What happens to you and your fellow co-workers when the office network is down? Complete and utter chaos, right? This is a fairly predictable answer since in today’s world, paper files are becoming a thing of the past. Instead, we scan documents into the system, make an electronic file, and people then view the information on their laptops, smart phones, or i-Pads.
But because every form of data nowadays seems to involve the phrases “save”, “email,” or “text me,” such electronic information is routinely requested in the discovery process of litigation earning the appropriate title, “e-discovery.” And while yes, it is sleeker and more advanced than its paper counterpart, it is important to understand that it also shares one important similarity with regular discovery: it is governed by the same rules which provide that withholding or destroying discovery information will result in serious legal consequences.
This issue of parties destroying or withholding e-discovery was most notably seen in the case, Victor Stanley, Inc. v. Creative Pipe, Inc. The Court found that the defendant did in fact destroy and withhold requested e-discovery, which resulted in Magistrate Judge Paul Grimm entering a default judgment in favor of the plaintiff. Additionally, Judge Grimm stated that the defendant’s actions constituted contempt of court and he ordered the defendant to be imprisoned for up to two years unless and until he paid the plaintiff’s attorney fees and costs.
The lessons to be learned from this are:
- businesses should prepare ahead of time to make sure all emails and electronic documents are backed up at the business/server level and not rely on individuals to do so on their computers;
- businesses should be prepared if they become involved in litigation and work earnestly with their attorneys to follow all the proper e-discovery protocol.
Such collaborative efforts will greatly improve your ability to furnish all the necessary electronic information.
If you have questions about this type of process or how to insure accuracy in this area, please feel free to call us.