District of MD

United States District Court for the District of Maryland

September 7, 2022

Isn’t It Time for a Uniform National Standard on “Possession, Custody, or Control”?

In civil discovery, litigants must produce information that is within their “possession, custody, or control,” subject to the applicable scope of discovery.  However, federal courts have markedly differing definitions of “possession, custody, or control.”  A uniform standard would further the goal of the just, speedy, and inexpensive resolution of many lawsuits. Mike […]
August 15, 2022

Is There a Duty to “’Fess Up?”

Several Fourth Circuit, District of Maryland, and Maryland intermediate appellate decisions stand for the proposition that, where a potential litigant is unable to comply with the duty to preserve potentially responsive information, the potential litigant has a duty to notify the anticipated opponent before the information goes missing. For example: I have […]
August 10, 2022

Authentication of Disputed Signature by Description of Information Governance Policy

In Mason v. Domino’s Pizza, LLC,  2021 WL 4820520, at *1 (D. Md. Oct. 15, 2021), the Court held that defendant had properly authenticated a disputed signature on an arbitration agreement.  The signature was authenticated by testimony of a human resources officer as to defendant’s routine business practices. Mr. Mason was employed […]
August 9, 2022

“Navigating Social Media Discovery: Steps Counsel Can Take to Address Mass Deletion of Social Media History”

An interesting post by Phillip Favro, The Hon. Helen Adams, and Leslie Behaunek, Navigating Social Media Discovery: Steps Counsel Can Take to Address Mass Deletion of Social Media History – Innovative Driven (id-edd.com) (June 1, 2022), describes tools provided by Instagram and Facebook that users may employ to delete material posted to […]
August 7, 2022

Court Excused Party From Waiver by Failure to Provide Specific Objections

In Doma Title Ins., Inc. v. Avance Title, LLC, 2022 WL 2668530 (D. Md. Jul. 11, 2022)(Quereshi, J.), the Court addressed a motion to compel discovery in a breach of contract action. The Court held that defendant’s discovery objections were too general; however, on the facts presented, including the manner in which […]
July 16, 2022

Denial of Discovery to Oppose Motion for Summary Judgment

In Markel Ins. Co. v. Sumpter, 2022 WL 2703832 (D. Md. July 11, 2022)(Hazel, J.), the Court denied a request for discovery to oppose a motion for summary judgment. Markel Insurance defended an alleged auto tort under a reservation of rights.  It then filed this action against both drivers for a declaration […]
July 15, 2022

Use of Phased Discovery to Achieve Proportionality

In Guzman v. KP StoneyMill, Inc., 2022 WL 1748308 (D. Md. May 31, 2022)(Quereshi, J.), a single plaintiff sued his employer for alleged FLSA violations.  The Court addressed a number of discovery issues.[1] The case provides a textbook example of the use of phased discovery to achieve proportionality. Plaintiff had worked for the defendants […]
July 14, 2022

Remote Deposition Misconduct – Again – With Novel Cure – Again

“An attorney who quietly provided answers to his client during her remote video deposition violated ethics rules, a court has held.” William H. Newman, Court Sanctions Attorney for Feeding Deponent Answers (americanbar.org) (Apr. 27, 2022).  Counsel was disqualified as a result. Like many depositions during the pandemic, the Barksdale deposition took place remotely over […]
July 13, 2022

Failed Request for a Preservation Order

In Gibson v. Frederick County, MD, 2022 WL 2593710 (D. Md. Jul. 6, 2022), the Court denied a request for a preservation order that was made in the form of a motion for a temporary restraining order.  Plaintiffs sought an order to preserve certain information after expiration of a statutory preservation mandate […]
June 21, 2022

Perils of a Vague Preservation Letter

Nolan v. O.C. Seacrets, Inc., 2021 WL 4806337 (D. Md. Oct. 14, 2021), reemphasizes that a preservation letter needs to be well-drafted and provide details sufficient to put the recipient on notice of the factual nature of the claim.  In Nolan, because plaintiff’s preservation demand was purportedly too vague, it may have […]
June 14, 2022

FLSA Litigant Cannot Refuse to Provide Relevant Discovery Merely Because It May Open the Responding Party Up to Other Liability

In Guzman v. KP StoneyMill, Inc., 2022 WL 1748308 (D. Md. May 31, 2022)(Quereshi, J.), a single plaintiff sued his employer for alleged FLSA violations.  The Court addressed a number of discovery issues.  This blog focuses on one of them – defendants’ assertion that it need not provide discovery because doing so […]
May 31, 2022

