The rules governing discovery of electronically stored information, though not fully developed, have matured enough to provide the basic “do’s and don’ts” for attorneys. Frequently, a party must produce electronic documents, such as Word documents, in their native format, rather than producing paper copies, in response to discovery requests; this obligation includes producing the document’s metadata, the data automatically embedded in an electronic file that contain information about the document, such as its origin and history of revisions. But what are a lawyer’s responsibilities concerning the transmission or receipt of metadata outside of the discovery context? A recent ethics opinion from the State Bar of Texas offers some guidance—and a stern warning: attorneys risk violating state rules of professional conduct if they mishandle metadata.
Why stop at excluding expert testimony when you can exclude the expert? For years, expert witness conflicts doctrine has been developed through the federal common law. Although appellate courts have been relatively silent on the issue, trial courts regularly strike experts that have received confidential information from the opposing party. Courts generally disqualify expert witnesses when a prior relationship resulted in access to an adverse party’s confidential information, and that information could harm that party’s interests in the present case. Whether an expert has an impermissible conflict is generally determined by a two prong test: (1) did the party claiming a conflict reasonably believe they had a confidential relationship with the expert, and (2) did that party give the expert relevant confidential information. Wang Labs., Inc. v. Toshiba Corp. In addition to these two factors, some courts will also consider fundamental fairness and prejudice resulting from disqualification or the denial of disqualification. See e.g. Veazey v. Hubbard.