Photo of Brandon Harter

All digital evidence, whether emails, computer files, or text messages, comes with metadata. Metadata is nothing more than “data about data,” i.e. things your phone or computer keeps track of about a digital file. Some of the most common examples are the “last accessed date” (when a file was last opened) and its “creation date” (when a file was first created).

Great, so metadata exists. So what? I get this question all the time. Particularly from opposing counsel when I’ve demanded that he or she reproduce a set of documents with metadata, usually after he or she has already provided a PDF copy. But I’m not asking for metadata in a fit of gamesmanship or to drive up litigation costs. I do it because metadata can be as valuable as the content itself.
Continue Reading

This post is part of our ongoing series translating the lawyer-gibberish of Pennsylvania lawsuits into something understandable. For the definitions of the terms in bold check out the post that launched this series. A list of the posts in the series is at the end of this article.

After lawyers have collected enough information through interrogatories (written questions) and requests for production of documents, it is usually time for depositions. But what are depositions and what do you need to know about them?

What is a Deposition?

A deposition is a formal interview conducted under oath to get information that the witness knows about the case. Starting with the lawyer who wanted the deposition (sometimes referred to as the one “calling” the deposition), each party’s attorney gets to ask questions. The answers are written down by a court reporter into a transcript that can be used later.

Who Can be Deposed?

Any person can be asked to sit for a deposition, including the parties to the lawsuit and other third parties. If you are a party to the lawsuit, the other lawyer only needs to ask and send your lawyer a notice about the deposition. Third parties receive subpoenas to attend a deposition and may also be asked to bring documents with them (just like a request for production of documents). Unless something unusual happens, a person can only be deposed one time per lawsuit.
Continue Reading

Each year SCORE Lancaster-Lebanon honors five local small businesses for their success. This year’s winners included both for-profit and not-for-profit businesses. It also included new companies and those taking their products and services to another level.

I could tell you about each of the award winners, but the best source of information about them is

Every business has those key employees who you really do not want to lose. A common risk for this is when your customers see how well an employee performs and decides it would be even better to bring them in-house (cutting out you and your profit margin). Many businesses protect themselves against this risk with a “no-hire” clause in customer contracts where they agree not to poach employees from you. But that may no longer be possible here in Pennsylvania.
Continue Reading

Back in July, Matt Landis updated us on several of the stories confirming Lancaster’s technology sector continued to thrive in 2018. As we close out the year, let’s look at a few more that made the news in our area during the second half of the year!

  • Think self-driving cars are still an early-stage

A few months ago I wrote about the Third Circuit Court of Appeal’s avoidance of ruling on whether employers have a duty to protect their employees’ personal information. We now have an answer to that question (at least in this Commonwealth) from Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court: Yes, yes it does.

On the eve of Thanksgiving the Pennsylvania Supreme Court released its decision in Dittman v. UPMC. This lawsuit was brought by employees of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center over a data breach that leaked the employees’ names, birth dates, social security numbers, and bank account information. But the existence of a duty by UPMC to protect this personal information remained in doubt. The Court ended this debate by ruling:

an employer has a legal duty to exercise reasonable care to safeguard its employees’ sensitive personal information stored by the employer on an internet-accessible computer system.

For employees, this is a decision that should be heralded as an important protection against identity theft. After all, what choice does an employee have but to give personal data to their employer? That the employer must protect that information is just common sense.
Continue Reading

This post is part of our ongoing series translating the lawyer-gibberish of Pennsylvania lawsuits into something understandable. For the definitions of the terms in bold check out the post that launched this series. A list of the posts in the series is at the end of this article.

The lawyers have exchanged documents setting out the claims and defenses. But before you get to trial, you get to gather evidence to support your case (and figure out what cards the other side has to play). This process is called “Discovery” and there are a few tools that can be used.

Asking Written Questions (Interrogatories and Request for Admissions)

One of the first tools your lawyer is likely to use are Interrogatories. These are written questions to the other side. The other party, helped by their lawyer, must answer the questions within 30 days (although extensions are commonly given for any type of discovery if its early in the case). Common Interrogatories include things like:

  • what witnesses might have information about this case?
  • do you have an expert witness?
  • what are your damages?


