Due to the enormous amount of electronic data stored by companies in the modern era, discovery requests can involve millions of documents which need to be reviewed prior to being turned over to the opposing party. In conducting their analysis of this overwhelming quantity of information, litigants must, amongst other things, detect and exclude any privileged material. Should a party inadvertently fail to do so before such records reach the hands of the opposing counsel, he/she will be deemed to waive privilege in many jurisdictions. Given the massive quantity of data, however, such mistakes are practically unavoidable.
Federal Rule of Evidence (FRE) 502 was enacted in 2008 in an attempt to combat the issue of inevitable human error and the costs associated with parties’ efforts to avoid it. FRE 502(d) allows parties to request the court to grant an order stipulating that a disclosure of privileged material does not waive any claims of privilege with respect to those documents. If the court agrees to enter the order, it is controlling on third parties and in any other federal or state proceeding.
FRE 502(d) has led to the possibility of “quick peek” agreements where the parties give over all or a portion of their documents to opposing counsel without any privilege review whatsoever so that the recipient can identify which material he would like to retain. The recipient, in turn, agrees not to assert a waiver claim on any document that the producing party intends to withhold from the requested documents as privileged. These arrangements can dramatically ease the temporal and financial burdens of conducting a privilege review because they allow the producing party to focus only on those documents desired by the recipient while at the same time preserving their right to claim privilege on such documents. (more…)