Commercial Litigation and Arbitration

Discovery Sanctions — Accepting Packages from Strangers

Client signs agreement outside the presence of counsel. Client places agreement in sealed envelope. Client gives envelope to lawyer for safekeeping without disclosing what it contains. Lawyer accepts envelope and places it in firm safe. In the words of District Judge James E. Gritzner in Books Are Fun, Ltd. v. Rosebrough, 239 F.R.D. 532 (S.D. Iowa 2007), ‛The record contains no explanation of why an experienced legal professional would allow such a mystery envelope to be placed in the possession of his law firm without further information about the nature of the contents.“ Client is later subpoenaed for documents, and the document sealed in the envelope is responsive. Lawyer does not know this, and client evidently does not appreciate it, resulting in delayed production. Adversary moves for sanctions under multiple powers and on multiple theories. While sanctions are denied in an extensive opinion by Judge Gritzner, who needs this? What you don’t know can hurt you.

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