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Archive for the ‘Cost of Discovery’ Category

Case Summary: Seven Seas Cruises; Gaps in the Production Examined

Posted by rjbiii on March 24, 2011

Seven Seas Cruises S. De. R.L. v. V. Ships Leisure SAM, 09-23411-CIV-UNGARO/SIMONTON, 2011 U.S. Lexis 19465 (S.D. Fla., Feb. 19, 2011).

Plaintiff Seven Seas initiated the action against multiple defendants, claiming damages from defendants’ “failure to provide proper ship management, care and oversight for several cruise ships…”. Specific accusations included, inter alia: negligent representations, negligence, and breach of contract. After defendants answered, and both sides filed tit for tat motions for summary judgment, the court issued an order granting a motion to compel filed by Plaintiffs. The motion required defendants to:

  • Identify which employees’ systems had been searched;
  • Explain the absence of certain documents from production; and
  • Describe search terms used to conduct ESI searches.

The order allowed that after defendants filed an affidavit with the information required by the order, plaintiffs were free to renew their motion for to compel further discovery. They elected to do exactly that, resulting in this opinion.

Plaintiffs’ position:

Plaintiffs maintain that they have discovered “gaps” in the production by plaintiffs, despite defendants’ repeated assurances to the contrary. First, plaintiffs contend defendants searched (and produced) the ESI for a mere nine employees, failing to search other custodians likely possessing relevant data. Seven Seas had submitted a list of 19 employees/custodians or email addresses that were incorrectly excluded from searches.

Next, Seven Seas argue that the production for those custodians that were searched was incomplete. To bolster their claim, plaintiffs identified specific time frames where ESI was not produced for those custodians. They claimed this was the case for at least four custodians. Plaintiff’s attorneys approach in pressing their case is described by the court:

At the hearing, Plaintiffs chronologically recounted each request made by Plaintiffs through the course of discovery regarding the production of ESI, and also reiterated the representations made by the Defendants in response to those requests. Generally, throughout the course of the ESI discovery, Defendants assured Plain-tiffs that Defendants were conducting complete ESI searches for materials responsive to Plaintiffs’ requests. Plaintiffs contend, however, that each time such production or representation regarding the thoroughness of the production was made, that Plaintiffs later found out that the production was not, in fact, complete.

In addition, throughout the hearing, Plaintiffs pointed to statements made by Defendants in submissions to the Court wherein Defendants repeatedly asserted that all relevant custodians’ computers and laptops had been searched. According to Plaintiffs, as a result of the repeated assurances by Defendants that ultimately proved to not be true, Plaintiffs have no confidence in the Defendants’ ability to conduct proper ESI searches, and further have no faith in the Defendants’ representations regarding the same.

And then they bring it home with this:

Thus, Plaintiffs argue that because the Defendants’ failure to produce all responsive ESI discovery has prejudiced the Plaintiffs and because such omissions are ongoing and intentional, that the Court should strike the Defendants’ pleadings and enter a final default judgment against both Defendants. In addition, Plaintiffs request that the Defendants be ordered to pay the costs associated with Plaintiffs having to bring the Renewed Motion to Compel.

Post Process Comment: From the outside looking in, it really looks like counsel for Seven Seas went about this the right way. We have analyzed, in the past four years, innumerable cases where the court felt the need to admonish counsel for vagueness, or making conclusory statements without backing them up with evidence. Here, counsel went through a round of “attack analytics,” (we’ll look at this in a moment) during which they analyzed the production, documented what they perceived as deficiencies, and presented their findings as argument, while including specific examples for the court to hang its hat on. Of course, we aren’t done…defendants get their chance to speak.

Defendants position:

Defendants “generally took exception” with some of the “missing custodians” included on Plaintiffs list, and supplemented their arguments with specific information to explain the absence of either custodians from the search, or for data missing for specific time periods from produced custodians.

Defendants then acknowledged that not all relevant ESI had been produced, and then conceded that “in hindsight” and e-discovery consultant or vendor should have been retained to assist them.

Post Process Comment: This is a telling admission. It is an implicit acknowledgment that eDiscovery methodologies weren’t solid due to the inexperience of their staff who were engaged in the project.

