Tuesday, May 26, 2015

U.S. Court Backing of Bavarian DPA Discovery Limits May Guide German Firms, Lawyers Say

BERLIN—A U.S. court’s decision to affirm a German regional data protection authority’s ruling that limited a U.S. plaintiff’s discovery request to a German company may shed light on resolving conflicts between U.S. discovery rules and data protection requirements in Germany and the rest of the European Union, attorneys contacted by BNA said.

The case illustrates a key and frequent problem of cross-border litigation: the clash of differing laws on data protection during the discovery process, German attorneys familiar with such cases said. They told BNA that the court decision helps clarify the murky area.

The Bavarian Data Protection Authority for the Private Sector referenced the U.S. discovery case in its 2009-2010 Activity Report released March 14.

The DPA said it ruled in November 2010 that providing all of the documents requested by the U.S. plaintiff would violate German data protection law. The DPA, however, allowed for the release of some documents after balancing the privacy interests of the German company and its owner with the need for the documents in the U.S. litigation, concluding that “the German company is only required to provide [personal] data actually relevant to the claim.”

Thereafter, the U.S. court agreed with the limits imposed by the authority, the DPA said. The U.S. court, party names, and German company were not identified due to a confidentiality agreement between the DPA and the company, which allowed for only a general summary of the case to be made public, the DPA said. The DPA told BNA April 5 that it could not even confirm that the court in question was a U.S. federal district court…

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