New E-discovery Technologies May Help BP Legal Crisis Teams

Monday, July 5, 2010 - 01:00

Are the e-discovery issues facing those connected to the BP oil crisis so very different from other mass tort/environmental discovery events? According to Laura Kibbe, Esq., Senior Vice President, Epiq Systems and former Texaco in-house counsel, discovery and data collection issues may not be so dissimilar in terms of volume and complexity. However, in this case, concerns escalate because of intense public scrutiny coupled with a highly accelerated discovery timetable.

Explains Ms. Kibbe, in today's legal environment, new e-discovery technologies, previously unavailable during crisis situations such as the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, may assist in speeding and organizing review and discovery.

While the current oil crisis poses a nightmare for the environment, legal teams and in-house legal are facing complicated tasks of their own with both civil and criminal investigations hitting the courts. Ms. Kibbe explains that the top three discovery issues in this event will be: locating historical documents related to the construction and erection of the platform; culling volumes of operational and electronic data; and reviewing and coordinating data production to multiple parties for multiple different purposes.

In other issues, would it be cost efficient for BP to create a production repository that all plaintiff parties (civil, government, etc) could access? Ms. Kibbe offers a qualified yes to this issue, noting that some cost savings would be achieved only if all parties agree and the information sought by all is nearly identical. However, to the extent that the cases fracture and take different angles with different production requests, a joint production repository would not be a solution.

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