A federal judge accused Google of “conspicuously failing” to preserve employee chat messages for possible legal evidence, ruling that sanctions were “justified”.
The judge wrote in a petition Tuesday that the court “concludes that Google has not taken reasonable steps to preserve electronically stored information that should have been retained pending or litigation.”
He said the evidence from Google employees’ chat messages was “lost with the intent to prevent its use in litigation” and “with the intent to deprive another party of the use of the information in litigation.” the court document said.
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The order came from U.S. District Court Judge James Donato of the Northern District of California in Epic Games, Inc.’s multidistrict lawsuit. v. Google LLC et al, an antitrust case involving the Google Play Store.
The judge claimed that Google “gives each employee carte blanche to make their own calls about what might be relevant in this complex antitrust case and whether to preserve a chat communication.” The tech giant, he suggested, could have ensured that all chats were saved instead of some being automatically deleted after a certain time frame.
“Our teams have worked conscientiously for years to respond to discovery requests from Epic and that state AG, and we have produced more than 3 million documents, including thousands of chats,” a Google spokesperson told FOX Business. “We will continue to show the court how choice, security and openness are built into Android and Google Play.”
Donato noted in his order that a decision on the antitrust case will not be made “on the basis of lost chat communications.” Further proceedings are needed for the court to find an “appropriate non-monetary sanction,” he added.
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The judge ordered plaintiffs to prepare a statement by an April 21 deadline outlining proposed attorney fees and costs associated with a “Rule 37 motion.” He said it was “completely appropriate” for the tech giant to cover such fees as a monetary penalty.
In a separate case brought by the Justice Department, Google was recently accused of failing to properly retain some chat communications, the tech giant claims, according to Reuters.
FOX Business also reached out to Epic Games for comment, but received no response at time of publication.
Google Play has been around for years and as of June 2021 had over 2 million apps and games.
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