Post Process

Everything to do with E-discovery & ESI

Archive for the ‘Bad Faith’ Category

Case Blurb: Cammarata; Bad Faith a Requirement for the Imposition of Severe sanctions in the 5th Cir

Posted by rjbiii on March 29, 2010

As a general rule, in this circuit, the severe sanctions of granting default judgment, striking pleadings, or giving adverse inference instructions may not be imposed unless there is evidence of “bad faith.”

Other circuits have also held negligence insufficient for an adverse inference instruction. The Eleventh Circuit has held that bad faith is required for an adverse inference instruction. The Seventh, Eighth, Tenth, and D.C. Circuits also appear to require bad faith. The First, Fourth, and Ninth Circuits hold that bad faith is not essential to imposing severe sanctions if there is severe prejudice, although the cases often emphasize the presence of bad faith. In the Third Circuit, the courts balance the degree of fault and prejudice.

See case summary here.

Rimkus Consulting Group, Inc. v. Cammarata, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14573, at *23-24 (S.D. Tex. Feb. 19, 2010)(internal citations removed).

Posted in 5th Circuit, Adverse Inference, Bad Faith, Case Blurbs, Judge Lee H. Rosenthal, S.D. Tex., Sanctions, Spoliation | Leave a Comment »

Case Summary: Bensel; Tests for Spoliation and Imposition of Sanctions

Posted by rjbiii on January 24, 2010

Bensel v. Allied Pilots Assoc., 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 118342 (D.N.J. Dec. 17, 2009)

Background: Plaintiffs, former members of the Allied Pilots Association (ALPA), sued the association, alleging breach of duty of representation of its members.

Procedural History: Plaintiffs accuse Defendant Association of intentionally or recklessly destroyed documents, emails and other communication well into the discovery period for this lawsuit.

Discussion: The court begins by defining spoliation as: “the destruction or significant alteration of evidence, or the failure to preserve property for another’s use as evidence in pending or reasonably foreseeable litigation.” The court noted that when relevant documents are lost or destroyed “the trier of fact generally may receive the fact of the document’s nonproduction or destruction as evidence that the party that has prevented production did so out of the well-founded fear that the contents would harm him.” The court qualified that statement by adding that there must be a finding that the spoliation was intentional and that there was fraud and a desire to suppress the truth before the Court will make a finding of spoliation. The court then articulated the following test for a finding of spoliation.

Generally, to determine spoliation of evidence, four factors must be found:
(1) the evidence in question must be within the party’s control;
(2) it must appear that there has been actual suppression or withholding of the evidence;
(3) the evidence destroyed or withheld was relevant to claims or defenses; and
(4) it was reasonably foreseeable that the evidence would later be discoverable.

The court added that the duty to preserve relevant documents could attach even prior to litigation, although a party is certainly not required to retain every document in its possession. The court then stated the Third Circuit’s test for the imposition of sanctions for spoliation:

(1) the degree of fault of the party who altered or destroyed the evidence;
(2) the degree of prejudice suffered by the opposing party; and
(3) whether there is a lesser sanction that will avoid substantial unfairness to the opposing party and, where the offending party is seriously at fault, will serve to deter such conduct by others in the future.

The court then opined that in the first standard, that for finding spoliation, the second the element appeared to require bad faith. It then decided that the first prong of the test for sanction required bad faith as well.

The court noted that Defendant had only grudgingly complied with its discovery obligations, and recited examples suggesting that there was strong evidence that Defendants had failed to preserve evidence. However, the court also stated that Plaintiffs had not pointed to any evidence of bad faith, and relied only on speculation to explain the deletion of email by Defendants.

The court also wrote that Plaintiffs made vague statements, such as: “ALPA’s spoliation was so widespread and covered such a long period of time it can only be concluded that substantial evidence was destroyed which would have been favorable to Plaintiffs.” Such a catch-all statement, along with vague speculation as to whether evidence has been destroyed or even whether evidence was relevant does not rise to the specificity level required by the Third Circuit to impose sanctions or even make a finding of spoliation. While Defendants should have moved more quickly to place litigation holds on the routine destruction of certain documents and electronic data, the Court saw no evidence of bad faith. The court, therefore, denied the motion for sanctions at this time.

Posted in 3d Circuit, Bad Faith, Case Summary, D.N.J., Judge Joseph E. Irenas, Sanctions, Spoliation | Leave a Comment »

Case Blurb: Asher Assocs LLC; Role of Intent in Assessing Sanctions

Posted by rjbiii on July 12, 2009

Common sense suggests that a failure to produce or preserve relevant evidence may involve conduct that falls “along a continuum of fault — ranging from innocence through the degrees of negligence to intentionality.”

In Aramburu v. Boeing Co., 112 F.3d 1398, 1407 (10th Cir. 1997), the Tenth Circuit held that “the bad faith destruction of a document relevant to proof of an issue at trial gives rise to an inference that production of the document would have been unfavorable to the party responsible for its destruction.” In the same decision, the Tenth Circuit further reasoned that no adverse inference should arise where the destruction of a document resulted from mere negligence, because only bad faith would support an “inference of consciousness of a weak case.” FN11.

FN11: “‘Bad faith’ is the antithesis of good faith and has been defined in the cases to be when a thing is done dishonestly and not merely negligently. It is also defined as that which imports a dishonest purpose and implies wrongdoing or some motive of self-interest.” Of course, in cases where an adverse inference instruction is neither requested nor appropriate, the Tenth Circuit has held that a finding of bad faith is not required to impose non-dispositive sanctions, such as excluding evidence.

Asher Assocs., LLC v. Baker Hughes Oilfield Operations, Inc., 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 40136 at *27-28 (D. Colo. May 12, 2009)(internal citations removed).

Posted in 10th Circuit, Adverse Inference, Bad Faith, Case Blurbs, D. Colo., Data Retention Practices, Duty to Preserve, Exclusion of Evidence, Good Faith, Magistrate Judge Craig B. Schafer, Sanctions, Spoliation | Leave a Comment »