Continue Reading

This post is part of our ongoing series translating the lawyer-gibberish of Pennsylvania lawsuits into something understandable. For the definitions of the terms in bold check out the post that launched this series. A list of the all of the posts in the series is at the tail end of this article.

So it’s time to go to the Court of Common Pleas. Whether you tried other steps first or elected to start here, today we walk through how the parties to a lawsuit lay the groundwork for their claims and defenses.

Complaint, Answer, and Reply

Both the Plaintiff and the Defendant in a lawsuit describe their claims and defenses, respectively, in documents called “pleadings.” This is just legalese for a type of court filing that describes in broad strokes what the parties’ positions will be. If all goes smoothly, you can expect this process:

  1. Filing the Complaint – The Plaintiff starts by filing a Complaint. The Complaint needs to outline the basic facts of the dispute and what the Plaintiff wants to get.
  2. Serving the Complaint -The Plaintiff serves the Complaint on the Defendant. In general, this must be done by having someone from the Sheriff’s Office hand deliver a copy of the Complaint.
  3. Checking for a Default – The Defendant must respond to the Complaint within 20 days of having a copy delivered to him or her. If he or she does not, the Plaintiff can send a warning called a “Notice of Default.” If the Defendant still does not respond, 10 days after sending the Notice of Default the Plaintiff can request a Default Judgment.
  4. Answering the Complaint – The Defendant responds to each of the numbered paragraphs in the Complaint in a document called an Answer. So paragraph 1 of the Answer responds to paragraph 1 of the Complaint, and so on.
  5. Raising New Issues – The Answer may also contain two types of statements beyond the responses to the Complaint. The first is called “New Matter,” which are new facts the Defendant thinks are important but that the Plaintiff left out. New Matter can also contain certain types of legal defenses. The second type is “Counterclaims,” which are legal claims back against the Plaintiff. Counterclaims are claims that could have been raised by the Defendant in a Complaint. But instead of having two lawsuits going at the same time, both sides’ claims are handled at once.
  6. Responding to the New Issues – If the Defendant’s Answer has New Matter or Counterclaims, the Plaintiff files his or her own response to those new statements. This responsive document is called a Reply to differentiate it from the Defendant’s


Continue Reading

This post is part of our ongoing series translating the lawyer-gibberish of Pennsylvania lawsuits into something understandable. For the definitions of the terms in bold check out the post that launched this series. A list of all the posts in the series is at the tail end of this article.

The litigation process often begins before actual litigation.

Wait, what?

I mean that disputes often involve exchanges before we get in front of the court system you see on TV, i.e. the Court of Common Pleas here in Pennsylvania. Today let’s look at the common things that can happen before we get to the courthouse.

The Demand Letter – Kicking it Off

Many lawsuits start with a lawyer demanding action in a letter. Commonly known as a demand letter, this document is often a final effort by a Plaintiff to resolve a dispute out of court. While this letter doesn’t start a court case, it may indicate that the Plaintiff is serious and is ready to sue. Or maybe the Plaintiff is only willing to pay for a letter, not to actually take you to court.

How can you tell? Unfortunately, there is no one-size fits all answer to this question. It depends on what’s at stake, how strong the legal claims are, and the personality of those involved. Sometimes a dispute can be settled at this stage if both parties want to avoid taking the matter before a court, or it may be necessary to proceed to the next step of litigation.  So when you receive a demand letter, it may be time to talk with your own lawyer to plan a strategy (even if that strategy is to wait and see what happens).
Continue Reading

With all the uproar about Facebook’s use of our data and businesses bracing to deal with the EU’s GDPR, it is easy to forget there is no general obligation to protect your personal information. The Third Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision last week in Enslin v. Coca-Cola, et al. is the latest reminder of that fact.

Shane Enslin is a former employee of Coca-Cola. As part of his employment, he submitted, as we all do, personal information including his social security number. Coca-Cola discovered that one of its IT staffers was stealing company laptops and taking them home for his own use or giving them to others. Among the devices stolen were machines used by human resources employees that contained sensitive personal information, like Enslin’s social security number. After the devices were stolen, Enslin was the victim of identity theft.
Continue Reading