Discovery

While most parties and their counsel are vigilant in keeping their communications confidential, so as to avoid any chance that the attorney-client privilege can be invaded, there are some situations in which a party makes a tactical decision to waive that privilege. When this happens, courts generally agree that such a waiver will extend to all communications on the same “subject matter” as the disclosed communications. Having said that, however, there do not appear to be any general guidelines or bright-line tests to determine what is meant by the subject matter of a communication. Rather, such analyses are done on a case-by-case basis.

While trying to determine what a court will define as the scope of the subject matter of a particular communication can be a bit like reading tea leaves, a related area that is even more fraught with peril is where a party decides to have counsel undertake an investigation and then publicizes some or all of a report generated from that investigation. Indeed, this is the exact, and unfortunate, position in which the Hamilton County (Tennessee) Board of Education found itself earlier this year.

In 2015, three members of a high school basketball team located in … Keep reading

While Rules 4.1(a) and 8.4(c) of the Massachusetts Rules of Professional Conduct prohibit attorneys from making false statements to third parties and/or engaging in conduct that is dishonest, fraudulent or involves misrepresentations, attorneys (and/or their agents) can use deception to act as “testers” to determine, for instance, if people are engaging in discriminatory or other illegal conduct. Nevertheless, as the plaintiff’s attorneys in Leysock v. Forest Laboratories, Inc. recently found out, getting creative in seeking to dupe people into providing information to bolster a claim can come back to bite you – hard.

In Leysock, the plaintiff’s attorneys at Milberg LLP “engaged in an elaborate scheme of deceptive conduct in order to obtain information from physicians about their prescribing practices.” They did this to garner evidence for a qui tam action they wanted to pursue. More specifically, the attorneys hired a doctor to pretend that he was conducting research through online surveys submitted to other physicians, without disclosing that the information gathered would be used to bolster the allegations in a complaint.

After the defendants learned about this, they moved for sanctions and sought dismissal because the allegations in the Complaint hinged on information that had been culled … Keep reading

In an earlier post, “Is Arbitration Quicker, Cheaper and Better for You?” I discussed why having a faster and less expensive dispute resolution mechanism may not be in your best interest.  Make no mistake, however, the differences between traditional litigation and arbitration go well beyond the time and expense it takes to complete the respective processes.  The following are a few of the more notable substantive distinctions between these two dispute resolution mechanisms:

  1. Litigation allows for extensive “discovery” (e.g., depositions, document requests and interrogatories) from parties and non-parties.  Discovery in arbitration often is limited to document requests, but can be broadened by the arbitrator or agreement of the parties.
  2. Because arbitrators are not required to abide by any Federal or State Rules of Evidence, they routinely consider information that never would be admissible in court.
  3. A “bad” decision in a court of law almost always can be appealed.  An arbitrator’s decision, on the other hand, rarely can be appealed – even if it obviously is contrary to the applicable law.
  4. Notwithstanding a lack of empirical data, most litigators agree that arbitrators are much more likely than a judge/jury to issue a compromise decision and/or one based on fairness principles
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While non-lawyers may not have heard of the term “spoliation,” most people intuitively know that destroying evidence related to an ongoing litigation is a bad thing to do.  Conversely, even many lawyers do not know the breadth of a company’s obligation to preserve evidence, particularly electronically stored information (which is quaintly referred to as “ESI”).  Further, knowing the basics of this obligation is critical because failing to preserve ESI can lead to monetary penalties, affirmative claims being dismissed and/or defenses being barred.

Perhaps the most common misconception about the obligation to preserve ESI is that a company runs no risk of punishment for having destroyed ESI pursuant to a document retention/destruction policy, as long as such policy (i) is objectively reasonable and (ii) was  implemented at a time when no litigation could have been anticipated.  Further, at first glance, Rule 37(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure would appear to support this notion:

Absent exceptional circumstances, a court may not impose sanctions under these rules on a party for failing to provide electronically stored information lost as a result of the routine, good-faith operation of an electronic information system.

While this rule seems simple enough, the … Keep reading