Brief Fact Summary.
Attorneys for Plaintiff Qualcomm conceal relevant electronic documents during discovery and are sanctioned by the court for doing so.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
Every party has an affirmative obligation to comply with reasonable discovery requests, including requests for electronic documents.
Under its inherent power, a court may assess attorney's fees when a party has acted in bad faith, vexatiously, wantonly, or for oppressive reasons.View Full Point of Law
Plaintiff Qualcomm sued Defendant Broadcom for patent infringement on two of Qualcomm’s patents. Defendant Broadcom answered alleging the affirmative response that the patents were unenforceable due to waiver. Defendant Broadcom argued that waiver was based on Plaintiff Qualcomm’s participation in the Joint Video Team (JVT) in 2002 and the beginning of 2003. Plaintiff Qualcomm’s participation in the JVT would have made its suit null. Plaintiff Qualcomm denied any involvement in the JVT before December 2003 and claimed it had no documentation or evidence relating to its involvement prior to then. During depositions, Qualcomm representatives again denied the company’s involvement in the JVT despite Defendant Broadcom producing December 2002 communication to a Qualcomm email address suggesting Qualcomm was involved in the JVT. When preparing its witnesses for trial, an attorney for Plaintiff Qualcomm found 21 emails on an employee’s computer that were addressed to JVT email groups, but the attorney did not inform Defendant Broadcom’s attorneys of his finding. This information was later revealed during cross-examination. The jury found in favor of Defendant Broadcom with respect to Plaintiff Qualcomm’s waiver. After trial Qualcomm’s attorneys found 46,000 electronic documents directly related to the case and that basically confirmed Qualcomm’s involvement in the JVT earlier than December 2003 just as defendant Broadcom contended. The court found that Qualcomm actively concealed the electronic documents during discovery and trial and thereafter awarded attorneys fees and a final fee award of $8,568,633.24 to Defendant Broadcom.
Does a party have an affirmative duty to comply with reasonable discovery requests, including requests for electronic documents?
Yes, each party has an affirmative duty to comply with reasonable discovery requests, including requests for electronic documents. The failure of a party to do so whether through negligence or purposeful omission may result in sanctions. The attorneys are referred to the California State Bar for sanctions and Qualcomm’s award of attorney’s fees and final monetary award stand.
1. FRCP 26(g) imposes an affirmative duty on parties to engage responsibly in pretrial discovery and imposes sanctions on parties that abuse discovery.
2. The court has the power to sanction a party that abuses discovery.
3. Plaintiff Qualcomm knew or should have known about the concealed emails. Plaintiff’s attorneys were smart and experienced trial lawyers.
4. That Plaintiff Qualcomm’s attorneys found emails supporting their theory but could not find the plethora of emails countering their position is doubtful, especially because a lot of the emails were drafted by Qualcomm employees.
5.At most the worst Plaintiff Qualcomm’s attorneys purposefully covered up relevant documents, and at the least ignored the documents relevant to the case and in doing so violated FRCP 26 which requires a reasonable and diligent inquiry into discovery responses.
6.The attorneys are referred to the California State Bar for sanctions and Qualcomm’s award of attorney’s fees and final monetary award stand.