In this breach of employment contract and misappropriation of trade secrets case, plaintiff moved to compel production of e-mails from defendant’s personal Yahoo! account.

Plaintiff contended that Defendant used this specific e-mail account to engage in the activities upon which this entire lawsuit is based. Defendant claimed that he could not produce these e-mails, because they had been destroyed by Yahoo!. However, the defendant offered only a copy of a generic response from Yahoo! about deactivating accounts.  The court declined to accept defendant’s explanation that production was “impossible,” particularly given the important evidentiary value of the e-mails and the “feeble offering” by defendant in support of the contention. Indeed, the Court indicated that it “will not accept Defendant’s position that [defendant] cannot produce these emails until assurance is given from an executive at Yahoo! responsible for such tasks that this request is indeed impossible.”

In addition, the court held that defendant’s representation that he was being “completely truthful” when he did not identify the account, because he knew it would be impossible to ultimately produce these e-mails, to be sanctionable: “It will figure largely into the sanctions ultimately awarded in this matter if it is learned that Defendant’s failure to identify this account earlier is the cause of the alleged impossibility.”  The court stated the particular sanctions awarded would depend on the outcome of defendant’s efforts to obtain the documents, and what was revealed by these efforts as to defendant’s actions, if any, that resulted in spoilation of evidence or other more serious discovery violations.