For example in the case of IBM getting sued over age discrimination, the plaintiff somehow got emails showing that upper management instructed his director manager not to transfer him but to fire him. Out of curiosity how is this possible? I'm guessing a subpoena is involved.But what would the requirements for a subpoena be? What's preventing someone from just making up a random accusation and subpoenaing a company?

Emails establish that after Brown notified Langley in December 2015 that he was likely going to lose his job as part of a layoff Langley attempted to apply to other positions within IBM, and another group agreed to hire him in January, while other managers also expressed interest in him. Despite this, all of the moves were blocked by Human Resources...


How would they know all this?

This article talks about the battle to get evidence in the discovery phase, under what circumstances and conditions must a defendant produce documents?

1 Answer 1



Basically, you ask.

If your opponent thinks your request is out of bounds they object, give their reasons to the judge, you give yours and the judge orders them to produce the evidence or not.

A lot of people think court cases have big “ah-ha” movements when a witness reveals something unknown on the stand. This rarely happens because there are no secrets in litigation - both sides have to clearly explain their case before, usually well before, they go to trial.

  • This is right. A bit more detail for OP: once litigation began, IBM's attorney(s) likely sent a memo (called a "litigation hold") to relevant people in the company, including the IT Dept., instructing them not to delete these emails (and any other relevant records, e.g., personnel files, disciplinary action notes, etc.). Doing so can result in severe sanctions (shrm.org/resourcesandtools/legal-and-compliance/employment-law/…). A request may be "out of bounds" if it is irrelevant, overly burdensome, or unfairly prejudicial.
    – A.fm.
    Commented Apr 4, 2020 at 19:22
  • Isn't it easy for a party to tamper with the evidence they are supposed to produce? @A.fm. for example how would someone know if an email (or any document) was destroyed before or after a litigation hold was in place. Wouldn't it be easy to destroy particularly damning documents? "oh the one I sent with the instructions to fire? I can't find it, guess I must've accidental deleted it before this went to court" Commented Apr 14, 2020 at 13:21
  • @climaticrampallian sure, so long as you don’t mind going to jail for evidence tampering rather than just losing a lawsuit.
    – Dale M
    Commented Apr 14, 2020 at 21:06
  • @climaticrampallian Theoretically yes. This is why many firms have attorneys, either inside counsel or a firm they consult, as well as data retention/destruction policies. Adding to that is the fact that it isn’t from the time the matter went to court, but rather from the time potential litigation was reasonably anticipated. Also, generally, one thinks of evidence tampering in a criminal law context and spoliation of evidence in a civil law context.
    – A.fm.
    Commented Apr 25, 2020 at 1:20

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