In Pennsylvania, testifying experts usually are not deposed before trial; typically, their written reports are provided in advance of trial and delineate the substance and scope of their testimony. Attorneys often wish to communicate with their client’s expert and comment on drafts of the reports. Until April 2014, the law was not clear whether these communications were discoverable. This uncertainty made it problematic and potentially perilous for a party’s attorney to communicate with the party’s testifying expert, particularly in advance of the disclosure of the expert’s report. In Barrick v. Holy Spirit Hosp. of the Sisters of Christian Charity, No. 2014 WL 1688447 (Pa. Apr. 29, 2014), the Justices of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania took up the issue of the discovery of attorney-expert communications and split 3-3. This left intact the Superior Court’s bright-line rule preventing discovery of attorney-expert communications—a rule now to be applied by Pennsylvania trial courts.
Are Attorney-Expert Communications Discoverable in Pennsylvania? (Almost never) — Some Clarity from the Appellate CourtsBy Donald Kaufman
Refuse to Provide Electronically Stored Information in Response to a Subpoena? You Could Face SanctionsBy W. George Wailes
The California Court of Appeal recently provided rare guidance regarding a third party’s obligations to produce electronically stored information (ESI) in response to a subpoena. In Vasquez v. California School of Culinary Arts, Inc. (Sallie Mae) (August 27, 2014, B250600) Cal.App.4th (2014 WL 4793703), the court defined subpoenaed parties’ obligations to extract existing data from computer systems and upheld an award of attorneys’ fees against the recalcitrant third party. The court concluded that it is unreasonable for a third party to withhold ESI that exists in its computer systems on the basis that outputting the ESI entails creating a “new” spreadsheet.
On July 14, 2014, the Court in United States v. University of Nebraska at Kearny (No. 4:11CV3209) took a significant step in support of Federal Rules 1 and 26. Magistrate Judge Cheryl R. Zwart denied plaintiff’s motion to compel defendants to use plaintiffs’ proposed search terms to cull electronically stored information (ESI) for review and production. The Court’s order effectively discharged defendants’ obligation to produce any ESI. And the Court issued this order notwithstanding both that 1) the parties had agreed to a stipulation summarizing protocol for the production of ESI shortly after the outset of the case, and 2) plaintiff previously produced ESI as part of its production to defendants’ discovery requests. In short, plaintiffs’ unwillingness to fairly compromise as to the breadth of search terms aimed at reasonably limiting the scope of ESI production came back to bite.
The bad news: we took away the “easy” button in eDiscovery. The good news: see “the bad news”
Having reviewed a bit of the story of eDiscovery, it may be time to reveal another insider secret: eDiscovery used to be easy. Why? Because we were all good at it? Nope—not at all; it was easy for the exact opposite reason. No one had the slightest idea what they were doing, and so the bar for being an eDiscovery expert was pretty darned low. There were no applicable rules for using electronic information in evidence or requesting ESI in discovery. There were very few cases, reported or otherwise. Most importantly, almost no one had an inkling that stuff on peoples’ computers could be actually useful for lawsuits. Why even worry about it?