Friday, May 04, 2007

2007-05-04 Lorraine v Markel -Excerpts: Evidentiary Treatment of Computer Generated Information from the Decision. Here, eMails

You can find the opinion here


"Be careful what you ask for, the saying goes, because you might actually get it. For the last several years there has been seemingly endless discussion of the rules regarding the discovery of electronically stored information (“ESI”). The adoption of a series of amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure relating to the discovery of ESI in December of 2006 has only heightened, not lessened, this discussion. Very little has been written, however, about what is required to insure that ESI obtained during discovery is admissible into evidence at trial, or whether it constitutes “such facts as would be admissible in evidence” for use in summary judgment practice. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(e).3 This is unfortunate, because considering the significant costs associated with discovery of ESI, it makes little sense to go to all the bother and expense to get electronic information only to have it excluded from evidence or rejected from consideration during summary judgment because the proponent cannot lay a sufficient foundation to get it admitted. The process is complicated by the fact that ESI comes in multiple evidentiary “flavors,” including e-mail, website ESI, internet postings, digital photographs, and computer-generated documents and data files.
Whenever ESI is offered as evidence, either at trial or in summary judgment, the following evidence rules must be considered: (1) is the ESI relevant as determined by Rule 401 (does it have any tendency to make some fact that is of consequence to the litigation more or less probable than it otherwise would be); (2) if relevant under 401, is it authentic as required by Rule 901(a) (can the proponent show that the ESI is what it purports to be); (3) if the ESI is offered for its substantive truth, is it hearsay as defined by Rule 801, and if so, is it covered by an applicable exception (Rules 803, 804 and 807); (4) is the form of the ESI that is being offered as evidence an original or duplicate under the original writing rule, of if not, is there admissible secondary evidence to prove the content of the ESI (Rules 1001-1008); and (5) is the probative value of the ESI substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice or one of the other factors identified by Rule 403."

Excerpted from the conclusion, which pretty much sums it all up.

"In this case the failure of counsel collectively to establish the authenticity of their exhibits,resolve potential hearsay issues, comply with the original writing rule, and demonstrate the absence of unfair prejudice rendered their exhibits inadmissible, resulting in the dismissal, without prejudice,of their cross motions for summary judgment. The discussion above highlights the fact that there are five distinct but interrelated evidentiary issues that govern whether electronic evidence will be admitted into evidence at trial or accepted as an exhibit in summary judgment practice. Although each of these rules may not apply to every exhibit offered, as was the case here, each still must be considered in evaluating how to secure the admissibility of electronic evidence to support claims and defenses. Because it can be expected that electronic evidence will constitute much, if not most, of the evidence used in future motions practice or at trial, counsel should know how to get it right on the first try. The Court hopes that the explanation provided in this memorandum will assist in that endeavor."


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