Defendant Sanctioned for Text Message

Defendant Sanctioned for Text Message Deletion: eDiscovery Case Law

I normally start a case law post with a summary of the ruling. But since I’m traveling today, I thought I would try something new – have ChatGPT take a stab at the case ruling write-up!

The case is Miramontes v. Peraton, Inc., No. 3:21-CV-3019-B (N.D. Tex. June 6, 2023), and the Opinion and Order was issued by Texas District Judge Jane J. Boyle. A couple of comments about the ChatGPT summary:

  • I used GPT-4 to create this summary.
  • While I had read that ChatGPT could summarize the contents of a web page, I couldn’t find that option in the Settings (maybe they removed it?). So, I asked ChatGPT how to get the article summarized and it instructed me on how to copy and paste it into the prompt box and then ask for a summary.
  • I had to break the case ruling into two parts to feed it into ChatGPT (it failed when I tried to copy the entire ruling) and then asked it: “Could you summarize both parts in 900 to 1100 words?” It gave me a 504-word summary.

Here is the summary it gave:


In the provided court ruling, the central issue pertains to alleged racial discrimination claims brought by a plaintiff named Miramontes against his former employer, Peraton. Miramontes alleges that Peraton wrongfully terminated his employment based on racial discrimination. Central to the case is a Skills Matrix, a document used to evaluate employees. Miramontes argues that the Skills Matrix was biased against him and other Hispanic employees.

Part One Summary:

Skills Matrix:

The court scrutinizes Peraton’s use of a “Skills Matrix” to evaluate employees. Peraton contends that the Skills Matrix was used solely for the purpose of workforce reduction and was not discriminatory. However, Miramontes argues that the Skills Matrix had a discriminatory impact, particularly against Hispanic employees.

Statistical Evidence:

The court evaluates the statistical evidence presented by both parties. Miramontes presents data suggesting that Hispanic employees, including himself, received lower scores and were more likely to be terminated. Peraton challenges this by presenting its data, attempting to refute the claim. However, the court finds that Peraton’s statistical methods are not sufficient to dismiss Miramontes’ claims at this stage.

Non-statistical Evidence:

In addition to statistical evidence, Miramontes also offers non-statistical evidence of discrimination, including the absence of diversity in managerial positions and discriminatory comments made by employees.

The court rules that there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable fact-finder to conclude that Peraton’s actions were discriminatory. The Motion for Summary Judgment by Peraton is thus denied, and the case will proceed to trial.

Part Two Summary:

Spoliation of Evidence:

The second part of the ruling focuses on the deletion of text messages on a phone belonging to an employee named Stemberger. The court is tasked with determining whether the deleted text messages constitute “spoliation” of evidence by Peraton.

Control and Duty to Preserve:

The court determines that Peraton had control over the text messages on Stemberger’s personal phone and had a duty to preserve them. The rationale includes the fact that Peraton employees, including Stemberger, frequently used personal cell phones for business-related communication.

Intentional Destruction:

The text messages were intentionally deleted by Stemberger, and the court concludes that Peraton is vicariously liable for this action.

Bad Faith:

Peraton’s failure to instruct its employees to preserve text messages, despite being aware of pending litigation, is determined to be in bad faith.


Given the intentional deletion and bad faith, the court concludes that appropriate sanctions against Peraton are warranted. However, the court stops short of the most severe sanctions, such as assuming liability for discrimination. Instead, the court denies Peraton’s Motion for Summary Judgment and allows Miramontes additional discovery options (five more interrogatories and three more requests for production).


Overall, the court finds that Miramontes has provided enough evidence, both statistical and non-statistical, to proceed with his claims of racial discrimination against Peraton. Additionally, the court rules that the deletion of text messages on Stemberger’s phone constitutes spoliation of evidence by Peraton. Sanctions include the denial of Peraton’s Motion for Summary Judgment and additional discovery privileges for Miramontes. The case is set to proceed to trial.

Two things that stood out to me about the summary:

  • As you would expect, it discusses the entirety of the case, not just the eDiscovery issues. I try to focus on the eDiscovery issues in a ruling, since (after all) this is an eDiscovery blog. As a result, it wasn’t in-depth on the reasoning behind the bad faith determination or the reason why Judge Boyle didn’t issue more sever sanctions.
  • The summary contained no quotes from the judge, which I like as the quotes exactly reflect the judge’s thinking on the issues.

So, I’ll add this quote from Judge Boyle from the Conclusion:

“As explained above, the Court finds Peraton had control of the text messages about Miramontes on Stemberger’s phone. Peraton had a duty to preserve these messages because a reasonable factfinder could conclude they were relevant to Miramontes’s case. Stemberger intentionally destroyed the text messages, and Peraton is vicariously liable for this destruction. And Peraton’s failure to tell Stemberger to preserve these messages, despite Miramontes specifically requesting that it do so, evinces bad faith. Thus, Stemberger’s deletion of the messages constituted spoliation by Peraton.

The Court concludes appropriate sanctions for this spoliation are denying Peraton’s Motion for Summary Judgment and permitting Miramontes to serve five additional interrogatories and three additional requests for production. The interrogatories and requests for production must be served within fourteen (14) days of the date of this order.”

Admittedly, it was a rushed experiment, but I think I’ll stick to my way of doing the write-ups as 1) they are focused on the eDiscovery issues, 2) they are more comprehensive, and 3) they include quotes from the court.

So, what do you think? Did ChatGPT provide a better summary than me? Please say no! 😉 And please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Case opinion link courtesy of eDiscovery Assistant, an Affinity partner of eDiscovery Today. See Kelly Twigger discuss the case here!

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by my employer, my partners or my clients. eDiscovery Today is made available solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Today should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

One comment

  1. Doug, please continue your updates and not rely on Chat GPT. As you said, this is an eDiscovery (see no hyphen) and you give a much better insight into the case!

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