Historical ESI Highlights – Part VIII – Cooperation and The Cooperation Proclamation

Like many of its other publications, The Sedona Conference’s “Cooperation Proclamation” was an inflection point. The Cooperation Proclamation was published by The Sedona Conference in 2008.[1] It was followed by a number of publications, endorsed by Mancia v. Mayflower Textile Services. Co., 253 F.R.D. 354 (D. Md. Oct. 15, 2008), and by […]
May 29, 2022

Historical ESI Highlights – Part VI – Victor Stanley and Keyword Searching

The prior blog discussed the historical acceptance of technology assisted review.  However, keyword searching remains an important and useful tool.  Mark Twain wrote: “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated….”  The same may be true of keyword searching. While there are many decisions and articles on keyword searching, one of the […]
May 27, 2022

Historical ESI Highlights – Part IV – Hopson & Fed.R.Evid. 502

Protection of privilege and work product material is costly and complex when it is buried in voluminous ESI. An opinion of the Hon. Paul W. Grimm, Hopson v. Mayor of Baltimore, 232 F.R.D. 228 (D. Md. 2005), prompted Congress to change the law and enact Fed.R.Evid. 502. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(5) created the “clawback” […]
April 29, 2022

Deposition Errata Pages in Maryland

An excellent article by Brian A. Zemel, All Things Errata (americanbar.org)(ABA Apr. 19, 2022), addresses the scope of changes a deponent may make to an errata sheet. He explains: If the deponent’s submission is procedurally valid, counsel should then determine whether the witness’s changes were substantive and whether the jurisdiction permits such changes. […]
April 20, 2022

Sanctions Imposed for Fabricated and Unproduced Text Messages

In Gunter v. Alutiiq Advanced Security Solutions, LLC, 2022 WL 1139875 (D. Md. Apr. 18, 2022), a pro se plaintiff alleged various employment discrimination claims. After defendant provided forensic testimony, the plaintiff was sanctioned under Rule 41(b), Rule 37(e), Rule 26(g), and the Court’s inherent power, for fabricating and failing to produce […]
April 10, 2022

Ethics: More Remote Misconduct

I have written about Misconduct in Remote Trials and Misconduct in Remote Depositions. In the words of Yogi Berra, “it’s deja vue all over again.”  Improper Texting During Remote Testimony Can Result in Significant Consequences to Litigants and Lawyers | Publications | Insights | Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP. Traci McKee […]
March 24, 2022

Maryland v. Federal Summary Judgment Rule

After the December 2015 amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, I co-authored two publications noting some of the differences between the new Federal Rules and the Maryland Rules. M. Berman & A. Shelton,  “Commentary: With ESI, difference between federal, state rules,” The Daily Record (June 17, 2016); M. Berman, et al., […]
March 23, 2022

Relevance Redactions Rejected – Rule 26(f) Resolution

This blog focuses on: authorities denying permission to redact irrelevant information from discoverable documents; a minority view to the contrary; and, a proposed solution using a Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(f) conference of the parties where appropriate.  If a party foresees the need to redact irrelevant or confidential information from an otherwise discoverable document, the […]
March 11, 2022

Secondary Evidence as a “Gap Filler”

In Hale v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, 2022 WL 374512 (D. Md. Feb. 8, 2022), the Court applied the secondary evidence rule where text messages had been deleted: As discussed throughout, there is a glaring lack of documentary or testimonial evidence corroborating the existence of the text messages that constitute […]
March 11, 2022

No Sanction Despite Convoluted and Murky Explanation for Missing Texts

In Hale v. Mayor & City Co. of Baltimore City, 2022 WL 374512 (D. Md. Feb. 8, 2022), the Court denied a request for sanctions in the summary judgment context despite a “convoluted and murky” explanation for missing text messages.  The Court described the missing texts as “the primary basis of [plaintiff’s] […]
March 8, 2022

Failure to Cooperate Costs Clients Money

Much has been written about the duty to cooperate.  In 1850, Abraham Lincoln wrote: “Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can…. As a peacemaker, the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man [or woman].” [1] No attorney wants a judicial opinion stating that they have wasted the client’s […]
March 7, 2022

Requests for a Preservation Order

Preservation orders may be entered by agreement, ex parte, or upon motion after an opportunity for briefing.  Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(b)(3)(B)(iii) and Rule 26(f)(3)(C) authorize preservation orders as part of a discovery plan or scheduling order.  Additionally, “[a] federal court may also issue preservation orders as part of its inherent authority to manage its […]
November 28, 2021

