As an ardent cruiser, this headline caught my attention. More fun and games with deleted e-mails. Where would Sensei be without deleted e-mails and texts?
A federal judge in Seattle vacated a $21.5 million verdict awarded to a man injured by a closing cruise-ship door in 2011, saying the deleted e-mails that should have been produced in discovery.
The Associated Press reported that U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein vacated the verdict for James Hausman on Monday and ordered a new trial. She made that ruling after Hausman's former personal assistant, Amy Mizeur, contacted the defendant, Holland America, and said Hausman had deleted e-mails sought by the cruise line and had failed to disclose a personal e-mail account.
The verdict had included $16.5 million in punitive damages. Hausman had claimed an automatic sliding door closed while he was walking through it, hitting him in the temple. He claimed the injury caused vertigo, mental lapses and seizures. Trial evidence included accounts of 16 previous sliding-door incidents on Holland America ships.
During the trial, Hausman had testified he avoids using ladders because of his vertigo. But in one of the e-mails Mizeur recovered from her computer, Hausman talks about using a ladder and a fire ax to chop ice off the front porch of his house. She also testified at an evidentiary hearing on the e-mails that she saw Hausman carry heavy bags of coins, luggage and metal shelving at his Springfield, Illinois, precious metals business, The Gold Center.
Hausman argued that Mizeur was a disgruntled employee fired for forging a check from his personal account. Rothstein found more credible Mizeur's testimony that she had permission to write the check, and Hausman had previously allowed her to write a check to herself. Mizeur also testified that Hausman frequently gave her cash, sometimes slipping as much as $5,000 in her purse. Note: That sure seemed unusual - and I'm thinking that perhaps neither one informed the IRS. She did admit, however, that she threatened to ruin Hausman's life after her firing.
With respect to Hausman, the judge wrote, "As a witness, he came across evasive and untrustworthy. He appeared to weigh each answer, not for its truthfulness, but to assess whether it would damage his case. Mr. Hausman also seemed to capitalize on his alleged brain injury when it was convenient for him. He was confused or claimed memory loss when confronted with a question or exhibit that appeared to undermine his claims, yet was animated and full or information when his testimony supported his case."
The judge was skeptical of Hausman's claims that he did not delete the e-mails to frustrate Holland America's defense, but simply as part of his routine practice of clearing out his inbox. The actions were deliberate and "substantially interfered with defendants' ability to fully and fairly prepare for and proceed to trial," Rothstein said.
What really struck me about this case was how many kinds of cheesy excuses we've heard for deleting e-mails when someone was clearly under a litigation hold. I think I could fill 10 pages just with excuses that are laughable on their face. On the other hand, those folks are paying for our next cruise so no complaints here.
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Digital Forensics/Information Security/Information Technology