Zillow (Z) has to submit to an independent forensic analysis of employee computers in its ongoing dispute with Move Inc and the National Association of Realtors, a judge ordered Friday.
According to a story on RealtorMag, the official magazine for NAR, the forensic analysis will include USB devices, email accounts and even the personal computers of Errol Samuelson and Curt Beardsley, both former Move executives now employed by Zillow.
The lawsuit was filed after Samuelson, then Move's chief strategy officer, resigned from Move on March 5, 2014, and joined Zillow as the company's second-highest paid executive on the same day.
Move alleged that Samuelson and Zillow stole trade secrets and proprietary information and then made efforts to cover that up. Move further alleged that Zillow has been hiding or deleting evidence.
Zillow denied the allegation, and in late Aug. 2014, the company countersued Move and the National Association of Realtors for defamation.
Now, the judge in the case, King County Superior Court Judge John Chun, ordered an independent forensic analysis of Samuelson and Beardsley's computers, and other devices as well.
From the RealtorMag story:
NAR General Counsel Katherine Johnson says the judge’s order is another positive step that will help the association and Move prove its case. “NAR and Move have been saying for some time that Zillow and its employees have destroyed evidence and misappropriated confidential business information affecting realtor.com. We’re grateful the court in Seattle has appointed a forensic expert to search for more indications of unlawful conduct,” she says.
Move and NAR had petitioned the court for additional access to Zillow’s computers and cloud storage accounts in relation to their lawsuit against Zillow, filed in March 2014.
In May, Judge Chun granted Zillow's motion to strike from the record a letter from a former Zillow Group executive that charged that Zillow stole listings data, and which accused former Move executive Errol Samuelson of violating court order limiting his work. Chun also struck third-party discovery requests filed by Move seeking additional information regarding the Zillow-Trulia merger, which was announced in January 2014 and completed in early 2015.
The second decision by Chun means that Move’s desire to question by subpoena Trulia personnel, as well as those from Zillow-Trulia merger advisors Goldman Sachs (GS) and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), was curtailed.
In September of this year, Chun ordered Beardsley and an expert witness hired by Zillow to sit for additional depositions in the case as part of the ongoing discovery phase. Chun also ordered Beardsley to refrain from file deletion or the discarding of potential evidence. The order from the judge was based on allegations by Move that Beardsley deleted files from Zillow accounts that may be related to the case.
“We believe Move’s claims are entirely without merit and we intend to vigorously defend against the allegations set forth in their complaint,” said Zillow spokesperson Amanda Woolley at the time.
Zillow was unable to comment at the time of publication but HousingWire will continue to update the story.