Category Archives: Preservation & Collection

Three Key eDiscovery Preservation Lessons from Small v. University Medical Center

Small v. University Medical Center is a recent 123-page decision focused exclusively on issues and challenges related to preservation of electronically stored information in a large enterprise. Its an important ESI preservation case with some very instructive takeaways for organizations and their counsel.  In Small, Plaintiffs brought an employment wage & hour class action against University Medical Center of Southern Nevada (UMC). Such wage & hour employment matters invariably involve intensive eDiscovery, and this case was no exception. When it became evident that UMC was struggling mightily with their ESI preservation and collection obligations, the Nevada District Court appointed a special master, who proved to be tech-savvy with a solid understanding of eDiscovery issues.Case Law

In August 2014, the special master issued a report, finding that UMC’s destruction of relevant information “shock[ed] the conscious.” Among other things, the special master recommended that the court impose a terminating sanction in favor of the class action plaintiffs. The findings of the special master included the following:

  • UMC had no policy for issuing litigation holds, and no such hold was issued for at least the first eight months of this litigation.
  • UMC executives were unaware of their preservation duties, ignoring them altogether, or at best addressing them “in a hallway in passing.”
  • Relevant ESI from laptops, desktops and local drives were not preserved until some 18 months into this litigation.
  • ESI on file servers containing policies and procedures regarding meal breaks and compensation were not preserved.
  • These issues could have been avoided using best practices and if chain-of-custody paperwork had been completed.
  • All of UMC’s multiple ESI vendors repeatedly failed to follow best practices

After several years of considering and reviewing the special master’s detailed report and recommendations, the court finally issued its final discovery order last month. The court concurred with the special master’s findings, holding that UMC and its counsel failed to take reasonable efforts to identify, preserve, collect, and produce relevant information. The court imposed monetary sanctions against UMC, including the attorney fees and costs incurred by opposing counsel. Additionally, the court ordered that should the matter proceed to trial, the jury would be instructed that “the court has found UMC failed to comply with its legal duty to preserve discoverable information… and failed to comply with a number of the court’s orders,” and that “these failures resulted in the loss or destruction of some ESI relevant to the parties’ claims and defenses and responsive to plaintiffs’ discovery requests, and that the jury may consider these findings with all other evidence in the case for whatever value it deems appropriate.” Such adverse inference instructions are invariably highly impactful if not effectively dispositive in a jury trial.

There are three key takeaways from Small:

  1. UMC’s Main Failing was Lacking an Established Process

UMC’s challenges all centered on its complete lack of an existing process to address eDiscovery preservation. UMC and their counsel could not identify the locations of potentially relevant ESI because there was no data map. ESI was not timely preserved because no litigation hold process existed. And when the collection did finally occur under the special master’s order, it was highly reactive and very haphazard because UMC had no enterprise-capable collection capability.

When an organization does not have a systematic and repeatable process in place, the risks and costs associated with eDiscovery increase exponentially. Such a failure also puts outside counsel in a very difficult situation, as reflected by this statement from the Small Court: “One of the most astonishing assertions UMC made in its objection to the special master’s R & R is that UMC did not know what to preserve. UMC and its counsel had a legal duty to figure this out. Collection and preservation of ESI is often an iterative process between the attorney and the client.”

Some commentators have focused on the need to conduct custodian questionnaires, but a good process will obviate or at least reduce your reliance on often unreliable custodians to locate potentially relevant ESI.

  1. UMC Claims of Burden Did Not Help Their Cause

UMC tried arguing that it was too burdensome and costly for them to collect ESI from hundreds of custodians, claiming that it took IT six hours to merely search the email account of a single custodian. Here at X1, I wear a couple of hats, including compliance and eDiscovery counsel. In response to a recent GDPR audit, we searched dozens of our email accounts in seconds. This capability not only dramatically reduces our costs, but also our risk by allowing us to demonstrate diligent compliance.

In the eDiscovery context, the ability to quickly pinpoint potentially responsive data enables corporate counsel to better represent their client. For instance, they are then able to intelligently negotiate keywords and overall preservation scope with opposing counsel, instead of flying blind. Also, with their eDiscovery house in order, they can focus on more strategic priorities in the case, including pressing the adversary on their discovery compliance, with the confidence that your client does not live in a glass house.

Conversely, the Small opinion documents several meet and confer meetings and discovery hearings where UMC’s counsel was clearly at a significant disadvantage, and progressively lost credibility with the court because they didn’t know what they didn’t know.

