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Apple Document Production Failure a Mistake, Lawyer Says

Apple Inc.’s failure to produce e-mails from Steve Jobs and other senior executives in violation of a court order in a privacy lawsuit was a “mistake,” a lawyer for the company told a judge.

Attorney Ashlie Beringer made the admission in a hearing today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul S. Grewal in San Jose, California, in a lawsuit alleging the company collected data on the geographical locations of customers through applications on mobile devices including iPhones and iPads even after they said they didn’t want to share the information.

Beringer said she and her team of lawyers reviewed more than 8,000 e-mails over the weekend and determined that it should turn over messages involving Apple’s late co-founder Jobs, marketing chief Phil Schiller and former mobile software head Scott Forstall, among others.

“If you’re not a hide-the-ball kind of person and your client isn’t a hide-the-ball company, why are we sitting here in March talking about compliance” with a November court order? Grewal asked Beringer.

The judge cut Beringer off when she began explaining that lawyers initially made a “reasonable and diligent” effort to comply with his order governing the exchange of information.

‘Lawyer Answer’

“I don’t want a lawyer answer, I want a person answer,” Grewal said, demanding to know why e-mails of the senior executives weren’t searched “months ago.”

“It was a mistake your honor,” Beringer said, adding that Apple will fulfill the information request within two weeks. Previous searches for documents focused on the “technical aspects” of Apple’s location services functions at issue in the case, she said.

Beringer also told the court that she thought six of 18 documents the company is relying on to dismiss the case -- early versions of Apple’s iTunes Terms & Conditions -- had been previously turned over to plaintiffs’ lawyers. The remaining 12 were produced, or weren’t Apple documents, Beringer said.

Apple argues plaintiffs’ request for class-action status should be denied because they haven’t shown that any users had personal information collected without their consent, and as a result, can’t show they suffered any harm, according to a court filing.

The case is In re Apple Inc. iPhone/iPad Application Consumer Privacy Litigation, 11-md-02250, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).

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