Email Threads and Chains as Evidence: The Smoking Gun of Plaintiff eDiscovery

24 Jan 2013

In the advent of the modern electronic age, email has become the foremost form of communication for business correspondence. A far cry from formal writing on watermarked letterhead, email is typically casual and candid. For that reason, uncovering and obtaining all relevant emails is critical as part of a plaintiff electronic discovery plan against corporate defendants, as email is often now more than ever the “smoking gun” in civil litigation.

Email Threads Capture Relevant Data and Crucial Evidence

Over the last few years as electronic discovery case law has developed, it has become clear that email correspondence contains not only relevant facts, but also crucial evidence for plaintiff trial attorneys. Unlike formal written correspondence, where the writer expects to disseminate the information and employs a certain “spin” on the facts, internal corporate emails often admit truths in an unequivocal manner.

Email threads have exposed possible wrongdoing by multiple corporate defendants over the last year:

  • In an ongoing case where plaintiffs allege FedEx overcharged them, internal emails predicted a class action lawsuit and evidence corporate knowledge of the overcharge problem.[1]
  • In a case accusing oil giant BP of releasing toxic chemicals that may have sickened over 47,000 people in Texas City, Texas, email threads from BP executives may evidence that the company knew of the faulty equipment and failed to take any steps to remedy the situation.[2]
  • In another example, pizza chain Papa John’s is facing a class action suit for unlawful text messages after internal emails between the company and its marketing firm admitted that the texts at issue were likely illegal.[3]
  • In a case where Facebook is embroiled in litigation regarding pay-per-click advertising, internal emails seemingly admitted that fixing the problem would cost more money than it wanted to spend.[4]
  • In January 2013, Wal-Mart was named an additional defendant to a class action labor violation case after emails produced in discovery revealed the retail giant might be involved in the matter more deeply than it previously attested.[5]

Expert Computer Forensics to Uncover Hidden Email Threads

Although corporate defendants’ email threads and chains can hold critical evidence for plaintiffs, the reality of litigation is that defendants may inadvertently delete email, fail to issue adequate litigation holds, or engage in purposeful evidence spoliation. Expert computer forensics can recover deleted email chains, expose email threads, find trace artifacts and engage in full forensic analyses of corporate computers, hard drives and databases.

For more information about our eDiscovery services that can uncover hidden or deleted emails and other electronic data, contact our plaintiff electronic discovery experts.

[1] Gokare P.C. v. Federal Express Corp., Case No. 11-cv-02131, U.S. District Court, Western District of Tennessee (Memphis).

[2] In Re Texas City Refinery Ultracracker Emission Multi District Litigation, No. 10-0689.

[3] Chutich v. Papa John’s International, Inc. Case No. C10-1139-JCC (WD.Wa.).

[4] In Re Facebook PPC Advertising Litigation, No. 5:09-cv-03043 JF (N.D.Ca.).

[5] Carrillo v. Schneider Logistics, Inc., No. CV 11-8557-CAS (C.D.Ca.).