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Delaware court called on to settle discovery dispute over access to emails

State Court

By William Sassani | Dec 6, 2019

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WILMINGTON, Del. (Legal Newsline) – The Delaware Court of Chancery has issued a decision regarding whether a plaintiff can access emails on a server owned by a defendant in regards to issues of discovery in a civil suit between the two parties.

In a 20-page letter on Nov. 18 to counsel for both parties, Vice Chancellor Morgan T. Zurn explained that defendant R. Angel Gonzalez could not have access to emails between plaintiff Carlos Eduardo Lorefice Lynch and his in-house lawyers in regard to personal legal issues because of attorney-client privilege. Also, Gonzalez could not have access to Lynch’s emails after 2018 when Lynch became the manager of plaintiff Grupo Belleville Holdings, a limited liability company based in Delaware that Gonzalez had managed between 2006 and 2009. 

However, Zurn said Gonzalez could access emails on the server that “are unrelated to Lynch’s personal legal matters,” and that “are related to Lynch’s role as Gonzalez’s co-manager and their work for Belleville,” and to emails “that were sent before Gonzalez had reason to believe that there was adversity between himself and Lynch or the attorneys.”

Grupo Belleville Holdings acts as a holding company for media companies based in Argentina. Gonzalez was in charge of the company until Lynch, who had been initially been brought on by Gonzalez to represent Grupo Belleville Holdings in Argentina, bought 65 percent of the company. By doing so, Lynch became a majority shareholder in Grupo Belleville Holdings.

For the civil action currently being perused by the two parties, Gonzalez had searched Lynch’s emails on Gonzalez’s server. He also refused to give Lynch the emails. Lynch accused Gonzalez of violating attorney-client privilege. However, Gonzalez argued that Lynch “did not have any expectation of privacy in emails,” that were either sent or received on the email server.

Because the subsidiary companies owned by Grupo Belleville Holdings are located and managed in Argentina, Zurn agreed with Lynch that Argentine law governs the dispute. Zurn said that Argentine law on the issue provides a “broad guarantee of privacy under the Argentine Constitution.” 

“After weighing the experts’ affidavits and reviewing the remainder of the submitted authority, I conclude that under Argentine law, plaintiffs had a reasonable expectation of privacy,” in regards to the emails, Zurn wrote.

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