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Are Boilerplate Objections Sanctionable as Spoliation?

Posted on August 29th, 2014

We recently posted a blog that asked the question: Do Modern Discovery Practices Border on Sanctionable Abuse? Moving from that question, we now look at the case of Fidelity National Title Insurance Company, et al., v. James C. Castle, et al., Case No. 11-CV-896 YGR (N.D. Cal. August 11, 2014), in which the court looked at whether boilerplate objections constituted sanctionable spoliation.

On July 11, 2013, Plaintiffs propounded a Request for Production of Documents (“RFP”) on Defendants. Defendants’ response consisted of only objections, resulting in Plaintiff raising the inadequacy of the responses with the court. The court continued the scheduled management conference for the sole purpose of confirming that Defendants had served an amended response and responsive documents, as Defendants’ counsel had earlier represented that they would.

Plaintiffs’ status report in advance of the management conference indicated:

1. Defendants’ amended responses did not identify the documents responsive by request;

2. Amended responses asserted boilerplate objections including various privileges; and

3. Amended responses lacked any verification that the documents were Defendants’ responsive documents.

The court agreed with Plaintiffs that Defendants’ Amended Responses to the RFP were insufficient. After affirming that responsive documents should have been identified, the court went on to state, “The 27 different objections stated generally as to all the requests are inappropriate. In particular, blanket objections based upon privilege are ‘extremely disfavored.’”

In deciding that sanctions were an appropriate remedy, the court stated:

1. Defendants’ conduct and opposition to the motion were not substantially justified;

2. The court has been required to spend unnecessary time and resources to simply get Defendants to respond as required under the Federal Rules; and

3. The delay in providing proper responses may well have resulted in spoliation of evidence.

Accordingly, the court found that a reasonable award of attorneys’ fees was appropriate, along with requiring Defendants to serve amended responses.

 

ILS – Plaintiff eDiscovery Experts

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