In In toxic tort cases where plaintiffs have questionable liability claims, serving burdensome e-discovery demands on defendants often threatens to change the focus of the case from the merits of the claim to a spoliation of evidence sideshow that focuses on the efforts of the defendant to preserve and produce electronically stored information ("ESI"). To avoid traps for the unwary (potentially both corporate defendants and the law firms that represent them), this blog will occasionally provide e-discovery guidance and reference information. The Electronic Discovery Reference Model or ERDM is one such authoritative reference. The ERDM is an industry group that establishes practical standards and guidelines for ESI, including its identification, collection, processing, review, analysis, storage and production. The ERDM also provides helpful information on the triggering events, which may give rise to a duty to preserve or disclose email, documents or other data in conjunction with a pending or future legal proceeding. (According to ERDM, It is the point at which the party or the law firm may become liable to meet certain standards, the violation of which can result in any number of unfavorable outcomes depending upon the forum). Ensuring that both you, as counsel, and your client, have a firm understanding of how these triggering events work is an important first step in approaching ESI issues in litigation. EDRM's trigger discussion expands upon some of the following concepts: (1) The duty to preserve and disclose data may be triggered by a judicial order, a discovery request, or mere knowledge of a pending or future proceeding likely to require data; (2) The scope of data to be preserved or disclosed is determined by the subject matter of the dispute and the law and procedural rules that a court or other authority will ultimately apply to resolve it. In general, data is potentially discoverable if it is relevant to the disputed transaction or may lead to relevant data; and (3) Failure to preserve or disclose discoverable data may result in serious penalties. To minimize this risk, diligent steps must be taken to identify all potentially discoverable data in the client's possession or control.
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