  1. Retaining Computer Forensics Consultants Late in the Game Did Not Save the Day

Eventually UMC retained forensic collection consultants several months after the duty to preserve kicked in. This reflects an old school reactive, “drag the feet” approach some organizations still take, where they try to deflect preservation obligations and then, once opposing counsel or the court force the issue, scramble and retain forensic consultants to parachute in.  In this situation it was already too late, as much the data had already been spoliated. And because of the lack of a process, including a data map, the collection efforts were disjointed and a haphazard. The opinion also reflects that this reactive fire drill resulted in significant data over-collection at significant cost to UMC.

In sum, Small v. University Medical Center is a 123 page illustration of what often happens when an organization does not have a systematic eDiscovery process in place. An effective process is established through the right people, processes and technology, such as the capabilities of the X1 Distributed Discovery platform. A complete copy of the court opinion can be accessed here: Small v. University Medical Center

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Filed under Best Practices, Case Law, compliance, Corporations, eDiscovery, eDiscovery & Compliance, Enterprise eDiscovery, GDPR, Information Governance, Information Management, Preservation & Collection

Dark Web Evidence Critical to all Cyber Investigations and Many eDiscovery matters

The dark web is a component of the World Wide Web that is only accessible through special software or configurations, allowing users and website operators to remain anonymous or untraceable. The dark web forms a small part of the deep web, which is the part of the Web not indexed by web search engines. The dark web has gained more notoriety over the past few years and several large criminal investigations have resulted in seizures of both cryptocurrencies and dark web pages and sites. Criminal enterprises involving counterfeiting, hacking, ID and IP theft, narcotics, child pornography, human trafficking, and even murder for hire seek a haven in the mist of encrypted communications and payment, such as Bitcoin, to facilitate their nefarious schemes. dark web

While mining the dark web is critical for many law enforcement investigations, we are also seeing increased focus on this important evidence in civil litigation. Fero v. Excellus Health Plan, Inc., (Jan. 19, 2018, US Dist Ct, NY), is one recent example. Fero arises out of a data breach involving healthcare provider Excellus Health Plan, Inc. According to the complaint, hackers breached Excellus’s network systems, gaining access to personal information millions of individuals, including their names, dates of birth, social security numbers, credit card numbers, and medical insurance claims information. The Plaintiffs brought a class action asserting claims under various federal and state laws.

Initially, the court dismissed the plaintiffs’ case, citing a failure to establish damages and actual misuse by the hackers who allegedly stole their information. However, after conducting a more diligent investigation, the plaintiffs submitted with their motion for reconsideration evidence that the plaintiffs’ PII was placed on the dark web.  This evidence was summarized in an expert report providing the following conclusion:  “it is my opinion to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty that PII and PHI maintained on the Excellus network was targeted, collected, exfiltrated, and put up for sale o[n] DarkNet by the attacker for the purpose of, among other things, allowing criminals to purchase the PII and PHI to commit identity theft.”  Fero, at 17.  Based on this information, the court granted the motion for reconsideration and denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss. In other words, the dark web evidence was game-changing in this high-profile class action suit.

Cases like Fero v. Excellus Health Plan illustrate that dark web evidence is essential for criminal and civil litigation matters alike. Dark Web investigations do require specialized knowledge and tools to execute. For instance, X1 Social Discovery can be easily configured to conduct such dark web investigation and collections.

Recently, Joe Church of Digital Shield led a very informative and instructive webinar on this topic. Joe is one of the most knowledgeable people that I’m aware of out there on dark web investigations, and his detailed presentation did not to disappoint. Joe’s presentation featured a concise overview of the dark web, how its used, and how to navigate it. He included a detailed lesson on tools and techniques needed to search for and investigate key sources of evidence on the dark web. This webinar is a must see for anyone who conducts or manages dark web investigations. Joe also featured a section on how to specifically utilize X1 Social Discovery to collect, search and authenticate dark web evidence. You can review this very informative 30 minute training session (no sign in required) by visiting here.

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Filed under Best Practices, Case Law, Case Study, Cloud Data, dark web, eDiscovery, Preservation & Collection, Social Media Investigations, Uncategorized

X1 Announces Strategic Product Integration with Relativity

Today we are announcing some exciting news. Our X1 enterprise eDiscovery solution now integrates with Relativity, the industry leading e-discovery platform. X1 Insight & Collection, a component of the X1 Distributed Discovery platform, allows enterprises to search across and collect from up to thousands of custodians in hours, now with direct upload into Relativity, including RelativityOne, utilizing Relativity’s import APIs.

