Consider the circumstances in which an innocent citizen is trapped in the legal system because a company’s vendor erroneous sent an innocent party an e-mail containing confidential information. When the owner did not reply to the vendor regarding the erroneous e-mails, the company went to court to issue a search warrant which will now expose all of the innocent party’s personal contact information in court documents. Thus, the innocent party will be required, at their own expense, to retain an attorney to fight the court-issued subpoena.
As it played out in court documents …
I. Expedited Discovery
Plaintiff has brought this action against Defendant John Doe seeking declaratory relief, injunctive relief, and recovery of unidentified specific personal property.
“Plaintiff alleges that it “contracted with a vendor for a project relating to certain of its Property,” and that “[t]he vendor inadvertently sent the HII Property to John Doe.
Once the vendor discovered its mistake, it “attempted to contact John Doe for return of the Property but received no response.
In the present application, Plaintiff provides additional details about these events.
Specifically, Plaintiff provides evidence that on September 26, 2012, “an employee of the vendor erroneously sent two email messages containing HII Property to the email address
The owner of that email address is an unknown individual or entity identified in the complaint as John Doe, and the only information Plaintiff knows about Doe is the “REDACTED ” email address.
Defendant Doe has not responded to any requests by Plaintiff or its counsel that he or she return the HII property.
Plaintiff alleges that both the Property and information regarding its status is located within this District, based upon its use of publicly-available geolocation technology that revealed that the IP address associated with Doe’s email account is located in California.
Since learning of its vendor’s mistake, Plaintiff has communicated with Google, which owns and operates Gmail, to seek its assistance in identifying the person associated with the “REDACTED.”
Google has indicated to Plaintiff that it has information that will identify Doe and confirm whether the account has been accessed since September 26, 2012, the date Plaintiff’s vendor erroneously sent the HII Property to the Gmail email address.
Google also has the ability to assist in the return of the Property and to ensure that the Property is not unlawfully retained or converted.
However, Google will not provide any information about the email address without a valid subpoena.
Therefore, Plaintiff asks the court to grant it expedited discovery to issue a subpoena to Google to obtain Defendant Doe’s name and contact information and to learn whether the email account was accessed on or after September 26, 2012. (
Plaintiff cannot determine Defendant Doe’s identity without procuring this information from Google. Plaintiff notes that if the requested relief is not granted on an expedited basis, it may not be able to recover its property and will suffer irreparable injury.
Furthermore, at this point, a subpoena is the exclusive means by which Plaintiff may take steps to protect its property.
Finally, Plaintiff has proposed a procedure to protect Doe's due process rights. Specifically, Plaintiff proposes a timeline for the service and response to the subpoena by which Google and Doe may object to the release of Doe's identifying information. Plaintiff proposes that the court order Google to serve a copy of the subpoena, along with the order granting it leave to serve a subpoena, on Doe within five days of being served. Plaintiff proposes that Doe then have 20 days to challenge the subpoena before Google provides the requested information.
The court is satisfied that this procedure will protect Doe's rights.
For the reasons above, the court ORDERS that Plaintiff's Second Ex Parte Application for Order Granting Leave to Take Expedited Discovery is GRANTED. It is hereby ORDERED that
Plaintiff is allowed to serve immediate discovery on Google by serving a Rule 45 subpoena that seeks information sufficient to identify Defendant Doe, including the registration information for the Gmail address "REDACTED," including names, addresses, telephone numbers, alternate email addresses and any other contact information for the individual to which the email address is
registered, and information regarding whether the Gmail address "REDACTED" was accessed on or after September 26, 2012.
The subpoena shall include a copy of this order. It is further ORDERED that Google will have five days from the date of service upon it to serve Defendant Doe with a copy of the subpoena and a copy of this order. Google may serve Defendant Doe using any reasonable means, including written notice sent to the last known address, transmitted either by first-class mail or via overnight service. Google and Defendant Doe each shall have 20 days from the date of service to file any motions in this court contesting the subpoena (including a motion to quash or modify the subpoena). If that 20-day period lapses without Defendant Doe or Google contesting the subpoena, Google shall have 5 days to produce to Plaintiff the responsive information
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
HUNTINGTON INGALLS INC.,
No. C 12-05506 DMR
Bottom line …
Perhaps the best thing to do when you receive an e-mail from an unknown party that contains seemingly confidential data is to do what I was taught long ago by an e-mail pioneer whose name currently escapes me, send them a notice of receipt and destruction. Do not re-send the e-mail or attachment back to them – even if they ask. Only respond to legal counsel or the court – provided they can prove that they are the correct party that sent the information. Make sure that their affidavit of identification is provided under perjury, contains sufficient information to identify the owner of the information and is notarized. Two can play at the verification game.
To the e-mailer at <insert sender’s e-mail here>
I have received an e-mail from <insert name here> dated <insert date here> containing what appears to be proprietary data. I have deleted the e-mail from my local system, but cannot vouch for the fact that the e-mail has not been retained by those carbon- or blind-copied, my service provider or any other third party. I have not used or acted upon any of the information contained in the e-mail for any purpose. Should you require further contact, my hourly billing rate is <insert an amount> with a <insert a minimum time) hour minimum engagement plus any additional expenses plus a (insert percentage here) markup for handling.
Sincerely yours <sign with your e-mail account domain name>
“Nullius in verba.”-- take nobody's word for it!
“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.”-- George Bernard Shaw
“Progressive, liberal, Socialist, Marxist, Democratic Socialist -- they are all COMMUNISTS.”
“The key to fighting the craziness of the progressives is to hold them responsible for their actions, not their intentions.” – OCS "The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." -- Marcus Aurelius “A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves, and traitors are not victims... but accomplices” -- George Orwell “Fere libenter homines id quod volunt credunt." (The people gladly believe what they wish to.) ~Julius Caesar “Describing the problem is quite different from knowing the solution. Except in politics." ~ OCS
“The key to fighting the craziness of the progressives is to hold them responsible for their actions, not their intentions.” – OCS
"The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." -- Marcus Aurelius
“A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves, and traitors are not victims... but accomplices” -- George Orwell
“Fere libenter homines id quod volunt credunt." (The people gladly believe what they wish to.) ~Julius Caesar
“Describing the problem is quite different from knowing the solution. Except in politics." ~ OCS