Deepwater Horizon—a ‘data spill’ too?

LeClairRyan attorney William Belt speculates on massive amount of ‘disclosable’ e-documentation.

Writing in the Westlaw Journal, LeClairRyan attorney William Belt described the challenge posed by the massive amount of electronic documents that will be available to litigants. Back in the Exxon Valdez days, paper documentation associated with the case filled a warehouse. Now, the 21st Century ‘imperative’ for parties to hand over all electronic documents means that the e-discovery challenges will be huge. Today, electronic ‘documents’ include instant-messages, e-mail trails and potentially ‘tweets,’ web cams and more.

Belt ventures that, ‘given its complexity, seriousness and the proliferation of electronic files involved,’ disclosable data could cross the ‘mind-bending’ petabyte threshold. Under current e-discovery guidelines, companies have an explicit responsibility to preserve digital information that is under their custody and control. Noting that it has taken nearly 30 years for the Exxon Valdez to see a final settlement, Ryan speculates as to the limits of discoverable information, whether ‘data sources’ like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube fall under a court’s jurisdiction and what they will look like in twenty or thirty years time. More from

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