The X1 and Relativity integration addresses several pain points in the existing e-discovery process. For one, there is currently an inability to quickly search across all unstructured data, meaning users have to spend the weeks or even months that are required by other cumbersome solutions. Additionally, using ESI processing methods that involve appliances that are not integrated with the collection significantly increase cost and time delays. And with such an  inefficient process there is simply no way for attorneys and legal professionals to gain immediate visibility into data, often leaving them to wait weeks before they have a chance to assess the data, post- collection.

The X1/Relativity integration directly addresses these challenges. Among the substantial benefits of this integration is the dramatic increase in speed to review, flowing directly from the custodian into Relativity on-premise or into the cloud-based RelativityOne platform. And this integration significantly reduces or completely eliminates inefficient ESI processing. X1 will search, cull and de-duplicate data at the point of collection and now integrates with the Relativity ingestion API, rendering inefficient and expensive processing appliances obsolete.

Organizations will be given real time early case assessment within minutes of initial search instead of taking days and weeks for this insight.  All of this is achieved with a truly repeatable end-to-end process for enterprises. The combination of X1 and Relativity provides a full and complete e-discovery platform.

“Collecting enterprise ESI can be one of the most daunting parts of the e-discovery process,” said Drew Deitch, senior manager for strategic partnerships at Relativity. “We’re excited to bring X1 into the App Hub, where it will offer users another great way to access, search, process, and import enterprise data into Relativity.”

Finally, with this integration providing a complete platform for efficient data search, discovery and review across the enterprise, this also enables organizations to very effectively address numerous information governance use cases such as GDPR compliance, identifying and removing PII and conducting IP data audits.

To see X1 in action, we have a 7-minute demonstration video including this integration with Relativity available here.

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Changing the Game for Rule 26(f) Meet and Confer Efforts with Pre-Collection Early Data Assessment

One of the most important provisions of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure that impact eDiscovery is Rule 26(f), which requires the parties’ counsel to “meet and confer” in Meet and Conferadvance of the pre-trial scheduling conference on key discovery matters, including the preservation, disclosure and exchange of potentially relevant electronically stored information (ESI).  With the risks and costs associated with eDiscovery, this early meeting of counsel is a critically important means to manage and control the cost of eDiscovery, and to prevent the failure to preserve relevant ESI.

A key authority on the Rule 26(f) eDiscovery topics to be addressed is the “Suggested Protocol for Discovery of Electronically Stored Information,” provided by Magistrate Judge Paul W. Grimm and his joint bar-court committee. Under Section 8 of the Model Protocol, the topics to be discussed at the Rule 26(f) conference include: “Search methodologies for retrieving or reviewing ESI such as identification of the systems to be searched;” and “the use of key word searches, with an agreement on the words or terms to be searched” and “limitations on the time frame of ESI to be searched; limitations on the fields or document types to be searched.”

However, Rule 26(f) conferences occur early on in the litigation, typically within weeks of the case’s filing. As such, attorneys representing enterprises are essentially flying blind at this pre-collection stage, without any real visibility into the potentially relevant ESI across an organization. This is especially true in regard to unstructured, distributed data, which is invariably the majority of ESI that is ultimately collected in a given matter.

Ideally, an effective early data assessment (EDA) capability can enable counsel to set reasonable discovery limits and ultimately process, host, review and produce less ESI.  Counsel can further use EDA to gather key information, develop a litigation budget, and better manage litigation deadlines. EDA also can foster cooperation and proportionality in discovery by informing the parties early in the process about where relevant ESI is located and what ESI is significant to the case.

The problem is any keyword protocols are mostly guesswork at the early stage of litigation, as under current eDiscovery practices, the costly and time consuming step of actual data collection must occur before pre-processing EDA can take place. When you hear eDiscovery practitioners talk about EDA, they are invariably speaking of a post-collection, pre-review process. But without requisite pre-collection visibility into distributed ESI, counsel typically resort to directing broad collection efforts, resulting in much greater costs, burden and delays.

What is clearly needed is the ability to perform pre-collection early data assessment, instead of EDA after the costly, time consuming and disruptive collection phase.  X1 Distributed Discovery (X1DD) offers a game-changing new approach to the traditional eDiscovery model.  X1DD enables enterprises to quickly and easily search across thousands of distributed endpoints from a central location.  This allows organizations to easily perform unified complex searches across content, metadata, or both and obtain full results in minutes, enabling true pre-collection EDA with live keyword analysis and distributed processing and collection in parallel at the custodian level. This dramatically shortens the identification/collection process by weeks if not months, curtails processing and review costs from not over-collecting data, and provides confidence to the legal team with a highly transparent, consistent and systemized process.

