Sanctions

Sanctions for spoliation. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(e). Md. Rule 2-433.

October 1, 2021

When is a Haircut Spoliation?

In Rainey v. State, No. 3094, __ Md. App. ___ (Sept. 28, 2021), a defendant in a criminal case spoliated evidence when he got a haircut after the crime, but before his arrest.  Mr. Rainey was charged with murder.  An eyewitness and surveillance video showed that a man with dreadlocks was involved. […]
September 4, 2021

Satisfactory Secondary Evidence Prevents Sanction

In Via Vadis, LLC, et al. v. Amazon.Com, Inc., 2021 WL 3134257 (W.D. Tex. Jul. 23, 2021), a request for sanctions was denied because the spoliating party provided satisfactory secondary evidence. When potentially relevant information goes missing, it is always a good practice to look for secondary evidence to replace it.  See […]
August 19, 2021

Does Maryland Require that Spoliation be “Intentional”?

In Six Flags America, L.P. v. Mims, 2021 WL 1627055 (Md. Ct. Spl. Apls. Apr. 27, 2021) (unreported), the appellate court held that it was error to allow plaintiff/appellee’s rebuttal arguments concerning the overwriting of defendant’s surveillance footage of the park entrance taken at the time of the occurrence.  The Court pointed […]
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 12, 2021

When Does a Litigation Hold End?

Much has been written about what triggers a litigation hold, i.e., reasonable anticipation of litigation.[1] Less has been written about when a litigation hold ends.  That became a potential problem for the defendant in Thomas v. Cricket Wireless, LLC, 2021 WL 1017114 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 16, 2021). The question of when a […]
August 11, 2021

Snapchat Spoliation Blog: More on the Dangers of Unsupervised Self Collection

Thanks to Phil Favro of Driven, Inc., for his excellent post “Snapchat Spoliation Case Highlights the Importance of eDiscovery Competence” (Driven, Inc., Jul. 20, 2021). Phil’s blog discusses the importance of understanding the features of various messaging programs.  I have recently blogged about a District of Maryland decision that conditionally approves of […]
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 […]
August 9, 2021

When is a Litigation Hold Notice Discoverable? — When a Litigation Hold is Defective.

Much has been written about discoverability of litigation hold notices.  See Blog, “When is a Litigation Hold Notice Discoverable?” (citing authorities). In March, the court in Thomas v. Cricket Wireless, LLC, 2021 WL 1017114, at *1 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 16, 2021) (“Cricket II”), wrote:  “This matter is back before the undersigned on […]
July 27, 2021

Where Producing Party Represents That It Fulfilled Its Duty to Produce, a Motion to Compel Additional Production Cannot Be Based on Speculation

Weidman v. Ford Motor Co., 2021 WL 2349400 (E.D. Mich. Jun. 9, 2021), involved a suit for alleged brake defects.  Near the end of discovery, plaintiff moved to compel further searches by Ford.  The motion was denied. The Weidman court provided a comprehensive discussion of the December 2015 amendments to the Federal […]
July 23, 2021

Plaintiff Sanctioned for Spoliation of Automobile Engines Due to Inadequate Implementation of Litigation Hold

In Hyundai Motor Amer. Corp. v. N. American Automotive Svcs., Inc., et al., 2021 WL 3111191 (S.D. Fl. Jul. 22, 2021), sanctions were imposed against the plaintiff, Hyundai Motor America Corp. (“HMA”). At bottom, HMA failed to follow basic, well-established procedures to implement a litigation hold, and crucial evidence then went missing.  […]
July 22, 2021

The Perils of a Misfocused Preservation Letter

In a preservation letter, a potential litigant demands that the opponent preserve specific ESI and documents.  The purpose of the letter is to trigger the common-law duty to preserve potentially responsive information.  However, if not properly drafted, a preservation letter can have the opposite effect.  Malone v. Wicomico County, MD, 2021 WL […]
July 21, 2021

Burden of Proof: Sanctions for Intentional Deletion of Text Messages

In a prior blog, “Burden of Proof of Spoliation,” I noted District of Maryland authority holding that: “Absent guidance from the Fourth Circuit, ‘the general approach of courts in the Fourth Circuit has been to apply the clear and convincing evidence standard, especially where a relatively harsh sanction like an adverse inference […]
May 14, 2021

The Duty of Inquiry and Sanctions for Failure to Investigate Client’s Claim

In two recent decisions, the District of Maryland has imposed sanctions for failure to properly investigate a client’s documents.  Taken together, Bioiberica Nebraska and Membreno show that the Court expects a reasonable inquiry into information that is within a party’s possession, custody, or practical control.  Filings or representations that contradict such information […]
May 13, 2021

