Guest Post on Everlaw: Is An Attorney Responsible for Manually Reviewing Discovery Before Production?

Review-TeamI prepared a guest post for Everlaw’s blog on an attorney’s ethical duty to follow a client’s instruction to manually review documents prior to production.

Is expert testimony required to show a lawyer breached their standard of care or is this issue one a jury can decide on their own?

Check out the case summary and tips on document review at Everlaw:

What is an attorney’s Duty of Loyalty to review discovery documents before producing them to an opposing party? That issue recently arose in a summary judgment battle between a client and his former attorneys.

The Case:

The client claimed that the law firm had committed malpractice because the attorneys failed to review discovery responses before production to the opposing party – after being directed to do so by their client. Things really went wrong when the client was hit with sanctions, and the law firm denied knowledge of certain documents in court. Price Waicukauski & Riley v. Murray, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 130680 (S.D. Ind.Sept. 18, 2014).

 Continue reading at Is An Attorney Responsible for Manually Reviewing Documents?

How Apple Successfully Recovered eDiscovery Production Costs

Apple-Bite-1Taxation of cost cases involving eDiscovery often end with the prevailing party not recovering any costs. However, in the true spirit of “think different,” Apple was able to recover $238,102.66 in costs for “the amounts associated with electronic preparation and duplication, not the intellectual effort involved in the production, such as searching or analyzing the documents.” Apple Inc. v. Samsung Elecs. Co., 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 132830, at *88, 91 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 19, 2014). The production work included processing documents, uploads, and document productions. Id.

Apple initially sought $1,486,475.01 in costs for the use of their online hosted repository, which uploaded and produced documents to Samsung, in the amount of $287,555.45 between two law firms, and service providers that collected and processed paper and electronic documents that were uploaded to the repository for $1,198,919.56. This amount was later reduced by $9,509.40, for a new total of $1,476,965.61. Apple, at *87-88.

A declaration provided by one of Apple’s attorneys stated the fees did not contain the intellectual effort involved in producing the discovery, but only the amounts associated with the electronic preparation and duplication. Apple, at *88. Moreover, the fees did not include costs from hosting the data, licensing fees for the software, or vendor consulting time. Id.

In the Northern District of California, Local Rule 54-3(d)(2) allows for eDiscovery costs analogous to “making copies,” but not “intellectual effort.” Id. Moreover, these costs must be connected to discovery produced to the adverse party. Apple, at *89.

The issue for the Court ultimately on what was recoverable was what was actually produced to the opposing party.

Math-Student

Based upon the different motions, the Court stated that Apple had produced 338,860 documents, totaling 2,944,467 pages, each document averaging 8.69 pages; however, Apple, uploaded a total of 2,101,808 documents. Apple, at *90.

The Court surmised that if the “same average page count of 8.69 for all documents that Apple produced, Apple uploaded a total of 18,264,712 pages in this litigation.” Apple, at *91.

The Court explained based on Apple’s estimation that it had “uploaded a total of 18,264,712 pages of which 2,944,467 pages were ultimately produced.” Id. As such, the Court determined that 16.12% of Apple’s eDiscovery costs were spent on productions to Samsung and awarded Apple $238,102.66. Id.

Bow Tie Thoughts

I want to congratulate Apple’s attorneys for successfully recovering over $200,000 in eDiscovery product costs. Many taxation of cost cases do not end with the prevailing party taking anything home.

eDiscovery costs cases can make some lawyers do their best Chevy Chase/Gerald Ford impression of, “It was my understanding no math would be involved.” However, no taxation of cost case has the luxury of not determining how much was spent on a production.

Taxation of cost cases are complicated. While some Court would like costs cases to be as simple as a Rob Schneider saying, “Makin’ Copies,” eDiscovery requires special skills to collect and produce ESI.

Some jurisdictions take a fairly hard view that processing and all of the steps in doing a production are not recoverable, because the process does not result in a “copy.” The local rule in the Northern District is fairly forward thinking comparatively thinking when it comes to recovering costs associated with production ESI.

Another factor making taxation cases complicated is the fact how service providers invoice. Most service providers do not have attorneys on staff giving advice on how to document each step to explain how processing is “necessary for the production.” Documenting how a production is de-NISTed, de-duplicated, or emails excluded by domain name (such as irrelevant news services or sales messages), are all steps that enable a Court to decided whether that step was necessary for production.

My best advice on how to navigate this area of the law is to understand your local rules (or Court of Appeal case law). The next step is to work with your service provider at the beginning of the case on how they invoice to demonstrate how every step they take produce ESI is necessary to the case for the production, and not merely “intellectual efforts.”

Even A Judged Questioned Why Ask for Permission to Use Predictive Coding

HighFiveI do not normally want to high five Federal judges, but Judge Ronald Buch, a Tax Judge in Texas, sure deserved one after his Dynamo Holdings opinion.

