Quora Not Permitted Forensic Exam of Plaintiff’s Electronic Devices in Data Breach Class Action

On Wednesday, Judge Beth Labson Freeman rejected Quora Inc.’s request for a reconsideration of its motion to compel a forensic examination of the electronic devices which the plaintiff used to access Quora in a case alleging a data breach was the company’s fault. 

The question-and-answer social media platform took issue with Magistrate Judge Nathaniel Cousins’ “terse order” denying the motion, arguing that a forensic investigation could determine whether there was malware on the plaintiff’s connected devices. Such information would ostensibly test the plaintiff’s theory of causation because “a failure to meaningfully protect sensitive information residing on her own devices shows a general indifference to data security,” Quora argued.

In the 2018 Northern District of California consumer suit, the plaintiff and putative class members alleged that Quora’s negligence caused a data breach that resulted in the dissemination of their personally identifying information. In their third amended complaint, which was partly dismissed, the plaintiffs contend that the breach impacted approximately 37 million American Quora users in a third-party attack on the platform’s internet technology system.

In its motion for reconsideration, Quora argued that the forensic exam is both directly related to causation and proportional to the needs of the case. Earlier this month, Magistrate Judge Nathaniel Cousins denied the request finding it “dramatically overbroad, intrusive, and not proportional to the needs of the case.”

Judge Freeman reviewed the request, noting that Quora had to prove that the magistrate judge clearly erred or that his finding was contrary to law. The court found neither error, and instead cautioned Quora that it cannot “come to this court for a do-over on the factual determination.”

The briefing for class certification is scheduled to start on June 4 and conclude Sept. 17, and the trial is scheduled to take place next summer.

The plaintiff is represented by Capstone Law APC, Franklin D. Azar & Associates P.C. and Quora by Greenberg Traurig LLP.