Damage Control Method

Bloomberg Law reports that a company has allegedly mishandled potentially important emails in a 70,000 person class action.  J. Feeley and D. Glovin, “Sanofi Accused of Destroying Emails Tied to Zantac Recall” (Bloomberg May 11, 2021).  The potential spoliator’s response is instructive. In the products liability action, plaintiffs allege that the defendant’s […]
March 14, 2021

Maryland’s Confusing Spoliation Doctrine

In Giant of Maryland LLC v. Webb, __ A.3d__, 2021 WL 733828 (Md. Ct. Spl. Apls. Feb. 25, 2021), Maryland’s intermediate appellate court defined spoliation to require intent and recognized that negligence may suffice.  The Court’s holding was that, because the moving party failed to provide an adequate factual foundation, no sanction […]
March 6, 2021

Rules Matter: A “Perry Mason Moment” Was Derailed by a Discovery Violation

Black v. New England Computer Svcs., Inc., 2021 WL 822319 (D. Conn. Mar. 4, 2021), demonstrates the importance of following court disclosure rules and protocols.  The value of critical evidence was blunted by a failure to do so. “The practice of law may be poetically likened to sailing a ship. Constitutions, case […]
February 14, 2021

Marc Hirschfeld’s Legal Week Presentation

Marc Hirschfeld’s presentation at Legal Week, “Navigating the Pitfalls of E-Discovery for Boutique Litigators,” is well worth watching on Vimeo and Legal Week. Marc is the owner and president of Precision Legal Services.  Marc and I have collaborated on many projects. Marc discusses a number of topics in the one-hour video.  Among […]
February 12, 2021

“[I]t is no longer amateur hour.”

In a February 11, 2021, post,   Court Enforces Strict Sanctions For Failing To Be Competent In ESI Obligations | Farrell Fritz, P.C. – JDSupra , the author describes the sanctions decision in In DR Distributors, LLC v. 21 Century Smoking, Inc., a trademark dispute over electronic cigarettes, stating: As noted by Judge Johnson, “[i]t […]
February 7, 2021

District of Maryland’s Recent Application of Spoliation Doctrine in Discrimination Case

In Membreno v. Atlanta Restaurant Partners, LLC, 2021 WL 351174 (D. Md. Feb. 2, 2021), the Court applied the spoliation doctrine in an employment discrimination case. The plaintiff alleged injury due to a hostile work environment and discrimination based on gender identity and sex.  The Court wrote: “Discovery was contentious….”  The plaintiff […]
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 […]
January 29, 2021

Some Tactical Options for Businesses Faced With Pre-Litigation Preservation Demands

After litigation starts, a business faced with unreasonable preservation or discovery demands can resort to the court’s procedural rules to request relief from a judge.  However, the duty to preserve potentially responsive information often arises in a “free for all” zone before litigation is commenced.  In that situation, there is no umpire […]
January 24, 2021

“The Gang That Couldn’t Spoliate Straight”

A few years ago, the Hon. Paul W. Grimm wrote: “At the end of the day, this is the case of the ‘gang that couldn’t spoliate straight.’”  Victor Stanley, Inc. v. Creative Pipe, Inc., 269 F.R.D. 497, 501 (D. Md. 2010). That description is equally applicable to the conduct that led to a […]
January 17, 2021

Documenting When the Duty to Preserve Potentially Responsive Information Was Triggered

It may be prudent to document the analysis of the point at which a potential litigant believes that its duty to impose a legal hold, or “litigation hold,” has or has not been triggered.  While it may not be dispositive, documentation may be useful in the event of a subsequent allegation of […]
January 13, 2021

Application of Maryland’s Evidentiary “Unfriending” Rule to Recent Events?

