Even when egregious, intentional e-discovery conduct leads to the spoliation of potentially relevant data, the court will be wary to issue case dispositive sanctions.
In this class claim for unpaid wages and overtime compensation, the court addressed whether sanctions were warranted for the defendant violating its discovery obligations and failing to preserve large amounts of potentially relevant information, including 26,000 text messages and 38,000 documents.
After nine months and eight case management meetings, it was “painfully apparent” to the court that defendants “were failing in their efforts” to produce useable responsive data based on the plaintiffs’ requests. A special master was appointed at the defendant’s expense.
The special master found “multiple failures to implement timely preservation procedures, and to identify and collect information from relevant responsive repositories, resulted in the destruction of ESI.” Based on the defendant’s poor e-discovery tactics, the special master recommended case dispositive sanctions.
Download the PDF version of Daniel Small v. University Medical Center case law alert here.
The Magistrate’s Report and Recommendation in this case was written BEFORE the Rules were amended in December 2015, so the court was right here to reject the recommendation to impose the harshest punishment. The court rightly determined that negligence or gross negligence in ESI preservation does not warrant dispositive sanctions and that mitigating factors such as proportionality and whether other sources of data are available should be considered when determining appropriate sanctions.