When a forensic examination of a cellular gadget could also be warranted | Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP

With the evolution of know-how, digital communications, particularly textual content messages, usually present a treasure trove of proof. Whereas requests for e-mail communications and exhausting drive and community collections are normal in as we speak’s litigation, a celebration’s textual content messages and cellular gadget collections are sometimes missed. A customized movement to compel a forensic examination generally is a invaluable discovery device in analyzing a celebration’s cellphone information.

Basis for Movement to Compel

The procedural foundation for the movement relies on Federal Guidelines 34 and 26(b). In accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Process 34:

A celebration could serve on some other get together a request below Rule 26(b)

(1) produce and permit the requesting get together or its consultant to examine, copy, check or show the next gadgets within the possession, custody or management of the responding get together:

(A) Any designated doc or electronically saved info (together with writings, drawings, charts, graphs, pictures, sound recordings, pictures and different information or compilations of knowledge) saved in any medium from which info might be obtained straight or, whether it is mandatory , after translation by the respondent into a fairly usable kind[.]

Federal Rule of Civil Process 26(b) defines the scope of permitted discovery as follows:

…The events could receive information of any non-privileged matter that’s related to the declare or protection of both get together and proportionate to the wants of the case, considering the significance of the problems at subject within the motion, the quantity in dispute, the relative of the events. entry to related info, the sources of the events, the significance of discovery to resolving the problems, and whether or not the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its seemingly profit….

In figuring out whether or not to grant a movement to compel a forensic examination of a celebration’s phone, the court docket will consider whether or not the examination “will reveal info related to the claims and defenses of the case and whether or not such examination is proportionate to the wants.” of the case given the cellphone proprietor’s compelling privateness curiosity within the contents of his cellphone.” In different phrases, the broad scope of discoverable proof is tempered by the get together’s privateness curiosity within the gadget.[1] Paul v. Chicago Transit Authority, No. 19 CV 7868, 2021 WL 4789023, *2 (ND Unwell. Apr. 2, 2021). For that purpose, “the requesting get together should current a minimum of some dependable info that the opposing get together’s statements are deceptive or materially inaccurate.” Id.

Paul v. Chicago Transit Authority

In PeacockPlaintiff, a former worker of the Chicago Transit Authority (“CTA”), and his supervisor found a flaw in an utility utilized by the CTA to supply alerts and repair info to its transit customers. Id. in *1. The flaw may allegedly enable unauthorized customers to take management of the applying and put up unauthorized alerts on the system. Id. After the claimant’s supervisor tried to hack the CTA utility to show the claimant’s concept, a CTA investigation decided that the claimant’s actions violated CTA guidelines, insurance policies and procedures, forcing the claimant to resign in lieu of the termination Id.

Throughout discovery, the CTA requested all of Plaintiff’s communications along with his supervisor relating to the allegedly faulty utility. Id. Plaintiff took footage of his cellphone and produced what he claimed had been all of his communications. Id. After receiving plaintiff’s manufacturing, the CTA filed a movement to compel a forensic examination of plaintiff’s cellphone. Id. The CTA was in a position to query the integrity of the plaintiff’s manufacturing by exhibiting that the quantity of knowledge produced by the plaintiff mirrored lower than 1% of the cellphone’s storage capability and didn’t comprise communications exchanged in third-party functions. Web looking and/or search histories, audio-visual recordsdata, or any information related to 151 of the cellphone’s 200 functions. Id. in *3.

Plaintiff argued that forcing him to supply his cellphone for a second image can be a rare treatment, that he had already produced all the communications from his cellphone, and that the CTA had not proven that he had no communications. Id. in *1.

The court docket granted CTA’s movement to compel based mostly on the next: (1) the unique imaging was carried out with none alternative for CTA’s enter relating to the protocol carried out for the imaging course of; (2) the extraordinarily small quantity of plaintiff’s output; (3) that the invention sought – communications between the plaintiff and his supervisor concerning the utility – was on the coronary heart of the plaintiff’s declare; and (4) that the plaintiff had no foundation for invoking privateness issues after he had already taken footage of the cellphone himself.


Though the myriad pink flags in plaintiff’s unique manufacturing paved the best way for the CTA’s movement to be compelled on this case, the potential worth of selective discovery from any get together’s cellphone shouldn’t be discounted. Typically, we discover {that a} non-forensic assortment of a cellular gadget is acceptable. Nevertheless, when doubts come up concerning the veracity and integrity of a cellular gadget’s output, a forensic picture could also be warranted.

[1] see Advisory Notes to Rule 34, “[i]Inspection or testing of sure forms of electronically saved info or the responding get together’s digital info system could increase confidentiality or privateness issues.

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