Tuesday, February 9, 2010

How Does One Possibly Digest -- And Distill -- 5.5 Million Pages?

A commenter tonight asked a pair of very good questions -- on the 5.5 million pages of Vytorin-ENHANCE federal class action discovery production, now underway in a series of cases.

The comenter asked "Is the volume unusual?" and "How does all that paper get handled?" -- Here are my answers (feel free to chime in in comments, you plaintiffs' securities class action lawyers!):

This is -- even when compared to some mass tort case settings -- an extremely large volume of responsive documents.

[Part of the reason there are so many here preserved, is likely due to the fact that so many agencies promptly began investigating -- especially Senator Grassley's office -- thus forcing almost real-time preservation of documents, from about September 2007, onward.]

But to be clear, perhaps upward of 50 percent of the pages are likely duplicates (copies of every memo, copied to every recipient, for example -- all produced separately), for that is what the rules require. Even so, there will be small differences -- someone may have scribbled in the margin of his or her copy -- so it all is provided.

As to how it is handled, surely lots of junior people will sift through them, but in a series of cases (like these) with such high stakes, the lawyers will likely scan and digitize the entire dump, to the extent the Congressional Committees haven't already done so (via a third party service provider -- with full text recognition capability), and then have a searchable database (on CD-ROM, and maybe even on a secure internet file-server, available to all the lead plaintiffs' law-firms, and coordinating counsels) of every document that mentions (for example) both "Enrico Veltri" and "outlier data". One might also search that surname, with the phrase "f*ck off" -- Ooh wait, we already have that document. [But I digress.]

Where was I? Oh. Right. The document data-base service provider will likely be instructed to separately flag, and put in a so-called "sidecar", all the documents with hand-written notes on them.

Those, a senior lawyer with a good grasp of the claims and defenses will need to read carefully. And then, on some of them, s/he will prepare question-lines, for depositions. These documents will then be shown to subject-matter experts -- to get their opinions -- on both sides of the fence. . . .

Any other experiences to share, out there? [The next telephone status conference on these cases was today set for Thursday, March 18, 2010 at 11:00 am before Magistrate Judge Mark Falk. We'll keep you up to date.]

UPDATED: My buddie Jack, across the Atlantic, at PharmaGossip, is mirroring this post. Cool!


Anonymous said...


Do you know details such as when it goes into effect and specifics.


Condor said...

Thanks Salmon -- only this -- as to when it will become operative:

It will be after March 22, 2010 -- once the judge approves it:

". . . .An approval hearing is scheduled for March 22 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. . . ."

Gotta jet -- but will post on this later this morning.