Top 5 Cases of eDiscovery in the Past 3 Years

Over the past 3 years, there have been thousands of legal cases involving eDiscovery. From minor investigations to full out lawsuits, electronic information has played its part in federal courts. Five cases, in particular, stand out. Here are the top five cases involving eDiscovery that took place over the past three years. 

  1. Case: Paisley Park Enterprises, Inc. v. Boxill: In 2019, this case of infringement, centered around the artist Prince and his unreleased music, the plaintiffs called for spoliation sanctions due to the deletion of text messages from two of the defendant’s key custodians. At the outset the sides agreed on protocols for preserving electronic documents. In the midst of e-discovery, the plaintiffs received text messages from the defendants and the defendant’s PR firm. The relevant information of these text messages caused the plaintiffs to request additional text messages from the defendants’ and their PR firm. The defendants couldn’t review and produce the text messages because the phones in question were thrown away and no backups were saved. As a result, the plaintiffs moved for spoliation sanctions.                                                                                                                                                                                                                      


  1. Case: Salt River Proj. Agri. Impr. and Power Dist. v. Trench France SAS: In a 2018 case in Salt River, the court refused to order the defendant to immediately provide the relevant documents stored in France. The plaintiff had requested that information despite the defendant’s argument that it was outside the bounds of the Hague Convention procedures on cross-border discovery, and would violate the French blocking statute. While the defendant’s initial disclosure obligations required the immediate production of the information, the court decided that requirement allayed by the following: 1) the discoverable information stored in France was mostly cumulative of other information defendant provided with its initial disclosures; 2) defendant would be able to produce the information from France within 60 days; and 3) requiring defendant to immediately produce the information might subject defendant to “severe” penalties under French law.


  1.  Case: White v. United States: In this 2018 case, the plaintiff said that the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) shot and killed her son during a “sting” operation. The ATF, which had four video cameras recording the operation, did not record the shooting. Two of the cameras were “obscured by other objects,” while the other two cameras were missing over four seconds of video, including the shooting itself. The court shared the plaintiff’s “serious concern” but added that sanctions are only available when lost data “cannot be restored or replaced through additional discovery.” Here, the plaintiff had not yet shown that the lost video was irretrievable. Therefore, there may be more news from this case, as the court ordered the U.S. to inspect its files to try and restore the lost video footage.                                                                                                                                                                                                                     


  1. Case: Mueller v. Swift. In 2017, singer-songwriter Taylor Swift, produced a recording, but not in its entirety, claiming he lost some of the audio evidence from spilling coffee on a laptop and a back-up hard drive malfunction. Though neither party cited Rule 37(e), the court used the rule as a basis for its decision. While the judge ruled that the loss of evidence was due to more than just negligence, the judge denied an adverse inference. The judge did, however, allow the defendants to cross-examine the plaintiff in front of the jury concerning how the evidence was destroyed.                                                          


  1. Case: Ronnie Van Zant, Inc. v. Pyle. In 2017, there was a dispute about a movie being produced about the rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd. The movie’s director had many text messages relevant to the case, but when he handed in his phone, they were deleted. The defendant claimed that the director was not an employee. As a result, the director did not have possession, custody or control of the text messages. The judge disagreed: “Given that the director had a contract with the defendant and had a financial interest in the litigation, he should have known better then to delete text messages during the pending lawsuit.” An adverse inference was granted.                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Although there are many interesting cases to include in this blog, these five are key examples of how eDiscovery is used in the legal process today. eDiscovery plays such a big part across all types of media (phones, audio, video, structured, and unstructured data) in litigations because it brings forth important evidence to the table. With the enhancement and progression of technology, it’s very likely that law firms of all sizes will rely more and more on ESI found throughout the discovery process. 

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