In an effort to put the best face on things, V. Ships Leisure reiterated earlier assertions (at least to effort…doesn’t seem possible that they continued to claim the production wasn’t deficient in light of their earlier admission). They also noted that they had supplemented production with additional data, and were prepared to hand over more data that very day. V Ships Leisure then noted went to the “volume defense” by noting that they had already produced hundreds of thousands of documents (ESI and hard copy). They also defended their efforts by noting that some of their custodians were overseas, complicating the logistics behind their project.

V Ships Leisure continued their arguments by stating that the bulk of the relevant evidence was contained in correspondence between plaintiffs and defendants, so plaintiffs already had most of the evidence prior to their suit. Defendants complained that Seven Seas had never alerted them to the gaps prior to filing their motion. Although defendants agreed to re-execute the searches on both already produced custodians and on “missing” custodians, they also claimed that no prejudice to plaintiffs had been demonstrated, an argument plaintiffs could not refute.

Post Process Commentary: Defendants fought back hard, but is it enough? Their admissions may be the most significant part of their arguments, but perhaps their efforts in already producing substantial volumes of data, and the potential lack of prejudice to plaintiffs will carry the day.

The court began by reciting the law behind FRCP 37.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37 addresses a litigant’s failure to make disclosures or to cooperate in discovery and sets forth sanctions that may be imposed by a Court. Rule 37 sanctions are intended to prevent unfair prejudice to the litigants and insure the integrity of the discovery process.” Thus, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37 gives a district court the power to enter a default, strike pleadings, or render judgment against a party that disobeys the court’s discovery or pretrial scheduling orders. However, the severe sanction of a default judgment is appropriate only as a last resort, when less drastic sanctions would not ensure compliance with the court’s orders. In addition, Rule 37(b) only permits imposition of the ultimate sanction if a party willfully or in bad faith failed to obey a discovery order. It is not justified under Rule 37(b) if a party’s failure to comply with a discovery order was caused by simple negligence or a misunderstanding of the court order. If the party does not provide a credible explanation of how he interpreted an order compelling discovery in a way that excluded certain documents from the scope of the order, the party’s unsupported assertion that it misunderstood the order is insufficient, and it is not clear error for the district court to find that the party’s failure to comply with the discovery order was willful and in bad faith. Further, when a party claims that he was unable to produce documents in the time allowed by the court, but he does not produce any evidence to support the argument, a district court’s finding of willfulness is not clearly erroneous. Nonetheless, a district court is not required to first impose lesser sanctions if the lesser sanction would be ineffective.

Defendants’ Failure to Produce ESI:

The court began by reciting a history of disputes caused by defendant’s failures to produce or thoroughly search for potentially relevant ESI. The court then admonished both parties for failing to conduct an early meet and confer:

[I]t appears that many of the disputes related to the production of e-discovery could have been significantly narrowed, if not totally avoided, had the Parties held an e-discovery conference early-on in the litigation as required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(f), wherein issues regarding disclosure and production of ESI could have been thoroughly discussed.

Continuing on, the court articulated its first major conclusion:

[I]t is clear that the Defendants have failed to properly conduct complete, thorough and timely searches of ESI responsive to the Plaintiffs’ discovery requests. There is no doubt that the manner and method in which the Defendants conducted their ESI searches were wholly inadequate.

That said, the court noted that because the production gaps had not yet been plugged, the damage done to plaintiff’s case could not yet be determined. The court also applied some blame to Seven Seas, noting that they could have identified missing custodians or data sources earlier. While the court granted that defendant’s deficiencies were more likely due to its staff’s “unfamiliarity” with e-discovery, and not any malfeasance, the continued inability to conduct EDD competently at this point in the game is inexcusable.

On this point, the court stated:

Indeed after this Court’s January 19th Order, if not before, the Defendants should have reasonably known that they needed to retain an E-discovery consultant to ensure that they properly conducted their ESI searches.

Because of this, said the court, sanctions were appropriate. The ordered defendants to engage an electronic discovery vendor to assist in searching and producing ESI from certain custodians included on plaintiff’s “missing custodian list.” Plaintiff’s request to re-execute searches over the data sets associated with custodians whose ESI had already produced was denied, as in the court’s view, the production of this data was sufficient.

The court concluded that the appropriate sanctions were to:

  • Deny defendants motion for summary judgment;
  • Award plaintiffs attorneys costs, to be paid by defendants.

The court declined to enter a default judgment on behalf of plaintiffs, as had been requested in the Motion to Compel.

