When you’re in business, it’s probably only a matter of time before you end up in some kind of litigation.
If you’re wise, you’ll have a system in place long before that happens to make sure that your company’s electronic data is properly preserved.
Why is it so important to have a data preservation plan?
Anybody who has lived through the last decade or so knows about the debacle caused when then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accidentally deleted some government emails (along with a lot of personal ones) from a private server.
While that turned out to be, in essence, much ado about nothing, the consequences for your business if you do something similar while you’re facing litigation could be dire.
Generally speaking, the moment that someone becomes aware that they could be a party to civil litigation, they automatically have a duty to preserve and disclose electronically stored information that might be relevant to the case. This includes data that would ordinarily be part of routine purges.
Since you can’t always tell what would be “relevant” when a case starts, you may not realize that you’ve accidentally deleted something important. If that happens, the judge in your case may sanction you and tell the jury that they can infer that the information would have been damaging to your position. In other words, they’re free to assume the worst — and they probably will.
So, how do you know what kinds of company data need to be backed up and preserved for the long haul? How long is “long enough” when you’re storing the company’s electronic records? It’s not always easy to tell, which is why it can be helpful to have experienced legal guidance that’s specific to your situation.