Showing 16 posts in Duty to Preserve.

The State of eDiscovery in Delaware, Pt. V

Posted In Duty to Preserve

In Part IV, we saw the District Court decide issues with production of unsearchable data, the Court of Chancery comment on the efficacy of printing out electronic documents en mass, and the Superior Court award fees as a sanction for a party’s efforts to frustrate discovery. Let's finish up 2006 then look at 2007.

In late October 2006, the District Court decided Wyeth v. Impax Laboratories, Inc., 248 F.R.D. 169 (Oct. 26, 2006), declining to order a native production. Wyeth had made production in TIFF format. Impax filed a motion to compel production in native format. Because the parties did not agree on a native production at the pre-discovery meeting, and defendant could not demonstrate a need for native files, the Court did not think plaintiff should be made to make an additional production. Relying on its Default Standard for Discovery of Electronic Documents (“E-Discovery”)—adopted after The Sedona Principles were published in 2004 but prior to the 2006 FRCP amendments—the Court declared that, in the absence of prior agreement of the parties, imaged files would be the default format.  Contrast with Sedona Principle 12, revised in 2006, which states that, absent agreement of the parties, "production should be made in the form or forms in which the information is ordinarily maintained or in a reasonably usable form."

The next day, in In re Quintus Corp., 2006 WL 3072982 (Oct. 27, 2006), the Delaware Bankruptcy Court issued a default judgment as a sanction for deleted ledgers. The Trustee alleged that the purchasers of debtor’s assets, Avaya, intentionally destroyed some of the debtor’s ledgers that would have shown what liabilities were assumed by Avaya and, of those, which remained unpaid. Avaya argued that the destruction came well before it could have reasonably anticipated litigation. The Court found that Avaya should have reasonably anticipated litigation because Avaya had not paid all the liabilities it assumed as of the time of the hearing. Concluding that Avaya’s willful destruction was overwhelmingly prejudicial to the Trustee, the Court granted summary judgment in favor of the Trustee.

Shortly after these decisions, on December 1, 2006, the FRCP eDiscovery amendments became effective. The changes were covered quite succinctly by K&L Gates on their Electronic Discovery Law blog.

In the winter of 2007, in Empire Financial Services, Inc. v. The Bank of New York, 2007 WL 625899 (Feb. 20, 2007), the Superior Court ruled that a spoliation claim requires showing of intent to suppress truth, not mere negligence. Empire sought and the Court ordered production of certain accounts in 2001, but Empire did not follow up on production of the remaining accounts. In 2005, Empire sought production of the remaining accounts, but the Bank had, by that time, archived them, making retrieval onerous. Empire alleged spoliation, but the Court found that it was reasonable for the Bank to assume Empire had abandoned its desire for the account data so lacked any intent to make the data inaccessible.

Almost a year later, in the fall of 2007, in RLI Ins. Co. v. Indian River Sch. Dist., 2007 WL 3112417 (D.Del. Oct. 23, 2007), the District Court decline to require adherence with its Default Standard for E-Discovery (“Default Standard”). RLI complained that it did not receive enough ESI(!) from defendants, so, seven months after document discovery had ended, filed a motion to compel defendants to comply with the Default Standard. The Court found, inter alia, that RLI had "depicted no specific instances where any of the defendants actually failed to produce relevant, discoverable email communications” and denied the motion.

About a month later, in Ryan v. Gifford, 2007 WL 4259557 (Nov. 30, 2007), the Court of Chancery, in line with the District Court’s ruling a year earlier in Wyeth, declares that native or OCR production is not required “without a particularized showing of need.” As with everything in eDiscovery, the standard is reasonableness. If you can’t articulate a reason for a discovery demand, you should reconsider. Don’t ask for backup tapes, metadata, or certain forms of production if you can say why you want them.

In the Part VI, we’ll cover seven cases from 2008. In the meantime, if you know of significant Delaware eDiscovery cases from 2007 that you think I should have included, please post a comment to let us know.