Post Process

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Case Summary: Lakeside School; Court lays out procedure for examining employee’s hard drive

Posted by rjbiii on November 13, 2007

In this employee discrimination case, defendant Lakeside School sought a court order allowing inspection of a hard drive from a laptop belonging to the school, but which had been assigned for use to plaintiff for use in the discharge of his duties while employed at the school. The employee argued that some information on the laptop was covered by attorney-client and marital privilege.

The court ruled that in general, the employee had no expectation of privacy for communications made on the laptop belonging to his employer: he had signed a document indicating that he had read the school’s employee handbook containing a policy allowing the school to inspect any computer it furnishes its employees; any communications made using the e-mail accounts provided by the school similarly was bereft of any expectation of privacy. However, the court ruled that “web based” e-mails made on the computer, communicating with employee’s spouse or attorney, were covered by privilege.

I”m guessing here that the term “web based e-mails” means that the employee had an e-mail account, with an ISP that was not associated with the school (like Yahoo or Hotmail), and that he used his business laptop to access and use those accounts. These are what the court protected.

Another interesting facet of the decision is that, in the absence of an agreed protocol by the parties, the court dictated the procedure the parties would use for inspection of the hard drive. The court allowed the school’s suggested procedure:

Lakeside would be willing to have its own expert, at its own expense [ ], provide both parties’ counsel with a list of files (deleted and active) from Mr. Sims’ computer … Plaintiffs’ counsel can then identify any files they believe are privileged, as well as the nature of the privilege being asserted. Lakeside will then review any remaining files over which no claim of privilege is made, and will determine whether any of plaintiffs’ privilege designations should be challenged.

K&L Gates has their own summary here, and a copy of the opinion here (MS Word format).

Sims v. Lakeside School, 2007 WL 2745367 (W.D. Wash. Sept. 20, 2007)

One Response to “Case Summary: Lakeside School; Court lays out procedure for examining employee’s hard drive”

  1. […] Case Summary: Lakeside School; Court lays out procedure for examining employee’s hard dri… […]

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