Post Process Comment: The sanctions imposed might be considered fairly mild, considering some of the language contained within the opinion. The biggest mitigating factor for defendants appeared to be the lack of any evidence concerning damage done to plaintiffs case by the omissions in production.

I’d like to reflect a bit on the evidence and arguments brought by Plaintiffs to demonstrate that deficiencies exist in the production. There are two common methods of attacking document productions. You can impugn the results–that is, the contents in the production dataset–or you can question the methodology that produced the dataset. Here, we see examples of both.

In attacking the production, plaintiffs examined the production and reviewed what custodians might be missing. This can be done by reviewing correspondence. When you get significant email or mail traffic going to or coming from individuals whose data has not been produced, a flag should come up. And that’s what was done here.

Another way to look at custodians or data sources is to obtain knowledge of opposing party’s IT systems to ensure that all repositories were searched. Perhaps a Sharepoint site was established where an implicated project’s documents were stored, but not searched or produced.

By attacking the results, you eventually hope to discover a weak methodology or holes in the workflow…because merely pointing out bad results can sometimes be dismissed by legitimate factors (so-called safe harbor deletions, or data residing in sources which are “not readily accessible”).  Of course, if production results are obviously deficient, then perhaps that in itself can provide sufficient ammunition to warrant sanctions or other measures.

Next, plaintiffs looked at material from those custodians whose data was produced, and analyzed its completeness by focusing on chronology. This “production gap” analysis has proven very effective, in my experience. Sometimes such gaps can be legitimately explained, but their existence, especially across multiple custodians, should be explored.

Posted in 11th Circuit, Case Blurbs, Cooperation Between Parties, Cost of Discovery, Discovery Requests, Duty to Disclose, Duty to Produce, FRCP 26(f), FRCP 37, Magistrate Judge Andrea M. Simonton, Meet and Confer, Motion to Compel, S.D. Fla., Sanctions | 2 Comments »

Case Summary: Return Path Inc.; Court Examines Taxation of EDD Costs to Losing Plaintiff in Patent Case

Posted by rjbiii on January 19, 2010

CBT Flint Partners, LLC v. Return Path, Inc., 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 121188 (N.D. Ga. Dec. 30, 2009)

CBT Flint Partners (“CBT”) sued Return Path, Inc. (“Return Path”) and Cisco IronPort Systems LLC, (“Cisco IronPort”) alleging that the Defendants’ Bonded Sender Program infringed CBT’s two patents.

The Bonded Sender Program allows a sender of an email to place its IP address on a publicly available list of trusted senders that is used in connection with email filtering. When a sender applies to be in the Bonded Sender Program, a third party determines whether the applicant is a good user of email. If accepted, the sender posts a bond, and its IP addresses are included on the Bonded Sender list. Emails from IP addresses on the Bonded Sender list are not filtered as spam.

Plaintiff contested the imposition of certain costs, including e-discovery costs, to Plaintiff and its counsel after Defendants were granted summary judgment.

The court noted grumpily that CBT was vigorous in their objections to being taxed for any of their adversaries’ various costs:

CBT filed thirty-five pages of briefing objecting to something in every category of Cisco IronPort’s bill of costs. In order to accomplish this feat, CBT objects to a $ 146.82 fee for an unsuccessful attempt to serve a subpoena. The Plaintiff’s briefing of this objection consists of 1 full page. The Defendant’s response to this objection consists of 2 pages of briefing plus 2 exhibits. What an incredible waste of time! The Plaintiff’s objection to taxing the first unsuccessful attempt to serve Gardner Groff is overruled.

The court then moved to the objection specific to electronic discovery:

The Plaintiff objects to $ 243,453.02 in fees for Cisco IronPort’s e-discovery vendor, Gallivan Gallivan O’Melia. The Plaintiff says that: “IronPort retained a computer consultant to collect, search, identify and help produce electronic documents from IronPort’s network files and hard drives in response to CBT’s discovery requests.” FN1 This appears to be a fair characterization of the services provided by the firm. CBT objects that fees associated with collecting documents for production are not taxable under 28 U.S.C. § 1920. This is a serious objection which deserves careful and deliberate consideration by the Court.