The discovery dispute can be summed up as a battle over backup tapes that had confidential information. The Requesting Party wanted the tapes; the Producing Party wanted to use predictive coding to produce what was relevant, because the cost for reviewing the material for privilege and relevancy would cost $450,000 with manual review. Dynamo Holdings v. Comm’r, 2014 U.S. Tax Ct. LEXIS 40 (Docket Nos. 2685-11, 8393-12. Filed September 17, 2014.)

The Requesting Party wanted the backup tapes to analyze metadata on when ESI was created. Moreover, the Requesting Party called “Predictive Coding” an “unproven technology.” The Requesting Party attempted to address the Producing Party’s cost concern with a clawback agreement. Dynamo Holdings, at *3.

After an evidentiary hearing with experts on the use of predictive coding, the Court granted the Producing Party’s motion to use predictive coding. Judge Buch had a “dynamo” quote on the entire issue of asking to use predictive coding:

 “And although it is a proper role of the Court to supervise the discovery process and intervene when it is abused by the parties, the Court is not normally in the business of dictating to parties the process that they should use when responding to discovery. If our focus were on paper discovery, we would not (for example) be dictating to a party the manner in which it should review documents for responsiveness or privilege, such as whether that review should be done by a paralegal, a junior attorney, or a senior attorney. Yet that is, in essence, what the parties are asking the Court to consider–whether document review should be done by humans or with the assistance of computers. Respondent fears an incomplete response to his discovery. If respondent believes that the ultimate discovery response is incomplete and can support that belief, he can file another motion to compel at that time. Nonetheless, because we have not previously addressed the issue of computer-assisted review tools, we will address it here.

Dynamo Holdings, at *10-11.

It is so refreshing to see a Judge address the issue of requesting to use a specific technology. No one does a motion to compel asking for permission on what lawyers should do document review. Moreover, no moving party asks permission to use visual analytics, de-duplication, or any of the other outstanding technology available to conduct eDiscovery.

The opinion ends with that if the Requesting Party believed the discovery response was incomplete, then a motion to compel could be filed, which is exactly the way the process should work. The issue should not be “can we use this technology,” whether the production is adequate or not, which requires evidence of a production gaps or other evidence that not all responsive information was produced.

Well done Judge Buch.

 

Remembering Browning Marean

I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Browning Marean. Both Craig Ball and Chris Dale have written very eloquently about Browning. I encourage you to read both of their tributes.

Browning Marean was the senior statesman of eDiscovery. There are few people who had the grace and knowledge of Browning. The man had the voice of a classic radio broadcaster who made audiences stop and listen.

Browning_JudgePeck_LTWC2009

Browning set the gold standard when it came to giving a presentation. Whether he was moderating a panel discussion, delivering a keynote, or holding court with a judge, his style was unmatched.

To say Browning was an “early adopter” of technology is an understatement. Browning was the geek’s geek. The man loved technology. He joked he liked trying out a product before even the Beta test.

Browning had a natural gift to identify useful new technology. It was Browning who introduced me to Zoom.us, the product I now use for my audio and video podcasts. His one call to tell me about the product made a huge impact on work I do weekly.

I enjoyed my video calls with Browning. He usually greeted me with, “Joshua my good man, how are you?” I am going to greatly miss discussing the law, politics, and life with Browning.

I will never forget my adventures with Browning. He was a gentleman who cared about people, and a lawyer who set a high bar for the rest of us to follow.

Browning was a legend across the entire world of eDiscovery and he will be missed.

Browning_Iconect-April2012

Spoliation, Texas Style

The Texas Supreme Court has clarified the standards for spoliation (in Texas). The rule is that Texas has a two-step process: (1) the Trial Court must determine, as a question of law, whether a party spoliated evidence, and (2) if spoliation occurred, the Court must assess an appropriate remedy. Brookshire Bros., Ltd. v. Aldridge, 2014 Tex. LEXIS 562, 3-4 (Tex. July 3, 2014).

This Allemande Left and Do So Do requires a Trial Court to find that (1) the spoliating party had a duty to reasonably preserve evidence, and (2) the party intentionally or negligently breached that duty by failing to do so. Brookshire Bros., Ltd., at *3. This is to be done outside the presence of the jury, so the accused party is not swung around before the jurors, causing any prejudicial effect by the presentation of evidence that is unrelated to the facts underlying the lawsuit. Id. (and memories of 7th grade square dancing). 

The jury is to only hear evidence of spoliation that is related to the lawsuit. If there is spoliation, the then Trial Court can craft a proportionate remedy based upon the level of culpability of the spoliating party and the degree of prejudice, if any, suffered by the nonspoliating party. Brookshire Bros., Ltd., at *4.

The facts of the Texas case involved video footage at a grocery store of a slip and fall. The Plaintiff slipped at the store and reported the incident the following day after going to the emergency room. The store saved video of the fall, starting from before the Plaintiff entered and left the premises. The video lasted 8 minutes. However, the rest of the video was deleted per the company’s data destruction policy after 30 days. Brookshire Bros., Ltd.  at *6-7.

