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!