Electronic discovery is rapidly changing the way courts do business. If there’s anyone in the legal world who still thinks ediscovery isn’t absolutely vital, here’s a few recent cases that should change your mind.
1. Oracle America v. Google
Oracle sued Google for alleged copyright infringement, stating that Google used Java programming language for its Android OS without obtaining licensing rights. Multiple emails were gathered through ediscovery and presented to the jury during arguments, including one from a chief engineer for Google which suggests negotiating a license from Java. Another email revealed that Google bigwigs requested that he research an alternative OS which was similar to Java.
2. State of Oregon v. Urbina
In this sexual assault case, the defendant was convicted of multiple sexual offenses. The defendant used computer software which allowed him to search for child pornography files and download them from a peer-to-peer filesharing network online. Although the defendant attempted to delete the incriminating evidence from his home computer, forensic software was able to find not only evidence that he attempted deletion, but also remnants of the pornography files themselves.
3. Danny Lynn Electrical v. Veolia Es Solid Waste
In this case, the plaintiff asked for sanctions against the defendant, stating the defendant had "blatantly disregarded their duty to preserve electronic information" because they had deleted pertinent emails after litigation had already begun in order to avoid ediscovery. The plaintiff additionally stated that the defendant had failed to properly maintain electronic records prior to litigation. As it turns out, the defendant was vindicated upon proving to the court they had recently implemented an email archiving system which automatically recorded and preserved all emails. The court ruled that there was insufficient proof to back the plaintiff's claim of evidence spoilation.
4. Northington v. H & M International
During these proceedings, the court issued an adverse inference instruction to the jury regarding destruction of emails and other relevant data. This evidence destruction occurred because ediscovery procedure regarding collection, identification, and preservation of pertinent data was not followed properly. Since several key documents were never found, the jury was instructed to presume that the company had destroyed the evidence.
5. United States v. Briggs
Through the U.S. Government produced thousands of pages of ediscovery in this criminal drug case, none of it was text searchable. The defense argued that presenting evidence in this manner made it nearly impossible for them to navigate, let alone mount any reasonable arguments. The court, in agreement with the defense, ordered the plaintiff to absorb the cost and time necessary to produce searchable materials for all parties instead
The many faces of evidence
Ediscovery is not just about finding supporting evidence which is used to prove or disprove a case; the electronic discovery process can also reveal if evidence has been destroyed or is missing. Sometimes the lack of evidence is just as elemental in winning a case as the evidence itself. The magic of ediscovery is that it addresses both sides of the evidence coin, while case histories are simultaneously building new guidelines regarding the responsibilities of companies to maintain proper electronic records.