Tag Archives: litigation

Surging Wage and Hour Class Action Suits and the Importance of Social Media Evidence

Wage and hour class action suits are rising dramatically. According to the USA Today, Plaintiffs filed 7,006 federal court wage-and-hour suits in 2011, many of them class actions, nearly quadruple the 2000 total. Many of these suits involve claims of misclassifying employees as exempt from overtime, especially salespersons and temporary professional employees. Additionally, these claims involve allegations of non-exempt employees being required to work off hours through the use of mobile devices, webmail and social media.  As such, social media evidence is playing an important role in the litigation of wage and hour claims on multiple levels.

As one recent example, a federal court in the Northern District of California earlier this month imposed monetary sanctions of nearly $16,000 and disqualified the lead plaintiff as the class representative in a wage and hour class action for failing to disclose relevant Facebook evidence. In Calvert v. Red Robin International, the lead plaintiff proved to be very active on Facebook, using the site to communicate with other claimants and to recruit potential plaintiffs into the class. The plaintiff and his lawyers failed to disclose this evidence, which the defendant’s law firm ultimately obtained through their own diligent investigation efforts. Such disqualifications and monetary sanctions against the lead plaintiff can prove to be important tactical victories in cases such as these.

Calvert is just one of many recent wage and hour cases that we have seen where social media has played a critical role. For instance, our customers have recently reported successfully using X1 Social Discovery in wage and hour claims, including, for example, to collect Linkedin and Facebook evidence that contradicted Plaintiffs claims that they were non-exempt employees. In addition to this customer use example and the case of Calvert v. Red Robin International, there are numerous other scenarios where the search and collection of social media evidence can be essential to the litigation of wage and hour cases, highlighting the importance of best practices technology to diligently represent your clients’ interests.

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Filed under Best Practices, Case Law

Legal Experts: Attorneys Have an Affirmative Duty to Address Social Media Evidence

First, many thanks to all who participated in our legal ethics and social media evidence collection webinar. Special thanks also to the esteemed Ralph Losey of Jackson Lewis for his participation. Ralph provided informative legal insight as always on this topic and there were many excellent questions and comments by participants. For those who did not attend, you can view and listen to the full recording here. (There is 1 hour MCLE ethics credit available for California attorneys who review the recording in its entirety).  

During the webinar, Ralph noted in the Q&A session that given the widespread importance of social media evidence to just about every type of litigation and investigation matter, it is incumbent on attorneys and their hired consultants to understand and address social media evidence as a standard practice. Losey cited the professional ethics and standards relating to the duty of competent representation. He is not the only prominent attorney or even court to proclaim this. In Griffin v. Maryland, which involved key social media evidence, the court opined that “it should now be a matter of professional competence for attorneys to take the time to investigate social networking sites.” (citing, Sharon Nelson et al., The Legal Implications of Social Networking, 22 REGENT U.L. REV. 1, 1-2 (2009/2010))

Additionally, in her excellent and comprehensive Delaware law review article, “Ethical Risks Arising From Lawyers’ Use of (and Refusal to Use) Social Media,” 12 DEL. L. REV. 179 (2011), attorney Margaret M. DiBianca asserts that the legal duties of competency and duty of diligent representation require that attorneys account for social media in the course of their discovery and investigation efforts. DiBianca pointedly notes that “[n]aysayers and late adopters alike may be equally surprised to learn that ignoring social media altogether may constitute a violation of their ethical obligations.”

And as we outlined a few weeks ago, the Plaintiff’s attorney in Lester v. Allied Concrete Company did not equate social media evidence with more traditional forms, causing him to blithely instruct his client to rid his Facebook page of damaging evidence, resulting in what many attorneys believe is the most severe eDiscovery court sanction imposed upon a lawyer. However, for every situation like the Lester case where relevant social media is brought to the forefront, there are presumably many others where important social media evidence is overlooked by attorneys and their service providers who do not include social media as part of their standard eDiscovery process checklist. As it is now established that social media is highly relevant as evidence, it is important that attorneys, paralegals, eDiscovery consultants and investigators proactively seek out such evidence and include its investigation in their standard processes and checklists. Many legal experts would say professional standards of care require it.

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Filed under Legal Ethics & Social Media

The Future for eDiscovery: Social Media and the Cloud

Greetings and welcome to all. This is the inaugural post of Next Generation eDiscovery, a blog that will focus on legal, technical and compliance issues related to the collection, preservation and early case assessment of social media and other cloud-based data. To provide some context, the team here at X1 Discovery is experienced in developing and supporting technology for collecting electronic evidence in the enterprise to meet eDiscovery and investigation requirements. Many of us hail from Guidance Software, the developer of EnCase, which is the leading eDiscovery and investigative solution for collecting from hard drives, both standalone and within the enterprise. And now we turn our focus to current trends and the future.

And the future for eDiscovery is about social media and the cloud. In fact, it seems like just this year when social media became a compelling issue in eDiscovery and is reaching critical mass given the level of rising discourse. With over 700 million Facebook users and 200 million people with Twitter accounts, evidence from social media sites can be relevant to just about every litigation dispute and investigation matter. Social media evidence is widely discoverable and generally not subject to privacy constraints when established to be relevant to a case, particularly when that data is held by a party to litigation or even a key witness.

It seems like in recent months there has been much talk in the eDiscovery and digital investigation fields about social media, mostly outlining the scope of the problem and the need to put corporate policies and procedures in place concerning social media.  That discussion is an important first step, but it’s time for actual solutions in terms of technical, legal and investigation techniques. This blog will seek to identify and foster discussion points, educate, and even pontificate at times but also learn from our readers, customers and non-customers alike. We look forward to the dialogue.

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Filed under Preservation & Collection