A new treatise has been written on field of electronic stored information and sanctions for spoliation. In the Amended Opinion and Order for The Pension Committee of the University of Montreal Pension Plan et al., v. Banc of America Securities, LLC, et al. Judge Shira A. Scheindlin of the Southern District of New York, addressed the issues of parties’ preservation obligations and spoliation in great detail.
The order identified several actions (or failures to act) which would result in a finding of gross negligence in upholding discovery obligations:
“After a discovery duty is well established, the failure to adhere to contemporary standards can be consi-dered gross negligence. Thus, after the final relevant Zubulake opinion in July, 2004, the following failures support a finding of gross negligence, when the duty to preserve has attached:
- to issue a written litigation hold;
- to identify all of the key players and to ensure that their electronic and paper records are preserved;
- to cease the deletion of email or to preserve the records of former employees that are in a party’s possession, custody, or control; and
- to preserve backup tapes when they are the sole source of relevant information or when they relate to key players, if the relevant information maintained by those players is not obtainable from readily accessible sources.”
The order establishes that sanctions for evidence spoliation require proof that: (i) the party had control over the evidence and an obligation to preserve it at the time it was lost or destroyed; (ii) acted with a culpable state of mind; and (iii) the lost or destroyed evidence was not only relevant to the innocent party’s claims or defenses, but also that party suffered real prejudice as a result.
Adriana Linares of LawTech Partners supplied the image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lawtechpartners/438634521/. Used with permission.