It’s great the way email software autocompletes addresses for you. Except when it puts in the wrong one.
That’s what happened to Braun Hagey partner J. Noah Hagey. But it wasn't a total disaster, as it kicked off a chain of events that culminated last week with an eye-popping protective order (read it here) booting his opposing counsel and in-house lawyers off a case in federal court.
Here’s what happened. Hagey represents a handful of engineers in Oakland who in September left engineering and design firm Arcadis to start their own shop. Apparently worried their former employer would try to interfere, they hired Braun Hagey and later conferred by email -- with autocomplete inserting an old Arcadis address for one of the former employees. So four message threads, including one attaching a draft declaration, were delivered to Arcadis, where an email monitoring system routed them to legal.
In a declaration, Hagey said the plaintiffs didn’t realize their emails had been intercepted until lawyers at Gordon & Rees filed a counterclaim that references the day the former employees held a meeting -– a date, he said, Gordon & Rees could only have learned from the emails. Reached Wednesday, Hagey declined to comment publicly.
In a declaration, Elizabeth Spangler, an inhouse lawyer at Arcadis, acknowledged receiving the threads and reviewing the draft complaint -- at which point she says she realized the material was probably privileged. She says, however, that there were no great revelations in the material, and she didn’t share it with anyone. She did say, though, that she must have inadvertently given Gordon & Rees the date on which the exiting employees met. She also said she later learned her boss, Arcadis’ General Counsel Steven Niparko, had also briefly reviewed the email.
On Dec. 17, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White ordered that Arcadis replace Gordon & Rees with new, untainted counsel. He also ordered Spangler off the case, and said the GC must be “removed from all aspects of the day-to-day management." And he ordered Arcadis to pay fees and costs of $40,000.
Kenneth Strong, one of the Gordon & Rees partners on the case, said he couldn’t comment. Arcadis is now represented by John Picone III at Hopkins & Carley, who didn’t immediately return a call Wednesday.