In the divorce matter Dahl v. Dahl, 2015 UT 79, Case Nos. 20100683, 20111077 (Ut., Aug. 27, 2015), the Utah Supreme Court considered a trial judge’s decision to exclude most of one party’s exhibits because the party had failed to properly identify the electronic files it planned to use as exhibits during trial.
At the pretrial conference, the trial judge had ordered the parties to submit exhibit lists at least two weeks before trial and to exchange the “actual exhibits” they planned to use. To comply with the court’s order, Mrs. Dahl submitted a CD Rom with digital copies of over 8,000 documents. The exhibit list submitted with the CD Rom did not identify the electronic files by number or name, and the court determined that it would be impossible for the court or for the other party to determine what exhibits Mrs. Dahl actually planned to introduce at trial. After admonishment by the trial judge, Mrs. Dahl submitted a new exhibit list on the first day of trial that still included vague descriptions of the documents she planned to use as exhibits.
The Utah Supreme Court, who described the case as “rife with abuses” on both sides, affirmed the trial judge’s decision to exclude most of the exhibits. The decision underscores the need for parties engaged in document-heavy litigation to ensure that they properly identify and catalogue their electronic files, particularly when submitting exhibit lists for trial.