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E-⁠Discovery Case Law Library
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Case shelved under Reasonableness

“Amateurish” E-Discovery Conduct Leads to Sanctions in Buzzfeed Libel Case

Michael Leidig v. Buzzfeed, Inc.
S.D.N.Y. December 19, 2017
Why This Case is Important

Not having proper consultation and expertise to preserve, collect, process potentially relevant data will in most cases lead to spoliation sanctions like it did in this case.

Overview:

In this libel lawsuit, the defendant, Buzzfeed, brought a motion for sanctions against the plaintiff for repeatedly ignoring court discovery instructions (i.e. documents produced with missing/modified metadata, a key missing email, failure to properly prepare a Rule 30(b)(6) witness, etc.).

During discovery, the court ordered the plaintiffs to testify via a Rule 30(b)(6) deposition about the “efforts to collect documents and metadata.” The plaintiff was unable to answer a number of questions about their collection process, but did state…

  • “No special effort was made to preserve document concerning the Buzzfeed piece.”
  • Plaintiff “was instructed by counsel to preserve evidence only after the lawsuit was filed.”
  • Metadata was inadvertently modified and deleted when the plaintiff attempted to manually move files to a production repository.

After this deposition, the defendant filed a motion for spoliation sanctions.

Ruling:
  • No Legal Hold & “Amateurish Collection.” While it cannot be proved that plaintiffs acted with an intent to deprive, their actions were “certainly negligent” (i.e., no legal hold issued until after complaint filed, no “reasonable steps” to preserve were taken) and the defendant was prejudiced by the deletion/modification of metadata and an important email between key custodians.
  • Sanctions Granted to Cure the Prejudice. The defendant was allowed to present evidence that the plaintiff failed to preserve relevant data and the plaintiffs would be precluded from using the date in any document to prove the date in which the document was created due to the metadata modifications.
  • No Sanction for Failing to Produce Proper Rule 30(b)(6) Witness. While a close call, the court ruled that the 5.5 hour deposition was “lacking in desired specificity in discrete areas,” but not egregious enough to warrant sanctions, since the witness had “substantial information” in a couple of key topics.
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