With No Intent, No E-Discovery Sanctions for Uber
Waymo LLC v. Uber Techs., Inc.
(N.D. Cal. Jan 29, 2018)
Why This Case is Important
For more serious e-discovery sanctions, this case is a great example that even with deleted evidence after there was a duty to preserve, there is a high threshold for proving that the offending party had the "intent to deprive."
In this misappropriated trade secrets case involving self-driving car technology, the plaintiff, Waymo, alleged that the defendant, Uber, spoliated a variety of different data types that included "hundreds of text messages," Slack records, five CDs and a couple of personal laptops.
Throughout discovery, the plaintiff accused the defendant of consistently engaging in discovery misconduct. The plaintiff requested adverse jury instruction. Even though the defendant conceded that this data was deleted, they countered by arguing that they didn't have a duty to preserve, because they didn't reasonably foresee litigation and that the spoliated evidence was irrelevant.
Judgement Withheld. The court could not rule on whether the adverse inference instruction was warranted because the court didn't know if the defendant acted with the requisite intent to deprive. The court "reserves the possibility of an adverse inference instruction" until trial.
Too much time spent debating e-discovery. The judge felt that the case was becoming less about the merits and if misappropriation occurred and more about "whether or not Uber is an evil corporation."
Case settles. Shortly after the court issued this opinion, the two parties came to a settlement of $245 million.