The Texas Supreme Court held that a party must intentionally spoliate evidence in order for a spoliation instruction to constitute an appropriate remedy. Brookshire Bros., Ltd.  at *31.

The Court held that the deletion of the video for the entire day of the incident did not justify the jury spoliation jury instruction. Furthermore, the video showing the actual fall was presented to the jury. Brookshire Bros., Ltd.  at *46-47. The Court found that the failure to preserve additional video footage did not irreparably deprive Plaintiff of any meaningful ability to present his claim. Brookshire Bros., Ltd.  at *47-48. The issuing of the spoilation jury instruction was an abuse of the Trial Court’s discretion. Brookshire Bros., Ltd.  at *48.

Bow Tie Thoughts

The preservation of electronic evidence is a challenge for many attorneys. Litigants cannot preserve “everything” in a company at the first sign of litigation. The trick is preserving what is relevant. This becomes a question on the scope of discovery.

Could the Defendants in this case have copied a half hour before the incident and a half hour after? Sure. Some companies might do that. Others might not. Whether that is reasonable would turn on the facts of the case on whether that data needed to be preserved.

Texas lawyers know a few things about spoliation. First, it is based in evidence, opposed to a cause of action. Second, Judges should not let the facts over data preservation be presented to the jury to avoid any prejudicial effect. If there is an actual issue of spoliation, then the Court must determine the remedy before going to the jury.

Blogs I Like and the ABA Journal Blawg 100

There are many great blogs for attorneys. The ABA Journal is now accepting “Friends of the Blawg” briefs in the annual ABA Journal Blawg 100. Nominations can be submitted on the ABA Journal website.

Blog in metal

There are many great litigation blogs. Here are some of my favorites:

Craig Ball’s Ball in Your Court. Craig is a scholar, a gentleman, and an exceptional attorney.

Sharon D. Nelson’s Ride the Lightning. Virginia State Bar President Nelson provides daily eDiscovery news and is a must for anyone interested in eDiscovery.

Ralph Losey’s e-Discovery Team is another excellent source of eDiscovery best practices and summaries of recent cases.

My good friend Drew Lewis (along with Phillip Favro & Dean Gonsowski) writes Recommind’s eDiscovery blog Mind Over Matters.

There are many other great legal thought leaders, from Michael Arkfeld to Jackson Palmer. Everyone of them does a great service to the practice of law. I recommend checking them all out as you consider your nominations for the ABA Journal Blawg 100.

I would be honored to have your nominations for both Bow Tie Law and The Legal Geeks with Jessica Mederson, if you enjoy my blogs.

To file your “Friend of the Blawg” brief, please visit http://www.abajournal.com/blawgs/blawg100_submit/

 

Native Files & Protective Orders

What do parties do when they anticipate documents, testimony, or information containing or reflecting confidential, proprietary, trade secret, and/or commercially sensitive information are likely to be disclosed or produced during the course of discovery, initial disclosures, and supplemental disclosures in a case? Agreeing to a protective order is a the solution the parties sought in Farstone Tech., Inc. v. Apple Inc.

ConfidentialPaperClip

The protective order stated the following on native files:

Where electronic files and documents are produced in native electronic format, such electronic files and documents shall be designated for protection under this Order by appending to the file names or designators information indicating whether the file contains “CONFIDENTIAL,” “CONFIDENTIAL – ATTORNEYS’ EYES ONLY,” or “CONFIDENTIAL – OUTSIDE ATTORNEYS’ EYES ONLY – SOURCE CODE,” material, or shall use any other reasonable method for so designating Protected Materials produced in electronic format. When electronic files or documents are printed for use at deposition, in a court proceeding, or for provision in printed form to an expert or consultant pre-approved pursuant to paragraph 12, the party printing the electronic files or documents shall affix a legend to the printed document corresponding to the designation of the Designating Party and including the production number and designation associated with the native file. No one shall seek to use in this litigation a .tiff, .pdf or other image format version of a document produced in native file format without first (1) providing a copy of the image format version to the Producing Party so that the Producing Party can review the image to ensure that no information has been altered, and (2) obtaining the consent of the Producing Party, which consent shall not be unreasonably withheld.

Farstone Tech., Inc. v. Apple Inc., 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 89604, 10-12 (C.D. Cal. June 24, 2014).

The section of depositions demonstrated a lot of forethought on behalf of the attorneys who prepared the stipulated protective order (or Judge) with the party printing the electronic files or documents shall affix a legend to the printed document corresponding to the designation of the Designating Party and including the production number and designation associated with the native file. The only way this could be stronger would be the legend also including a MD5 hash value for authentication (which it potentially would include) and the system file pathway.

The final sentence on allowing review of a static image to the opposing side for review also addresses a concern many attorneys have over native files converted to static images. There is the obvious method of reading the document to determine it is “identical,” but using near-de-duplication technology to verify the text is an exact match, assuming the static image is a searchable PDF. If it is a TIFF, then conducting a line by line comparison is the best option.

My compliments to the attorneys who drafted the stipulated protective. I hope the litigation avoids any discovery disputes and focuses on the merits.