Plaintiffs Avoid Sanctions for Untimely Production of ESI
In our last post, we reviewed the facts and procedure of the class action lawsuit Federico et al. v. Lincoln Military Housing LLC, et al., Case No. 2:12-cv-80 (E.D. VA, Dec. 31, 2014). After Defendant filed a motion to compel and a motion for sanctions and after the court ordered Plaintiffs to produce disputed discovery, Plaintiffs produced disputed ESI, including email threads and Facebook account data. Plaintiffs spent $29,000 to hire an IT consultant to gather, search, and produce the ESI. The data produced, however, was only “marginally relevant” in the court’s opinion, and in fact bolstered the Plaintiffs’ claims.
The court considered whether Plaintiffs should be sanctioned for their untimely production based on the following provisions:
- FRCP 37(b) and (c) allows for sanctions when a party produces discovery after a court-ordered deadline. In the Fourth Circuit, a court determines this after reviewing 1) whether the party acted in bad faith, 2) the amount of prejudice suffered, 3) the need for future deterrence, and 4) whether less drastic sanctions would suffice.
- Defendants also alleged Plaintiffs spoliated evidence by destroying or losing relevant ESI. For spoliation sanctions, Defendants had to show a duty to preserve, a culpable state of mind, and relevance of the missing evidence.
After considering these options, the court concluded that Defendants had not established that Plaintiff had acted in bad faith, especially considering that the production actually bolstered Plaintiffs’ claims and bore only marginal relevance to the case. Based on these factors, the court refused to sanction Plaintiffs, concluding that Plaintiffs had already incurred sufficient sanctions by having to pay their IT consultant $29,000 to produce the documents.