Have you been able to find useful information about plaintiffs on social media? Are you able to investigate individual plaintiffs that way, to examine the strength of their cases or the extent of their injuries?
Sometimes, absolutely, especially in standard litigation. But in the MDL setting, with thousands of plaintiffs, it’s often, as I mentioned, hard to do comprehensive background or social media searches. We’re primarily looking for information that would pertain to damages or causation; does this plaintiff really have the injuries they’ve claimed? Does their social media show them out skiing or doing physical things that they said they couldn’t do? Or is there evidence that they’ve been engaging in some vigorous activity that might have contributed to or entirely caused their injury? Those are great avenues to investigate.
But the truth is that we often have trouble just identifying the right plaintiffs. We might have to track people down by looking for the witnesses they’ve identified or try some other way to find the right plaintiff by a back-door method. The new ability, with Hanzo Investigator, to rapidly screen social media and identify potentially relevant posts would mean a much more proactive discovery process, which would be incredible.
When we do find information online, we’ve used Hanzo to preserve that evidence in a format that’s admissible and that’s going to be persuasive and useful in court. That’s the easy part for me; I just send an email or make a call, and Hanzo makes it happen. That way, no matter what happens to the online evidence later, we’ve got it preserved.
One quick example: we found a video online once that one of our plaintiffs had recorded. We requested the video in discovery, and what we received was 45 seconds shorter than the version that we’d found online, which of course we’d already asked Hanzo to preserve for us. The missing 45 seconds was not overly significant, but it led to a really interesting examination about what had been cut from the video and why. That kind of evidence allowed us to evaluate the plaintiff when outside his comfort zone. The tone of the deposition changed thereafter as you could see the witness’ wheels turning as they’re trying to figure out what else you know.
What’s next in your work—any exciting new technology on the horizon?
I am particularly interested in the development of 3D printing of surgical instruments and medical devices. 3D printed medical devices are already being sold in the U.S. and we are getting closer to seeing point-of-care printing—printing on-site at hospitals of patient-customized components. I just wrote an article about some of the questions it raises for products liability law. There are still a lot of questions to be answered and regulations and standards to be developed, but it’s a fascinating frontier.
This interview with Sean Burke is the latest entry in Hanzo’s Profiles of Excellence series. You can read more stories from our “Profiles of Excellence” series on our blog, including:
AP Capaldo-Aoun, global compliance attorney and director of E&C at a Fortune 100 technology company: “The Compliance Implications of Operation Varsity Blues“
Louis Sapirman, Former Chief Compliance Officer at Dun & Bradstreet: “An Interview with Louis Sapirman, the Complianve Innovator”
Alexandra McCombs, Senior Project Manager at PAE: “10 Years In, and Still Passionate About eDiscovery“
Joseph Stephenson, Managing Director at Hagerty Insurance Agency: “Social Media Investigations – Lessons from a Master”
Ben Robbins, Senior Manager for Information Governance, eDiscovery and Forensics at LinkedIn: “Getting to Know Ben Robbins from LinkedIn”
Ricky Brooman, CEDS, Litigation Support Project Manager at Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP: “Zero to Sixty in eDiscovery – the Value of On and Off the Job Training”