FN1: Cisco IronPort describes the services of the e-discovery consultant as follows: “GGO conducted highly specialized technical tasks to acquire, process, preserve, and track the voluminous amount of electronic data that CBT requested in discovery. As further described in GGO’s invoices, attached at Exhibit B, these acquisition and processing activities included forensically sound preservation of custodian computers; extraction of documents from multiple operating systems, corporate servers, and network shares while preserving meta-data; cataloging, extracting e-mail and attachments, and processing; compilation of keyword and meta-data indices for analysis and reporting as requested by the plaintiff; auditing and logging of files and ensuring compliance with Federal Rules; decryption and extraction of proprietary data; triage and advanced processing of files with errors; statistical and keyword analysis with related reporting; and compilation of native file production and load files to provide usable documents to plaintiff.”

The court acknowledged that opinion was split as to whether these types costs were recoverable under 28 U.S.C. § 1920. Some courts have allowed them, considering them the modern equivalent of “exemplification and copies.” Others have not allowed them, reasoning that assembling records for production is ordinarily a task done by attorneys and paralegals and is not a recoverable cost.

The court, while quoting Cargill Inc. v. Progressive Dairy Solutions, decided in favor of allowing the costs to be recovered, shifting them to the plaintiff.

CBT requested, and Cisco IronPort produced, a massive quantity of data. In response to the Court’s Scheduling Order, the parties agreed that document production would be made in electronic format. Cisco IronPort has asserted — without contradiction — that production in paper form of the 1.4 million documents plus 6 versions of source code would have cost far more than the fees sought for the e-discovery consultant. A careful review of the GGO invoices reveals that the services provided are not the type of services that attorneys or paralegals are trained for or are capable of providing. The services are highly technical. They are the 21st Century equivalent of making copies. See Cargill Inc. v. Progressive Dairy Solutions, Inc., No. CV-F-07-0349, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 101983, 2008 WL 5135826, at *6 (E.D. Cal. 2008) (“Progressive provides an explanation of the invoice-case management was done electronically because of the volume of documents; scanning of documents was necessary to provide an adequate defense to the several motions and trial presentation. Accordingly, this cost [] is recoverable.”). The services are certainly necessary in the electronic age. The enormous burden and expense of electronic discovery are well known. Taxation of these costs will encourage litigants to exercise restraint in burdening the opposing party with the huge cost of unlimited demands for electronic discovery. The objection to taxation as costs of the e-discovery consultant’s fees is overruled and denied. Cisco IronPort has revised its bill of costs in response to many of the Plaintiff’s other objections. The remaining objections are overruled and denied for the reasons given by Cisco IronPort in its response to the motion.

Posted in 11th Circuit, Case Blurbs, Cost of Discovery, Judge Thomas W. Thrash Jr., N.D. Ga. | Leave a Comment »

AL Case Blurb: Cooper Tire and Rubber; Supreme Court Adopts Modified Zubulake Test for Cost Shifting Decisions

Posted by rjbiii on June 21, 2008

Post Process-This is a Case Blurb from the State of Alabama, whose laws regarding discovery will differ from those of the Federal Courts.

“First, under the marginal utility approach, the more likely it is that the search will discover critical information, the fairer it is to have the responding party search at its own expense. McPeek v. Ashcroft, 202 F.R.D. 31, 34 (D.D.C. 2001). Next, the court in Rowe created eight factors for consideration in the cost-shifting analysis, one of which incorporated the marginal utility test. 205 F.R.D. at 429. Finally, the court in Zubulake I modified the Rowe test to account for the fact that it interpreted the Rowe test as generally favoring cost-shifting, which had ignored the presumption that the responding party pays for discovery. 217 F.R.D. at 320. We agree with both the Rowe court and the Zubulake court that the marginal utility test is the most important factor. Furthermore, while we are guided by the remainder of the Rowe and Zubulake factors, we find that the proportionality test set forth in Rule 26(b)(2)(C)(iii)[, Fed.R.Civ.P.,] must shape the test. Thus, we modify the Zubulake rules by adding a factor that considers the importance of the requested discovery in resolving the issues of the litigation.

The eight factors are: (1) the specificity of the discovery requests; (2) the likelihood of discovering critical information; (3) the availability of such information from other sources; (4) the purposes for which the responding party maintains the requested data; (5) the relative benefit to the parties of obtaining the information; (6) the total cost associated with production; (7) the relative ability of each party to control costs and its incxentive to do so; and (8 ) the resources available to each party. Rowe, 205 F.R.D. at 429.

