Monday, November 30, 2009

Court orders forensic examinations of defendant's hard drives to remedy discovery abuses

Although it's hard to tell from the opinion, it’s safe to assume that Bennett v. Martin (Ohio Ct. App. 11/24/09) [PDF] started out like any other run of the mill discrimination lawsuit. Then, the defendant started playing hide the ball in discovery, which, after lots of motions, led to the trial court ordering the forensic imaging of the employer’s hard drives to confirm or deny the existence of certain documents. Bennett is an excellent lesson in what can go wrong in litigation, and I commend it to your reading so that you can see how garden variety discovery disputes can quickly escalate and consume an entire case.

The bottom line for employers (and really any litigant) – pick your battles. If the court thinks you’re being dishonest with your opponent, it will give the other side latitude to figure it out. If the court thinks you’re being dishonest with it (as was the case in Bennett), then all bets are off.

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