GN Netcom, Inc. v. Plantronics, Inc., C.A. No. 12-1318 - LPS, July 6 2016. (Redacted July 12, 2016)
Stark, C. J. Plaintiff’s motion for sanctions is granted in part. Briefing on this motion was completed on January4, 2016 and an evidentiary hearing and argument took place on May 18, 2016.
This is an antitrust case that involves a request for sanctions based on spoliation. The motion arises from the intentional and admitted deletion of emails from Defendant’s Senior Vice president of Sales and member of the executive committee. After the lawsuit was filed and despite a litigation hold, this individual instructed his team to destroy an email chain ASAP. He replied to a subsequent email chain, again asking for immediate deletion and requesting information relating to “competition or a competitive situation!!!” He also deleted 40% of his own emails from 11/18/13 to 2/19/14 from both his legal folder and his deleted file folder. A manager of the sales team reminded the team to use code words to refer to competitors. Once defendant’s associate general counsel became concerned about document retention steps were taken to implement an anti-email-deletion litigation hold and to recover the deleted emails. It was estimated that hundreds of emails responsive to discovery requests were missing. The court is not convinced that defendant took reasonable steps to preserve ESI or to recover deleted emails. Further, the motivation for the officer’s repeated instructions to delete emails was out of concern for how they would be used in litigation and also to deprive plaintiff to the discovery to which it was entitled. The court’s finding of bad faith is buttressed by, among other things, the conduct of litigation counsel who told plaintiff it was incorrect to assume deletion, and the “unrestoring” of back-up tapes previously restored. The court finds plaintiff was prejudiced and sanctions defendant in the amount of $3 million punitive sanctions, in addition to reasonable fees and costs incurred by plaintiff in this dispute relating to sanctions, and a jury instruction of an adverse inference.