Email, intra-office messaging and digital image transference are hardly new concepts, however few business owners realize the long-term implications of this style of free-flowing communication, particularly in light of litigation and e-discovery requests. If you are a business owner either engaged in litigation or preparing for possible conflict in the future, one of the best strategies for your company is to implement and maintain an electronic evidence policy for employees. Too often, damaging information, accidental concessions or discriminatory language is casually exchanged between two employees — believing to be engaged in a private chat — only to be uncovered by a sweeping e-discovery request from opposing counsel. To avoid this result and protect your business from unnecessary exposure to liability, consider meeting with a business litigation lawyer about your company’s electronic information policies.
Electronically Stored Information and Litigation Holds
Once a civil complaint is filed, both parties are entitled to request and receive evidence from the opponent in a process known as discovery. Requests for information need not be necessarily admissible at a subsequent trial, however any non-privileged information that may be relevant to a party’s claim or defense is discoverable. In the context of electronic discovery, it is considered routine discovery practice to require opponents to place a “litigation hold” on electronically stored information, thereby preventing companies from destroying or erasing data. These holds generally include all emails, voicemails or electronically stored documents. In fact, various software companies have developed products to help organizations manage and store data pursuant to a litigation hold.
Disastrous Consequences for Employers
In preparation for possible litigation, it is vital for your employees to carefully consider all electronic communication, as one pejorative email could bring your case to a screeching halt. In the context of employment litigation, a plaintiff claiming workplace discrimination could prevail, thereby costing your company thousands of dollars, all due to the discovery of derogatory jokes uncovered by electronic discovery. The same is true in the context of any other area of business law wherein one employee admits wrongdoing, breach or fraud in a casual email to a colleague. Once the litigation hold is in place, there is no telling what the opponent could uncover, thereby placing your business at an increased risk of liability.
Speak with a Reputable Business Litigation Attorney Today
E-discovery is a complex area of the law. However, with the proper workplace policies, businesses like yours can work to minimize the potential consequences of the vast, boundless litigation hold and can rest assured that office emails do not contain inadvertent confessions, admissions or disclosures. If you are facing upcoming litigation and are seeking counsel on these issues, it’s important that you contact an experienced attorney with extensive knowledge on electronic evidence and information policies.