How Spoliation Can Affect Your Litigation Case

When your organization is dealing with litigation, it’s vital that you preserve potential evidence. If any electronically-stored information (ESI) is mishandled, your business could be at risk of liability issues, and your case could be dismissed. To avoid potential problems with your case, you must familiarize yourself with spoliation.

What is digital spoliation? It is the act of losing or destroying evidence through negligence or intent. Whether files are deleted, or metadata is altered, your company could be suspected of spoliation of evidence, rendering it inadmissible in court. Here’s why you need to take steps to preserve digital evidence and avoid spoliation during litigation.

It Raises Questions About the Effectiveness of Your Information Governance and Data Retention Policies

In order to present admissible evidence in court, your organization needs to be proactive and establish preservation techniques long before issues arise. All too often, companies allow each department to handle data retention, leading to a siloed approach to data preservation. While this process may work granularly, it can lead to complications during e-Discovery and put the organization at risk of spoliation. To protect your claims, you need an organization-wide strategy for preserving and producing electronic data. Otherwise, the court could determine that your business is an unreliable source of discovery.

In addition to taking steps to preserve digital data, it pays to work with a digital forensics expert. They can help you with everything from recovering deleted files to establishing a chain of custody for digital evidence. Most importantly, they know the mistakes to avoid in preventing the spoliation of evidence.

It Presents Complications During Trial

When a business is sued, the plaintiff has the burden of proof and must prove their claims by presenting evidence and credible witnesses. Some sued organizations may believe they can tamper with the evidence in order to make their case more favorable. However, if spoliation can be proved, judges have a few options for addressing the issue.

The court may decide that the lost evidence would favor the opposing party’s case. Adverse inference instructions are often used when the destruction of the evidence is presumed to be intentional. It can greatly hinder the opposing party’s case and require a great deal of additional evidence to overcome this presumption. Alternative sanctions for spoliation include dismissing the organization’s claims, dismissing the case, or entering default judgment in favor of the plaintiff.

In the event that spoliation was unintentional, the judge may place limitations on the type of evidence the defendant can introduce at the trial. They may also order additional discovery or require the defendant to compensate plaintiffs for attorney fees.

It Puts You at Risk of Spoliation Charges Under State Law

In some instances, organizations can sue each other for spoliation under state law. The parameters for which types of spoliation can qualify for an independent tort action vary from state to state. For example, one state may issue an intentional spoliation tort to a business or individual that intentionally destroyed evidence. On the other hand, another may apply a tort to a party that hid, concealed, or damaged evidence. Because of this, organizations need to take proper steps to organize and preserve digital evidence for current and impending legal cases.

Avoid Digital Spoliation by Partnering With Cornerstone Discovery

When facing litigation, altering files and documents on computers, mobile devices, and electronic devices in any way can be viewed as spoliation. Since there may be unintended alterations when preserving evidence, it’s wise to hire e-Discovery experts in Montgomery County. Our team can help you formulate a comprehensive strategy for data collection and preservation, ensuring your evidence is defensible in court. Contact us today to begin discussing strategies for avoiding the effects of spoliation.

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