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Even in Farmville, Electronic Documents Need to be Protected
Posted in Litigation

Two recent cases highlight the importance of managing sensitive electronic documents. Game producer Zynga, creator of the Facebook-favorite Farmville, sued rival producer Playdom in 2009. Zynga’s court papers claim that former employees took important documents from the company to Playdom, including the “Zynga Playbook”—a how-to guide to developing the viral games that have attracted more than 320 million users.

One former employee was held in civil contempt for erasing computer files relevant to Zynga’s claims. The judge ordered that all deleted data would be assumed by the court and jury to favor Zynga’s position in the lawsuit. This evidentiary fumble likely played a role in Playdom’s recent decision to settle with Zynga, a deal that Zynga announced it was “extremely pleased with.”

Meanwhile in New York, a judge sanctioned Echostar LLC for allowing employee emails to be deleted. The judge ruled that the company, stuck in complex satellite TV litigation, should have implemented measures to save all potentially relevant emails as soon as it could “reasonably anticipate litigation.” Echostar could not rely on non-attorney employees to save emails and was sanctioned for failing to disable an auto-delete feature on company accounts. As with Zynga, the missing emails will be assumed to hurt Echostar’s case.

These cases remind us how important it is to safeguard electronic documents when you think a lawsuit may be on the horizon. Failure to do so can make an otherwise valid case unwinnable. If you have more questions about managing sensitive documents, please contact the Litigation Practice Group of Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP.



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