Late last year, Thomson Reuters re-branded themselves as “The Answer Company.” Well they better be ready with some really good answers because they are about face a barrage of incoming questions.

What Happened? After Thomson Reuters upgraded their PDF image conversion process in November 2014, a very small percentage (.05%) of the total cases loaded between November 2014 and March 2016  contained errors. According to Thomson Reuters executive, this software problem caused sections of text to be omitted or sections of text appeared out of order.

Was the Meaning or Holding of Cases Changed by These Omissions?
Thomson Reuters executives are sending out emails and letters today assuring customers that the editorial team has reviewed all errors/omissions and they are confident that the errors were not material to the meaning or holding of the impacted cases. Here is an example of a case with corrected content highlighted.

Corrected opinion

Which Products Were Impacted?

  • Westlaw
  • Federal Reporter 3rd
  • Federal Supplement 3rd
  • Federal Rules Decisions  3rd
  • Federal Appendix
  • A few specialty reporters ( Bankruptcy Reporter, Merit Systems Protection Board Reporter)
  • State reporters for Ohio, South Carolina and North Carolina
  • Regional Reporters: Atlantic 3rd, North Eastern 3rd, North Western 2nd, Pacific 3rd, South Eastern 2nd, South Western 3rd, Southern 3rd 

ThomsonReuters states in its letter to customers (reprinted below)  that only one-half of 1% of cases  loaded in those 17 months were impacted and the vast majority of those cases were unreported federal cases. Here is the breakdown: 480 reported federal cases;  110 state cases mostly in 3 states Ohio, North Carolina and South Carolina. In addition, approximately 1,500 unreported federal cases were impacted. At least the US Supreme Court opinions are not included as a possible source of errors.

The Fix All cases on Westlaw have been corrected. Customers who still subscribe to print reporters will receive replacement copies at no charge. Thomson Reuters will also work will customers to mitigate administrative impact.

Change in processes: Conducting an extensive retrospective review and reviewing all of their processes going forward.

All subscribers will be receiving a communication directly from Westlaw.  Westlaw will be posting  a list of citations for cases impacted  today. The an image of all text of all of the cases impacted with the errors/omissions highlighted will be posted at this website by next week:

Errors in Legal Publishing … Not a New Issue
Law librarians and legal information professionals know that this is not the first time that errors have slipped on to a page or into a database. All major legal publishers have issued corrections from time to time. Lawyers and information professionals have encountered errors in citators, major treatises,cases, statutes and annotations and customers often play a role in helping publishers maintain editorial accuracy. Loosleaf services weren’t just sending law libraries new cases -they were also sending corrections in the new supplement  envelopes. My first job as a circulation librarian at Pace University Law School, one of my responsibilities involved maintaining the loose-leaf updates and pocket-parts. It was not uncommon to receive paste-in pages that were glued over bad pages in treatises. Technology has reduced the number of errors in legal publishing but no technology is foolproof.

If There is a Silver Lining to this tale…The good thing about living in a digital world is that once the online errors are identified – all customers get the fix almost in real time as it is identified.

Thomson Reuters will take some heat – as they should. But I do applaud their willingness to actually load the errors on public website so customers can confirm for themselves whether they regard the errors/omissions as material instead of asking them to trust the Thomson Reuters editors. It will be interesting to see how the marketplace responds.
Here is the text of the letter going to Thomson Reuters customers:

To our customers:
As part of our commitment to transparency, I wanted to alert you to some errors related to publishing cases in Westlaw® and our print volumes that we have now corrected.
In March, Thomson Reuters became aware that small portions of text were missing in a number of new cases posted to Westlaw due to the introduction of an upgrade to our PDF conversion process in November 2014. We immediately conducted an investigation, which revealed that approximately one-half of one percent (0.5%) of total decisions added to our collection during this period were affected by these issues. We have now corrected those cases on Westlaw and we will be shipping replacement print volumes to all affected customers as soon as possible. We will work closely with those customers to minimize any disruption.

Our analysis of the cases found that none of these issues resulted in any change to the meaning of the law. To provide clarity, we are posting examples of the issues, as well as a listing of all corrected cases, here. We will post all affected cases with corrections highlighted within the text.
Additional details and answers to common questions can be found here. If you have questions, please contact your sales representative or Thomson Reuters Customer Service at 1-800-249-9378.
We are very aware of our crucial role in supporting the U.S. legal system, and there is nothing more important to us than delivering the best possible solutions and customer service to you. Please accept our apologies for our errors. We are very sorry for the inconvenience.

Andy Martens signature

Andy Martens
Global Head of Product & Editorial