The seven Zubulake factors are (1) the extent to which the request is specifically tailored to discover relevant information; (2) the availability of such information from other sources; (3) the total cost of production, compared to the amount in controversy; (4) the total cost of production, compared to the resources available to each party; (5) the relative ability of each party to control costs and its incentive to do so; (6) the importance of the issues at stake in the litigation; and (7) the relative benefits to the parties of obtaining the information. 217 F.R.D. at 322. We agree with the court in Zubulake that the fourth Rowe factor (the purposes for which the responding party maintains the requested data) is not important.”

“Therefore, we will consider the following factors: 1) the likelihood of discovering critical information; 2) the availability of such information from other sources; 3) the amount in controversy as compared to the total cost of production; 4) the parties’ resources as compared to the total cost of production; 5) the relative ability of each party to control costs and its incentive to do so; 6) the importance of the issues at stake in the litigation; 7) the importance of the requested discovery in resolving the issues at stake in the litigation; and 8 ) the relative benefits to the parties of obtaining the information. At all times we keep in mind that because the presumption is that the responding party pays for discovery requests, the burden remains with [Producing Party] CBRE to demonstrate that costs should be shifted to [Requesting Party]. See Zubulake II, 216 F.R.D. at 283.

Ex parte Cooper Tire & Rubber Co., 2007 Ala. LEXIS 229, 41-44 (Ala. Oct. 26, 2007)

Posted in AL Sup. Ct. Justice Sue Bell Cobb, Alabama, Case Blurbs-AL, Cost of Discovery, Cost Shifting | Leave a Comment »

Case Blurb: Search Cactus; Court lays out Protocol for Forensic Collection of Plaintiff’s Hard Drive

Posted by rjbiii on June 19, 2008

Post Process-Plaintiff Attorney objected to a forensics exam of his computer hard drive, a computer which he used both personally and professionally. The court, though noting the validity of issues raised, ruled for Defendants. In doing so, it appointed two forensics experts to act as officers of the court, and issued the following protocol:

[T]his Court ORDERS:
1. Within seven days of the date of this Opinion and Order, Plaintiff’s forensic computer expert shall mirror image both of Plaintiff’s computer systems’ hard drives and Plaintiff shall preserve this mirror image.

2. Plaintiff’s forensic computer expert shall then remove only Plaintiff’s confidential personal information from the mirror image of Plaintiff’s computer systems’ hard drives. Plaintiff’s expert shall provide Defendants with the protocol he utilized to remove the confidential information.

3. Plaintiff shall then provide Defendants’ computer forensic expert access to his computer systems’ hard drives.

4. Defendants’ forensic computer expert shall mirror image Plaintiff’s computer systems’ hard drives in approximately four to eight hours for each system. If the expert finds that this is not enough time, Plaintiff is expected to be reasonable in allowing some additional time. Defendant is expected to be considerate with regard to scheduling times that are less intrusive to Plaintiff and his business.

5. Defendants’ expert shall review his findings in confidence with Plaintiff prior to making any findings available to Defendants.

6. Plaintiff shall identify for deletion any information that is irrelevant and create a specific privilege log of any relevant information for which he claims privilege. The computer forensic expert shall remove the information claimed as privileged and provide all other information to Defendants.

7. Defendants’ expert shall provide Plaintiff with the protocol he utilized to remove the privileged information.

8. Forensic computer experts C. Matthew Curtin and Scott T. Simmons shall act as officers of this Court. Defendants shall be responsible for remunerating Mr. Curtin and Plaintiff shall be responsible for remunerating Mr. Simmons.

Ferron v. Search Cactus, L.L.C., 2008 WL 1902499 at *5 (S.D. Ohio Apr. 28, 2008 )

Posted in 6th Circuit, Computer Forensics, Cost of Discovery, Duty to Preserve, Duty to Produce, Form of Production, Judge Gregory L. Frost, Privacy, Privilege Log, S.D. Ohio | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Case Blurb: Perfect Barrier; “native” e-mail format production appropriate

Posted by rjbiii on June 17, 2008

[Producing Party] produced the emails in electronic form on an disc that is computer accessible. Such discovery is clearly considered electronic discovery. Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(b)(2)(E)(ii),
[i]f a request does not specify a form for producing electronically stored information, a party must produce it in a form or forms in which it is ordinarily maintained or in a reasonably usable form or forms.
[Requesting Party] did not request that the emails be produced in a particular form, yet [Requesting Party] now asks this Court to force [Producing Party] to produce the electronic emails as Static Images with a bates-number identifier. [Producing Party] objects to this request because it would cost a substantial sum of money to convert the documents from the form in which the documents are normally kept, Native format, to Static Images.

