In the past several years, the use of collaboration apps has exploded within organizations. Collaboration solutions like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Slack and have been growing in popularity over the past several years.
When the pandemic happened, organizations were forced to collaborate more than ever using these solutions. And the usage of them skyrocketed. Here are two examples to illustrate the extent of that growth:
Most organizations use multiple collaboration apps today, so a combination of Teams, Slack, Zoom, Google Drive and other apps used to collaborate productively isn’t uncommon. There are always new ways to collaborate in business.
The popularity of collaboration apps has risen to the point that many people expect their usage to eventually overtake email solutions as the preferred way of communicating within businesses. The omnipresence of business communications within those apps today underscores the importance of supporting data from them in discovery – after all, that’s where much of the discoverable data resides today!
Recent court rulings reflect that understanding as courts have found data from collaboration apps to be relevant and proportional in discovery and have sanctioned parties for failing to meet their duty to preserve collaboration data in litigation. Here are six recent court rulings where discovery of collaboration data was addressed:
Benebone v. Pet Qwerks, et al.: Here, Plaintiff took the position that Slack messages should be excluded from discovery, while Defendants wanted them included. After both parties submitted cost estimates and Defendants submitted an estimate from their expert, the Court granted the defendants’ motion to compel production of Slack communications responsive to their document requests, finding that “review and production of Slack messages…is generally comparable to requiring search and production of emails and is not unduly burdensome or disproportional to the needs of this case”.
Twitter, Inc. v. Musk: In this proportionality dispute between Twitter and Elon Musk over the number of custodians for which Twitter needed to produce Slack messages, the Court ordered Twitter to produce Slack messages from eight total custodians (two more than they proposed), which was less than the 42 custodians sought by Defendants.
Nichols, et al. v. Noom Inc., et al.: After it became apparent in early production that Defendant employees frequently linked to internal documents in Google Drive in lieu of attachments to emails, Plaintiffs sought a ruling from the Court to order Defendants to re-produce emails and linked files as document families. The Court, citing the ESI Protocol between the parties where the handling of hyperlinked documents wasn’t specifically addressed, denied Plaintiffs’ motion to force Defendants to re-produce the documents.
Red Wolf Energy Trading, LLC v. BIA Capital Mgmt., LLC: Here, Defendants – after multiple motions to compel were granted, and after citing difficulties in discovery – eventually produced 47 highly relevant documents from Google Vault and its entire Slack archive to Plaintiff (which included a “smoking gun” Slack exchange). As a result, the Court granted Plaintiff’s Second Motion for Sanctions and awarded a default judgment sanction against Defendants for “repeated” discovery misconduct.
Drips Holdings, LLC v. Teledrip LLC: After litigation was reasonably foreseeable, Defendants changed the retention setting of their Slack archive from unlimited to seven days and deleted their previously exported Slack data. As a result, the Court adopted the Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) of the Magistrate Judge for Defendants to be sanctioned for changing their Slack retention policy but increased the recommended sanction from a permissive adverse-inference instruction to a mandatory adverse-inference instruction sanction.
Ace Am. Ins. Co. v. First Call Envtl., LLC: After a fire that Plaintiffs attributed to Defendant’s alleged improper remediation of environmentally hazardous substances, the Court granted Plaintiff’s motion for adverse inference sanctions due to Defendant’s failure to produce (and presumed spoliation) of Basecamp documents that detailed safety information.
The court rulings above illustrate at least three important lessons for discovery of collaboration data. They are:
Collaboration apps are here to stay within organizations and, as recent court rulings illustrate, the obligations to address them within your discovery workflows are here to stay as well. Not only that, collaboration apps are among the many data sources that eDiscovery technology and workflows must address today. Veritas Alta eDiscovery does both – capturing your collaboration data for archival and retrieval, and purpose-built review of these unique data types. It’s important to select an eDiscovery platform that is continuing to adapt to newer data sources in terms of archiving, capturing, and reviewing of this data to address your discovery obligations. Courts will expect it – so get ready!
Veritas Alta™ eDiscovery is a powerful, integrated, cloud-based solution that enables organizations to easily collect, review, and produce electronically stored information for legal and investigation needs. It’s a higher level of performance and efficiency that gives compliance professionals greater peace of mind.
Learn more about this one-step cloud-based solution that makes data capture and search easier. Visit Veritas Alta eDiscovery to learn more.
Irfan Shuttari, J.D. is the Director of eDiscovery Strategy, Product Management leading the Data Compliance & Governance Portfolio at Veritas. After practicing law in the Washington, DC area, Irfan joined Clearwell Systems, a legal technology startup & pioneer in the eDiscovery industry, later acquired by Symantec, and thus becoming Veritas Technologies. In his time at Veritas, he has led complex architectural design & implementation of information governance strategies at multi-national enterprises and government entities throughout the world. With over 10+ years of experience in the legal technology sector, Irfan blends a legal background with strong technical skills, providing a unique perspective on the growing data protection, data privacy & information governance challenges faced by organizations across all verticals.