Va. Judge OK'd $722K Legal Fees Clawback Due to Withheld Facebook Photos and Information

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A Virginia judge knocked $4.13 million off a $10 million wrongful death award and OK’d an additional $722,000 legal fees clawback due to withheld evidence.

Among the key materials at issue were photos deleted from plaintiff Isaiah Lester’s Facebook account. He and his lawyer, Matthew B. Murray, also were found by Charlottesville Circuit Judge Edward Hogshire to have withheld information from the court about what they did, the Daily Progress reports.

In an October final order (PDF posted by Above the Law) in the case, the judge said the attorney and client must pay $722,000 in legal fees to Patton Boggs, which will get $625,110; and Zunka Minor and Carter, which will get $96,890.

Hogshire earlier reduced Lester’s award by $4.13 million, the newspaper notes.

The judge required Murray to pay $522,000 of the $722,000 in legal fees, making the sanction perhaps the largest ever against an attorney in an e-discovery matter, the Next Gen eDiscovery Law & Tech Blog blog reports.

“This case reflects a trend we see based on anecdotal data points where a minority of legal and eDiscovery practitioners have not quite placed social media evidence on the same par as other electronic evidence,” writes attorney John Patzakis in a post yesterday. “For instance, I believe it is highly unlikely that Murray would have instructed his client to delete all his emails or wipe his hard drive, but for some reason he differentiated social media evidence.”

Additional coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Defense Seeks Reversal of $10.6M Death Award, Says Lawyer Didn’t Disclose ‘Stink Bomb’ Email”

Above the Law: “Facebook Spoliation Costs Widower and His Attorney $700K in Sanctions”

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