[Producing Party] has already produced the emails on a disc in Native format. [Requesting Party] maintains the email documents in such a format. Fed.R.Civ.P. 34 only requires [them] to submit the emails in the format in which it keeps them, Native format, and nothing more. While it may be more convenient for [Requesting Party] to have the emails as Static Images, Fed.R.Civ.P. 34 does not provide that convenience is a basis for requiring electronic discovery to be produced in a different format than normally maintained. If [Requesting Party] wanted the emails as Static Images, it should have specified this request in its requests for production, which it did not do.

Furthermore, this Court finds that the emails produced on an electronic media such as disc is reasonably usable. [Requesting Party] can access, examine, and even print the communications. While [Requesting Party] may prefer to have them as Static Images, the burden to convert the emails to Static Images remains with [Requesting Party]. [Producing Party] complied with Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(b)(2)(E) and is required to do nothing more.

Perfect Barrier LLC v. Woodsmart Solutions Inc., 2008 WL 2230192 (N.D. Ind. May 27, 2008 )

Posted in 7th Circuit, Case Blurbs, Cost of Discovery, Cost Shifting, Discovery Requests, Duty to Produce, email, Form of Production, FRCP 34, FRCP 34(b), Magistrate Judge Christopher A. Nuechterlein, N.D. Ind. | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Case Blurb: Benefirst; Good Cause Analysis-Seventh Factor

Posted by rjbiii on February 28, 2008

[Ed.-The court found that medical claim forms, requested by Plaintiff, would not be reasonably accessible. It then launched into an analysis to determine whether plaintiffs proved that “good cause” existed to compel production notwithstanding the accessibility issue. This blurb is from the analysis of seven factors. These are factors four and five: The likelihood of finding relevant, responsive information that cannot be obtained from other, more easily accessed sources; and Predictions as to the importance and usefulness of the further information;]

The parties resources.

While the Defendant has understandably engaged in a lengthy discussion of the cost of production, neither party has provided the court with any information about their resources. BeneFirst does represent that they no longer have a full time staff and that in order to retrieve the images that they would have to hire temporary help. At the same time, as previously noted, the Plaintiffs have significantly narrowed the breadth of their request and therefore, the time and cost for BeneFirst to produce the requested information should be significantly reduced.

Given the lack of information available to the Court, this factor is neutral.

W.E. Aubuchon Co., Inc. v. BeneFirst, LLC, 245 F.R.D. 38 (D. Mass. 2007)

Posted in 1st Circuit, Case Blurbs, Cost of Discovery, Cost Shifting, D. Mass., Discovery Requests, Document Retention, Duty to Disclose, Duty to Produce, FRCP 26(b), Good Cause, Magistrate Judge Timothy S. Hillman | Leave a Comment »

Dealing with Search Criteria

Posted by rjbiii on November 8, 2007

A recent post of ours cautioned readers to be careful on formulating, and to use some method of verifying, their initial assumptions. We refer to initial assumptions with respect to EDD as assumptions on keywords, effective date ranges, and data sources that must be preserved for an electronic discovery project. has posted an article discussing keyword searches, and calls attention to one danger of not carefully considering the formulation of search criteria:

The results of a recent e-discovery keyword search should have come as no surprise. Working on a case related to a specific transaction, the attorneys requested production of all documents containing the word “buy.” Despite being cautioned against this broad search, they were reluctant to heed the warnings, and many unrelated documents were incorrectly deemed responsive. Unfortunately, it takes a $750,000 mistake like this one for some people to understand the benefits of using a strategic approach to keyword selection.

If this had been my project…well, never mind. As I have said repeatedly, it is essential for the initial assumptions used in extracting data for review to be thoroughly vetted, because the filter ultimately determines what documents the reviewer sees. Searches that are too broad cost time and money. Searches that are too narrow will miss vital data, and could cost the client even more in the long term (by skipping over helpful information or by landing them in hot water with the judge). The importance of the process of building a verifying a list should not be underestimated.

