Our last blog reviewed the ongoing patent litigation case Micron v. Rambus, Civ. No. 00-792-SLR (D. Del.), where the findings of bad faith and prejudice, as well as the sanction, were vacated. On remand, what did the court decide?
To find bad faith, the court must find the spoliating party “intended to impair the ability of the potential defendant to defend itself.” Thus, did Rambus implement its document retention policy to disadvantage Micron, or was it for legitimate business reasons?
Pursuant to its new policy, 1269 of 1270 back up email tapes and 400 boxes of documents were destroyed to prepare for the litigation. There was evidence that Rambus destroyed documents and electronic data selectively, not across the board. For example, the one back-up email tape that was saved contained data helpful to Rambus. There was also evidence that Rambus knew the new document retention policy was illegitimate, as it was implemented in a secretive manner. Finally, the court cited false testimony by witnesses regarding the policy to find Rambus acted in bad faith.
Regarding the next inquiry, the court wrote “Prejudice to the opposing party requires a showing that the spoliation ‘materially affects the substantial rights of the adverse party and is prejudicial to the presentation of its case.’” This requires a plausible suggestion of what the destroyed evidence might have been—if the spoliation was done in bad faith, the burden is on the spoliating party to show lack of prejudice. Rambus failed to carry this heavy burden by merely suggesting that the destroyed documents were irrelevant to the litigation.
“Dismissal is a harsh sanction to be imposed only in particularly egregious situation where a party has engaged in deceptive practices that undermine the integrity of judicial proceedings.” If the court finds clear and convincing evidence that spoliation was done in bad faith that prejudiced the other party, dismissal is warranted. After a review of the facts as applied to the three goals of sanctions for evidence spoliation discussed in our last blog, the court considered the lesser sanctions including monetary fines, adverse jury instruction and evidence suppression. As those lesser sanctions were not enough to achieve the goals of the sanction in this case, the court dismissed Rambus’ claims against Micron.