Sanctions for: Failure to Impose a Litigation Hold; and, for Removing Zoo Animals After Notice of Inspection and Without Cooperative Communications

Collins v. Tri-State Zoological Park of Western MD, Inc., 2021 WL 5416533 (D. Md. Nov. 19, 2021), centers on allegations that defendants maintained a public nuisance by the neglect and ongoing mistreatment of animals residing at defendants’ zoo. On the spoliation issue, “Plaintiffs allege … that Defendants not only failed to issue […]
August 27, 2021

Waiver of Work Product Protection in Deposition Preparation Sessions

In Johnson v. Baltimore Police Dept., 2021 WL 1985014 (D. Md. May 18, 2021) (Boardman, J.), the Court addressed waiver of work product protection by showing documents to a third-party witness in deposition preparation. Twice before the deposition, plaintiff’s counsel showed three documents, several photographs, and one audio file to the deponent.  […]
August 18, 2021

Defendant Unsuccessfully Argued that Plaintiff Could Not Show That Data on Cell Phone That Defendant Destroyed Was Relevant

In McCoy v. Transdev Svc., Inc., 2021 WL 1215770 (D. Md. Mar. 31, 2021) (Copperthite, J.), data on Defendant’s former employee’s cell phone was erased after Plaintiffs had sent a preservation letter.[1] Defendant Transdev admitted that it had a duty to preserve the evidence and had control over it when it was […]
August 11, 2021

There Is a Difference Between Relevance for Discovery and Relevance for Spoliation Sanctions

In Snyder v. Moag & Co., LLC, 2021 WL 3190493 (D. Md. Jul. 28, 2021) (Copperthite, J.), the Court wrote that, “the matter is quite simple – has Petitioner met the elements of spoliation.”  The Court answered that in the negative.  In doing so, it differentiated between the loss or destruction of […]
February 7, 2021

When Should a Spoliation Motion Be Filed and Decided? – – An Update

In Membreno v. Atlanta Restaurant Partners, LLC, 2021 WL 351174 (D. Md. Feb. 2, 2021), the Court penalized a litigant for her untimely filing of a spoliation motion, even though the motion had merit.  While the Court granted the request for sanctions, it denied a request for attorneys’ fees due to the […]
December 26, 2020

Discovery of the Identity of a Person Associated With an I.P. Address

UPDATE:  on  August 10, 2021, the Court issued an opinion in Strike3 Holdings, LLC v. John Doe, 2021 WL 3511124 (D. Md. Aug. 10, 2021). ***** In Strike 3 Holdings, LLC v. John Doe, 2020 WL 7640943 (D. Md. Dec. 23, 2020), the Court authorized, but only in a strictly limited way, […]
December 26, 2020

When Should a Spoliation Motion Be Filed and Decided?

Several recent decisions from the District of Maryland address the question of when a spoliation motion should be filed and decided.  Eller v. Prince George’s Co. Public Schools, et al., 2020 WL 7336730 (D. Md. Dec. 14, 2020); Shackelford v. Vivint Solar Developer, LLC, 2020 WL 5203340 (D. Md. September 1, 2020); […]
December 25, 2020

No Sanctions Despite Truncated Search

In In Re: Smith & Nephew Birmingham Hip Resurfacing (Bhr) Hip Implant Products Liability Litigation, MDL No. 2775, Master Docket No. 1:17-md-2775 (D. Md. Dec. 23, 2020), the Court denied a sanctions motion, attributing a failure to produce  an inconsistent email to search parameters that were too narrow.  The Court held that […]
December 20, 2020

Burden of Proof of Spoliation

“The burden of proof on a motion for spoliation sanctions is unsettled.”  Steves & Sons, Inc. v. JELD-WEN, Inc., 327 F.R.D. 96, 104 (E.D. Va. 2018). Two recent District of Maryland decisions have held that, at least where a relatively harsh sanction is involved, a clear and convincing standard applies: “The burden […]
August 18, 2012

News Report: Mr. Mark T. Pappas of Victor Stanley v. Creative Pipe “Fame” Denied Bail

The Maryland Daily Record reports that Mr. Mark T. Pappas, protagonist in the “Victor Stanley case,” was denied bail “because of his ‘long history’ of noncompliance [with Court orders] and ‘lack of candor’ in the [Victor Stanley] litigation.  Ben Mook, “Back from Belize, Pappas denied bail,” The Daily Record, Aug. 15, 2012.  […]