
  • No Problem for Storage Space: The SaaS model “eliminates all requirements of added infrastructure for…increasing storage space”.  While many eDiscovery SaaS models charge a monthly fee based on data stored, that fee is eliminated once the data is no longer needed.
  • Cost-Effective Solutions Provided: Gonzalez notes “Since…the SaaS architecture is maintained by vendors, IT departments are free from the burden of maintaining it. It is also a cost-effective method as it cuts down expenditure on hiring additional IT professionals and other physical components. The companies have to pay a charge to the vendors which work out far cheaper than investing large sums themselves”.
  • Built-In Disaster Recovery: Redundant storage, backup systems, backup power supplies, etc. are expensive to implement, but those mechanisms are a must for SaaS providers to provide their clients with the peace of mind that their data will be secure and accessible.  Because the SaaS provider is able to allocate the cost for those mechanisms across all of its clients, costs for each client are considerably less to provide that secure environment.

There are SaaS applications for eDiscovery throughout the EDRM life cycle from Information Management thru Presentation.

Full disclosure: Trial Solutions is the leader in self service, on demand SaaS litigation document review solutions, offering FirstPass™, powered by Venio FPR™, for early case assessment and first pass review as well as OnDemand™ for linear review and production.

So, what do you think?  Have you used any SaaS hosted solutions for eDiscovery?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.