Mistakes…carelessness…sanctions. Month after month, I review a plethora of new decisions, looking for something unusual and interesting. Do I find usually find it? No. Look at this summary of nine recent cases that Kroll Ontrack has compiled and what do you see? Sleight of hand, ignorance of the rules & stall tactics.
Starbucks Corp. v. ADT Sec. Servs., Inc., 2009 WL 4730798 (W.D. Wash. Apr. 30, 2009): In a case that harkens back to the "Jerry Maguire" case I wrote about over a year ago, the court ruled that just because your emails were backed-up on a "cumbersome old system" doesn't automatically make them "not reasonably accessible". If that isn't enough, they also said, "…even if the information was ruled not reasonably accessible, good cause existed to order production." [italics added]
There are still people out there who seem to think that the federal rules themselves somehow determine what is – and isn't – reasonably accessible. In fact, someone wrote a letter claiming this very fact in response to one of the articles I wrote in California Lawyer magazine.
Dead wrong. The court decides what these parameters are, based on the facts of the instant case.
Vagenos v. LDG Fin. Servs., LLC., 2009 WL 5219021 (E.D.N.Y. Dec. 31, 2009): The quirk in this case is, defendant was awarded an adverse inference sanction over plaintiff's failure to properly preserve a voice-mail message – even though there was no evidence of bad faith on the part of the plaintiff. Negligence vs. intent…
Magaña v. Hyundai Motor Am., 220 P.3d 191 (Wash. Nov. 25, 2009): On appeal, the Supreme Court of Washington applied the three-prong default judgment test (willfulness of violation, substantial prejudice to opposing party and availability of lesser sanctions) and reinstated an $8 million default against defendant. Parties are still betting against the house; but more and more often, the house wins.