In the case of Green v. Blitz USA, Inc. – a wrongful death case in which the plaintiff’s husband was killed by an exploding gas can produced by the defendant – the jury ruled unanimously in favor of the defendant. Because of a high-low agreement into which the parties had entered during jury deliberations, the plaintiff received a relatively small payment from the defendant. However, a year after this case was settled, the plaintiff determined that poor data collection practices by the defendant led to non-production of key documents that should have been presented during eDiscovery. Although the statute of limitations under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) prevented a new trial in this case, the court ordered that:
- The defendant must pay $250,000 in civil contempt sanctions to the plaintiff.
- The defendant had 30 days to provide a copy of the court’s ruling about its poor collection practices to every plaintiff that had a case against the company during the past two years.
- The defendant was ordered to pay a sanction of an additional $500,000 until the court’s orders in this case had been carried out. If Blitz complied with the court’s order, this particular sanction would be terminated.
- For the next five years, the defendant was required to provide a copy of the court’s order as part of its initial pleading or filing to every party in every lawsuit in every court in which it might be involved.
Clearly, improper data collection can result in potentially severe sanctions.