Case Law

Court Issues Sanctions for Manipulation of Email Evidence, Addresses New FRCP 37(e)

New York

CAT3 v. Black Lineage, 2016 WL 154116 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 12, 2016) In this trademark infringement case, the plaintiff asserted rights to a domain name to sell its clothing products, in addition to an online website and magazine, and claimed the defendants’ similar trademark violated the Latham Act. The defendants alleged that they developed their trademark independently, although the plaintiff claimed that the defendants were notified via email in 2013 of the potential infringement. A deposition, however, revealed the possibility that there might be more than one version of the plaintiff’s original notification email, and a forensic analysis found that emails had been deleted and replaced with a second, altered version of the email correspondence, the copy that the plaintiffs produced to the defendant. The defendants asked the Court to dismiss the lawsuit, and Magistrate Judge Francis addressed the newly amended Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 37(e) on sanctions. Judge Francis wrote that the new version of Rule 37 was “adopted to address concerns that parties were incurring burden and expense as a result of overpreserving data, which they did because they feared severe spoliation sanctions,” which was especially true because “federal circuits had developed varying standards for penalizing the loss of evidence.” The Court enforced sanctions against the plaintiff “because the amendment is in some respects more lenient as to sanctions that can be imposed for violation of the preservation obligation, there is no inequity in applying it.”

Keywords: sanctions, FRCP 37(e), email, spoliation