Extract from Michael W. Mitchell and Edward Roche's article "Lessons Learned: Destroying Relevant Evidence Can Be Catastrophic in Litigation"
A recent decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit emphasizes the importance of preserving electronically stored information and complying with discovery requests in litigation. In QueTel Corporation v. Abbas, the plaintiff fought to hold the defendants responsible for evading their evidence preservation obligations. The Fourth Circuit showed its willingness to uphold harsh sanctions for failing to preserve evidence.
Background on ‘Spoliation’ of Evidence A party’s duty to preserve evidence often begins even before litigation, whenever the party knew or should have reasonably known that the information may be relevant to anticipated litigation. Upon anticipating litigation, parties must institute a “litigation hold,” suspending routine document retention and destruction policies and ensuring that its individual employees, IT department, and data storage vendors preserve all potentially relevant documents.
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