Electronic Discovery Update: Costs Awarded in “Sledgehammer” Case
Anyone who follows eDiscovery case law is sure to remember the 2012 court order in Taylor v. Mitre Corp., No. 1:11-cv-1247, (E.D.Va.). In the case, the plaintiff brought an employment discrimination claim against his former employer. After filing a claim, he took a sledgehammer to his work laptop. Although he claimed to have backed up the hard drive on his personal computer, a computer forensics expert determined he had used computer wiping software on the laptop and destroyed all email threads and electronic data evidence. For sanctions, the court dismissed his case and ordered him to pay the other party’s attorney fees and costs for spoliation.
So what costs were taxable? In the order dated Feb. 13, 2013, the court awarded $163,882.18 for fees and costs, including:
- Costs of the forensic analysis of the personal laptop in the amount of $32,000. The court did not dispute this fee, considering the circumstances.
- 487 hours of attorney work for time spent on the spoliation issues.
The court, interestingly, tabled the costs for image processing, finding there was scant case law supporting cost shifting for image processing. However, the court did allow an additional motion to further explain the image processing fees.
Although the court needed more information on image processing, these costs were likely necessary as part of the analysis. Image processing allows users to scan and code documents and data in a multitude of formats, including native files, TIFFs and PDF images. As electronic discovery law continues to evolve, more courts will likely begin awarding costs for image processing services when necessary for document review and issue coding.