Drastic Terminating Sanctions Entered Against Defendant for ESI Spoliation
In Teledyne Technologies Inc. v. Shekar, Case NO. 15-1392 (N.D. Ill., Aug. 22, 2016), Plaintiff sued Defendant, a former employee, to enjoin him from disclosing and/or sharing confidential and proprietary information post-termination. The court issued a restraining order, finding that Defendant had misappropriated trade secrets, deleted Plaintiff’s computer files and more. Defendant did not comply with the terms of the restraining order, and Plaintiff sought to have him held in contempt. The court found Defendant in contempt, and ordered he that he purge the contempt by: (1) producing his home computer and any other electronic storage or devices; (2) producing the three external hard drives connected to his work laptop before and after he was fired; (3) producing or accounting for the whereabouts of eight other hard drives; (4) completing all interrogatories; (5) turning over all of Plaintiff’s information in his possession, including emails and backup files; (6) explaining the data transfer conducted by him in February 2015 between Plaintiff’s servers and his work laptop, and turning over any such transferred data; and (7) providing the pass-code needed to access the work iPhone previously produced.
Defendant tried unsuccessfully to evade compliance with the contempt order by filing various motions that included “offensive personal attacks” on Plaintiff’s counsel and on his own attorneys. The court eventually found that Defendant failed to purge himself of the contempt and ordered him to turn himself in to the authorities. Defendant then began a campaign of contacting multiple attorneys, who advised the court that he threatened suicide. The court stayed the incarceration order, but Defendant still did not properly comply with the order to turn over his electronic devices and data. He turned over a laptop, but it did not have its original hard drive. The phone he produced only had four calls in the call log, starting with the date he agreed to produce the phone and ending with the date he did produce it. A hard drive he produced had been wiped.
The court ordered the most severe terminating sanctions against Defendant, entering judgment against him in favor of Plaintiff, dismissing his counterclaims, and ordering him to pay Plaintiff’s attorneys’ fees and costs in addition to the taxable costs ordinarily afforded to the prevailing party.