ABA Journal, Attorney-Client Privilege, Cloud Storage, Confidentiality, Debra Cassens Weiss, Discovery, File Sharing, Legal Ethics, Work Product Doctrine
Upload To File-Sharing Site Was Like Leaving Legal File On A Bench, Judge Says; Privilege Is Waived, by Debra Cassens Weiss, ABA Journal©
Many use the cloud for file storage and sharing when attachments are too big to send by email. If you use the cloud for storage, file-sharing or transfer, document management, project management, or anything similar, here is a cautionary tale.
The plaintiff insurance company sued the defendants, and sought a declaratory judgment on the defendants’ claim of loss by fire. The plaintiff’s investigator uploaded the entire claims file, including surveillance footage, to a drop-box cloud, Box, Inc. The link had no encryption or password. Access to the link alone allowed anyone to see the file.
He then sent the link by email to the plaintiff insurance company, who sent it to the insurance company’s attorneys, who inadvertently sent it the defendants’ counsel in response to a subpoena duces tecum.
The defendants’ counsel looked at it, but didn’t tell the plaintiff they had seen the privileged and confidential information. Inevitably, the defense sent the information back on a thumb drive to the plaintiff’s attorneys during discovery.
After vigorous arguments about confidentiality, work-product doctrine, attorney-client privilege, and disqualification of defense counsel, the facts and court’s reasoning make this an interesting read. -CCE
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