A recent webinar featuring Duff & Phelps Managing Director and 20-year eDiscovery and computer forensics veteran Erik Laykin included a live demonstration of X1DD searching across 20 distributed endpoints in a manner of seconds. In reaction to this demonstration, Laykin commented “the ability to instantaneously search for keywords across the enterprise for a small or large group of custodians is in its own right a killer application. This particular feature gives you instantaneous answers to one of the key questions folks have been wrestling with for quite some time.”

You can now view a recording of last month’s webinar: eDiscovery Collection: Existing Challenges and a Game Changing Solution, which features an overview of the existing broken state of enterprise eDiscovery collection, culminating with a demonstration of X1 Distributed Discovery. The recorded demo will help illustrate how pre-collection EDA can greatly strengthen counsel’s approach to eDiscovery collection and meet and confer processes.

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True Enterprise-Wide eDiscovery Collection is Finally Here

My previous post discussed the inability of any software provider to solve a critical need by delivering a truly scalable eDiscovery preservation and collection solution that can search across thousands of enterprise endpoints in a short period of time. In the absence of such a “holy grail” solution, eDiscovery collection remains dominated by either unsupervised custodian self-collection or manual services, driving up costs while increasing risk and disruption to business operations.

So today, we at X1 are excited to announce the release of X1 Distributed Discovery. X1 Distributed Discovery (X1DD) enables enterprises to quickly and easily search across up to tens of thousands of distributed endpoints and data servers from a central location.  Legal and compliance teams can easily perform unified complex searches across both unstructured content and metadata, obtaining statistical insight into the data in minutes, and full results with completed collection in hours, instead of days or weeks. Built on our award-winning and patented X1 Search technology, X1DD is the first product to offer true and massively scalable distributed data discovery across an organization. X1DD replaces expensive, cumbersome and highly disruptive approaches to meet enterprise discovery, preservation, and collection needs.

x1dd_diagram

Enterprise eDiscovery collection remains a significant pain point, subjecting organizations to both substantial cost and risk. X1DD addresses this challenge by starting to show results from distributed data across global enterprises within minutes instead of today’s standard of weeks, and even months. This game-changing capability vastly reduces costs while greatly mitigating risk and disruption to operations.

Targeted and iterative end point search is a quantum leap in early data assessment, which is critical to legal counsel at the outset of any legal matter. However, under today’s industry standard, the legal team is typically kept in the dark for weeks, if not months, as the manual identification and collection process of distributed, unstructured data runs its expensive and inefficient course.  To illustrate the power and capabilities of X1DD, imagine being able to perform multiple detailed Boolean keyword phrase searches with metadata filters across the targeted end points of your global enterprise. The results start returning in minutes, with granular statistical data about the responsive documents and emails associated with specific custodians or groups of custodians.

Once the legal team is satisfied with a specific search string, after sufficient iteration, the data can then be collected by X1DD by simply hitting the “collect” button. The responsive data is “containerized” at each end point and automatically transmitted to a central location, where all data is seamlessly indexed and ready for further culling and first pass review. Importantly, all results are tied back to a specific custodian, with full chain of custody and preservation of all file metadata.

This effort described above — from iterative distributed search through collection, transmittal to a central location, and indexing of data from thousands of endpoints — can be accomplished in a single day. Using manual consulting services, the same project would require several weeks and hundreds of thousands of dollars in collection costs alone, not to mention significant disruption to business operations. Substantial costs associated with over-collection of data would mount as well.

X1DD operates on-demand where your data currently resides — on desktops, laptops, servers, or even the Cloud — without disruption to business operations and without requiring extensive or complex hardware configurations. Beyond enterprise eDiscovery and investigation functionality, organizations can offer employees the award-winning X1 Search, improving productivity while maintaining compliance.

X1DD will be featured in an April 19 webinar with eDiscovery expert Erik Laykin of Duff & Phelps. Watch a full briefing and technical demo of X1DD and find out for yourself why X1 Distributed Discovery is a game-changing solution. Or please contact us to arrange for a private demo.

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Filed under Best Practices, Corporations, Desktop Search, eDiscovery, eDiscovery & Compliance, Enterprise eDiscovery, Information Governance, Information Management, Preservation & Collection, X1 Search 8