February 26, 2013

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Legal Case Profiles

February 26, 2013

At its heart, the BYU v. Pfizer case was a simple breach of contract dispute. “Unfortunately, this happens with some degree of regularity in America,” says Bettilyon. However, the case also raised important issues about discovery and document retention.

In 2009, mid-way through the dispute, Pfizer was ordered to pay more than $850,000 in fines and attorney fees for discovery delays and document destruction. BYU later filed additional motions for sanctions related to discovery, but the judge ruled that Pfizer appeared to be cooperating and that the company was not required to retain electronic documents dating back to the ‘90s without the reasonable expectation of legal proceedings related to the data.

 The case highlights the importance for companies of implementing a good-faith document retention policy that allows for electronic data to be deleted after a set period of time and when it is clear the data is not pertinent to an impending legal action.

Bettilyon also says Pfizer’s original misconduct and subsequent sanctions highlights the need for attorneys to discuss discovery with their clients early on. “When you are at the beginning stages of litigation, counsel should have a conversation with their client to make sure they understand their obligations in regard to retaining and producing documents,” he says.

With the six-year legal battle now settled, Bettilyon says, “This was a fascinating case because it involved a lot of biotechnology. It was an incredible opportunity for me to learn new things.”

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