eDiscovery and the BP Oil Crisis

While the letters B and P are unto themselves harmless, everyday consonants, stick ‘em together and as if by magic (not the good kind) you instantly have one of the most controversial companies of our time; possibly all time, given that the complete fallout from BP’s oil crisis hasn’t even been identified — let alone calculated.

And so while we’ll (try and) steer well clear of the fiery debate on how BP, the government, and all other parties involved are handling/mishandling the epic disaster, there is an important eDiscovery issue here that is going to influence how this story is written, legally speaking.

That’s because, according to Laura Kibbe, Esq., Senior Vice President of Epiq Systems and former in-house counsel with Texaco, while BP’s imminent eDiscovery issues won’t necessarily be more complex or voluminous compared to other massive environmental discovery processes, what is new here are:

  • the unprecedented public scrutiny

  • the overwhelming demand to legally resolve the matter quickly

  • the availability of eDiscovery technology tools that weren’t available previously, such as with the Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989

Kibbe also notes that, going forward, the three core eDiscovery issues that will dominate that aspect of BP’s legal future:

  1. finding historical documents that relate to how the platform was constructed

  2. sorting through massive volumes of data, both electronic and operational

  3. trying to make sense of a giant pool of data and information that was produced by different parties for different reasons

And when asked by The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel whether BP would be financially wise to create a central pool of eDiscovery data that all litigants could access, Kibbe replied that cost savings would only result of all parties all want the same kind of information. However, if they each have different needs, perspectives and angles, a central pool wouldn’t work.

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