That said, keywords are not the panacea. New technologies, using concept-based ontologies and techniques continue to evolve, and will move us beyond the era of the boolean keyword search.

Posted in Articles, Best Practices, Cost of Discovery, Discovery, Duty to Produce, EDD Basics, Search Protocols, Trends | Leave a Comment »

Electronic Discovery Burden is hardly new

Posted by rjbiii on October 17, 2007

Duane Morris partner Eric Sinrod writes about the “new burden” of electronic discovery for CNET:

Almost a year ago the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governing the discovery of electronic data were amended. While the changes were designed to reduce litigation costs, we’ve seen just the opposite.

I think he gets off on the wrong foot immediately with this opening paragraph. The changes were not, in my opinion, primarily designed to reduce litigation costs. Rather, they were meant to give guidance to courts and disputants on handling electronic discovery. Part of the amendments were aimed at reducing the burden of data that isn’t “reasonably accessible,” because of, inter alia, high costs. In fact, his essay goes awry even before the first paragraph. The very headline, “The new e-discovery burden,” is inaccurate, at least with respect to legal obligations. Relevant computer records were, even before the new amendments, considered discoverable. If there is a new burden, it is because of a combination of business practices (we will save everything ever generated) and certain technological developments (cheap and efficient storage devices, advances in collaborative and distributive computing technologies, etc…). But the amendments stay true to traditional legal principles.

He does make a nice point about the expansion of the definition of the term “document:”

The amendments broadened the definition of items subject to legal discovery, ranging from “documents” or “data compilations” to include all electronically stored information. Parties in a lawsuit can now demand from each other word processing documents, e-mails, voice mail and instant messages, blogs, backup tapes and database files.

I would argue, however, that the law is merely responding to technology, and it is technology that has truly expanded the definition, and the law is merely staying true to the goals of the discovery process. The article continues with examples from cases on such topics as retention policies and litigation holds, reasonable accessibility, cost shifting and sanctions. All provided with links to those decision.

Posted in Articles, Cost of Discovery, FRCP, Trends | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Managing ESI. Or not.

Posted by rjbiii on September 5, 2007

We recently posted an article pondering whether corporations’ attempts to limit the use of email would become a trend. In that post, we also noted that corporate policies and legal processes designed to manage data were fighting an uphill battle:

The dichotomy is quite amazing. IT is moving rapidly toward more distributed and disparate types of data sources. Trends like tele-commuting, the greater us of PDA’s, black boxes in cars, etc. At the same time, corporate policies and the legal world are trying to better manage these data sources for purposes of litigation readiness and limiting exposure to legal liability. The struggle continues.

We just now stumbled on an article illustrating just how difficult a task it is to manage an ever increasing volume of data. From Metro Corp Counsel, Jerry Barbanel and Thomas Avery of Aon Consulting note that use of emails is growing at a 30% rate. [HT: EDD Blog Online] From the article:

The greatest cost factor for companies involved in large-scale litigation or governmental matters is the increasing cost of electronic discovery. Electronic discovery costs have been rising at double-digit rates, with no end in sight. The most significant factor that contributes to electronic discovery costs relates to the enormity of e-mails that have to be collected, processed, hosted, reviewed and produced. With the amount of e-mails created by a company growing at a rate of 30% annually, it is critically important for companies to master an understanding of this technology as the potential costs of electronic discovery could prove to be devastating.

The article also sheds light on another fact of life: the increasingly disparate forms which sources of data take, such as PDA’s and external mail clients like Yahoo!. As the job of finding, collecting, filtering and reviewing data becomes more and more difficult, requiring ever more specialized skills, one might think that the legal world would be paying attention. One would be mistaken, however, according to a post on Thinking E-Discovery. While the post focuses on addressing the issue of EDD early in the litigation, and specifically, during depositions, Dennis Kennedy remaks that:

[A]ll the attention [to the new amendments to the FRCP regarding ESI] seems to have limited effect

I must agree, and I am confused about it. I am continually surprised by the lack of knowledge (and urgency) that exists in both the law firm and in-house counsel environments. The further we move away from the new amendments to the civil rules, the less tolerant courts will be of excuses by companies and counsel that they were unprepared to deal with ESI.

Posted in Cost of Discovery, Data Management, email, Trends | 2 Comments »