The ongoing trial between Epic Games and Google, overseen by Judge James Donato, has taken a significant turn as the judge vows to investigate Google for intentionally and systematically suppressing evidence. The case, which holds implications for the future of the Android app store, has revealed Google’s conduct, described by Judge Donato as “a frontal assault on the fair administration of justice.”
The investigation stems from revelations that Google automatically deleted chat messages among employees, and higher-ups, including CEO Sundar Pichai, intentionally utilized this to make specific conversations disappear. Notably, employees admitted to not changing the auto-delete setting even after being aware of their legal obligation to preserve evidence.
During the trial, Pichai and other employees acknowledged marking documents as legally privileged to prevent them from being accessible to others. Judge Donato, dissatisfied with Pichai’s testimony, summoned Alphabet chief legal officer Kent Walker, accusing him of “tap-dancing around.”
Expressing deep concern, Judge Donato deemed Google’s conduct “the most serious and disturbing evidence” he has encountered during his decade on the bench. Despite this, the judge opted for a “permissive” jury instruction rather than a “mandatory inference instruction,” allowing the jury to decide whether to infer that Google destroyed evidence that could have been detrimental to its case.
The judge’s commitment to investigating Google independently signals the gravity of the situation, raising questions about the tech giant’s practices and adherence to legal standards. The trial’s outcome could have far-reaching consequences, not only for the Android app store but also for Google’s broader legal standing.