The Baltimore Sun reports that:  “In Maryland and beyond, those who once bragged about overrunning the Capitol are now deleting their [social media] photos ….” T. Prudente, “As scrutiny intensifies over deadly U.S. Capitol riots, Marylanders delete photos, social media trails,” The Baltimore Sun (Jan. 12, 2021). That alleged action may have […]
January 11, 2021

Maryland’s Spoliation Standard

Maryland courts have addressed spoliation since Love v. Dilley, 64 Md. 238 (1885). In a recent published decision addressing spoliation, Maryland’s intermediate appellate court wrote: Spoliation is a doctrine grounded in fairness and symmetry. The doctrine is premised upon the principle that a party should not be allowed to support its claims […]
January 9, 2021

Maryland’s Intermediate Court Affirms Denial of Sanction for Spoliation of Video Evidence

An unreported decision of the intermediate appellate court provides an interesting contrast to Steamfitters Local Union No. 602 v. Erie Insurance Exchange, 469 Md. 704 (2020), which is discussed in a prior blog. In Benson v. ALDI, Inc., 2019 WL 5704532 (Md. Ct. Spl. Apls. Nov. 5, 2019), summary judgment was affirmed […]
January 8, 2021

Maryland’s High Court Affirms Sanction for Spoliation of Video Evidence

“I just delete. I delete – delete. Anything there that I don’t want, don’t need anymore, I delete.” Peterson v. Evapco, Inc., 238 Md. App. 1, 21 (2018).  That is an invitation to disaster.  Steamfitters Local Union No. 602 v. Erie Insurance Exchange, 469 Md. 704 (2020), involved spoliation in the context […]
January 3, 2021

Is Cremation, Burial, or Suicide Spoliation?

While this blog is focused on ESI, Maryland State courts have been asked to apply the spoliation doctrine in unique contexts.  They have addressed whether: Cremation is spoliation, Adventist Healthcare v. Mattingly, 244 Md.App. 259 (2020); Jarrett v. State, 220 Md. App. 571 (2014); Burial is spoliation, Hollingsworth & Vose Co. v. […]
January 2, 2021

Unsupervised Self-Collection Predictably Led to Problems

In Equal Employment Opportunity Comm’n. v M1 5100 Corp, 2020 WL 3581372 (S.D. Fl. July 2, 2020), unsupervised self-collection by a client created a situation that “greatly troubles and concerns the Court.”  There, an attorney permitted the client to determine what ESI it would search for and produce.  This process ran afoul […]
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 […]
December 1, 2020

When is a Litigation Hold Notice Discoverable?

A recent ABA practice point described Radiation Oncology Servs. of Cent. N.Y., P.C. v. Our Lady of Lourdes Mem’l Hosp., Inc., 2020 NY Slip Op 20133, ¶ 2, 69 Misc. 3d 209, 126 N.Y.S.3d 873, 875 (Sup. Ct.) (decided June 9, 2020) (Masler, J.). In Radiation Oncology, the court addressed when a litigation hold […]
November 28, 2020

The Duty to Preserve Continues Even After Production of Social Media

In Faulkner v. Aero Fulfillment Services, 2020 WL 3048177 (S.D.Oh. June 8, 2020), the court held that deactivation of a LinkedIn site after it had been downloaded and produced breached the duty to preserve that ESI.  However, the sanction was limited to an admonishment due to the absence of prejudice. The problem […]
May 12, 2020

Publication of M. Berman, et al., eds., ELECTRONICALLY STORED INFORMATION IN THE MARYLAND COURTS (2020)

I am pleased to announce the publication by the Maryland State Bar Association of M. Berman, et al., eds.,  ELECTRONICALLY STORED INFORMATION IN THE MARYLAND COURTS (2020). This book is intended as a practitioner’s handbook addressing primarily – but not exclusively – how ESI is addressed in Maryland State courts, comparing and […]
July 25, 2015

The Duty to Preserve & the Spoliation Doctrine in the Maryland State Courts

My article, “The Duty to Preserve ESI (Its Trigger, Scope, and Limit) & the Spoliation Doctrine in Maryland State Courts” was recently published in the University of Baltimore Law Forum, Vol. 45 (2015).  The article discusses Maryland case law addressing the issue, suggests a modern analytical framework, and concludes with a cautionary […]
July 30, 2011

American Bar Assoc., Publishes Berman, et al., Managing E-Discovery and ESI

The American Bar Association has  published M. Berman, C. Barton, and P. Grimm, eds., Managing E-Discovery and ESI: From Pre-Litigation Through Trial.  The 761-page work features chapters by The Hon. Paul W. Grimm (D.Md.), The Hon. John M. Facciola (D.D.C.),  The Hon. James C. Francis IV (S.D.N.Y.), and The Hon. Joseph F. […]
July 15, 2011

What Does “The Making of a Surgeon” Have to Do With ESI and “Software Glitches?”

“The Making of a Surgeon” In 1968, Dr. William A. Nolen wrote “The Making of a Surgeon” (Mid-List Press 1968, 1990): How do you make a surgeon? Not by the preliminaries, the four years of college and four years of medical school that have to be gone through to earn an M.D. […]