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Court of Appeal of Louisiana Affirms Denial of Injunction to Preserve Online Data Providers Offers t

Yesterday, the Court of Appeal of Louisiana issued a decision, Matthew Morris & Complete Constr. Contrs. v. Trust Techs.​ No. 2018 CA 0831, 2019 La. App. LEXIS 372 (La. Ct. App. Feb. 28, 2019) affirming the decision of the trial court in denying a preliminary injunction that would have prevented the defendants from denying the plaintiffs the use of computer data.

Trust Technologies had hosted data for CCC, and was instructed by the authorities to preserve data after a warrant was issued for the search of computer data in the Baton Rouge office of CCC pursuant to a contractual fraud investigation. Trust Technologies was instructed by law enforcement not to transfer ShareSync data (ShareSync is a service that allows files to be shared across desktops and mobile devices.) Trust Technologies did provide CCC a drive with its data, and offered to maintain the ShareSync account for a year for a fee. Only Trust Technologies could delete data from the ShareSync accounts. CCC's petition for a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order asserted that if the accounts were shut down this would result in the spoliation of evidence needed in civil and criminal proceedings. The TRO was granted, but the trial court denied the preliminary injunction.

On appeal, the Plaintiffs contended that the deletion of the data would destroy metadata needed for their defenses, and complained about having to pay a 'ransom' to preserve the data. The Court of Appeal held that, "The record shows that the plaintiffs have neither been denied access to the ShareSync data, nor were they ever threatened by the defendants that their data would be destroyed." Id. at *9. The decision notes the offer to maintain the account and Trust Technologies' assertion that metadata could be preserved by another information technology provider. The Court noted that denying custodial access to the ShareSync account to the Plaintiffs would prevent them from destroying the data, which is what the authorities want to prevent.

The Court refused to review the Plaintiffs' contention that denying them access to the metadata is a seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment since this issue was not raised before the trial court.

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