It was recently reported that a defendant in a federal court case involving a bus accident in Portland refused to produce email threads in response to discovery requests. The argument? The Oregonian reported that at the April 9, 2013 hearing on plaintiffs’ Motion to Compel, the attorney for the defendant, public transit company TriMet, asserted “If the plaintiffs want electronic files—or “e-discovery,” they should have asked for it specifically.”
Such an argument reportedly did not go over well with district court judge Michael Mosman. Calling Trimet’s argument as to why it failed to turn over ESI completely “meritless”, the court entered a $5,000 fine against the company as a sanction. He also reportedly said on the record, “I don’t know where TriMet has been in the last 10 years, but discovery is basically eDiscovery.”
Plaintiffs, the families of the two people killed in the bus accident in 2010, sought email threads discussed by the transit company’s officials in oral depositions. The plaintiffs contended that the content of the emails contained critical evidence that the company trains drivers to make illegal left turns, exactly the type of turn that killed the decedents and injured three others.
Another interesting aspect of the case is the lack of documentation regarding the accident. The plaintiffs asserted that TriMet’s policy is to document all accidents with extensive detail, even minor ones. So one would expect the report of this accident, one that the paper deemed “the worst transit tragedy in modern Portland history” to be a critical piece of evidence. So far, no accident report has been produced. Plaintiffs’ filings noted that regarding this particular accident, “TriMet chose to not document it.”