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Case Summary: AccessData; Effects of German Blocking Statute on Discovery Obligations

Posted by rjbiii on January 27, 2010

AccessData Corp. v. ALSTE Techs. GMBH, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 4566 (D. Utah Jan. 21, 2010).

Background: In May, 2005, AccessData and ALSTE Technologies GmbH (“ALSTE”) entered into a contract allowing ALSTE to resell to their customers. Since executing the agreement, ALSTE has sold “hundreds, if not thousands” of AccessData’s products. AccessData sued ALSTE for breach of contract, alleging that over $79,000 in invoices had not been paid for its FTK toolkit 2.0 software. While ALSTE admits that it hasn’t paid the invoices in question, it asserts that it shouldn’t be made to, as the software is defective. ALSTE also filed a counterclaim for the breach of a technical support agreement requiring AccessData to pay ALSTE $2,000 to $4,000 per month to cover technical support for users of AccessData’s products in Germany who were not also customers of ALSTE.

Procedural History: AccessData made requests to ALSTE for the production of documents containing information on customer complaints and any resulting injury suffered by ALSTE. AccessData also propounded interrogatories asking ALSTE to provide information and document regarding any technical support it provided non-customers under the Technical Support Agreement. ALSTE objected to the interrogatories and production requests, contending they were: 1) overly broad, unduly burdensome, and sought irrelevant information, and 2) the disclosure of information relating to third parties identities would violate German law. Access then filed the motion to compel on which the court rules in this opinion.

Discussion: The court stated that ALSTE assertion that providing personal information about its customers and their employees “would be a huge breach of fundamental privacy laws in Germany,” was not backed up by reference to any specific rule or law. ALSTE failed to cite any provision of the German Data Protection Act (GDPA) or German Constitution to back-up its claim. The court then noted that I, Section 4c of the GDPA, entitled “Derogations,” allows for the transfer of personal information to countries without the same level of data protection if the data subject gives his or her consent, or the transfer is necessary or legally required for the establishment, exercise, or defense of legal claims. The court wrote that ALSTE had not described any difficulties in obtaining consent, or explained why the provisions would not apply to this case.

Even in the event that ALSTE had overcome those challenges, the court stated that it disagreed with ALSTE’s assertion that the court must comply with the Hague Convention’s rules governing disclosure of evidence to courts in foreign countries. Citing Societe Nationale Industrielle Aerospatiale v. United States District Court, 482 U.S. 522, 544, 107 S. Ct. 2542, 96 L. Ed. 2d 461 (1987), the court noted that the law in the U.S. was: “It is well settled that such [blocking] statutes do not deprive an American court of the power to order a party subject to its jurisdiction to produce evidence even though the act of production may violate that statute.”

The Supreme Court referenced the American Law Institute summary of the interplay between blocking statutes and discovery orders generally:

“[W]hen a state has jurisdiction to prescribe and its courts have jurisdiction to adjudicate, adjudication should (subject to generally applicable rules of evidence) take place on the basis of the best information available . . . . [Blocking] statutes that frustrate this goal need not be given the same deference by courts of the United States as substantive rules of law at variance with the law of the United States.”

Ultimately, the court decided on this issue to overrule the objections to the discovery request and required ALSTE to search through their data repositories and produce the requested data.

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Posted in 10th Circuit, Blocking Statutes, Case Summary, D. Utah, Discovery Requests, Duty to Disclose, Duty to Preserve, Duty to Produce, Hague Convention, International Issues, Magistrate Judge Paul M. Warner | Leave a Comment »