• March 22, 2011

One of the puzzles of U.S. civil litigation faced by any business  of sufficient size such that litigation is a “fact of life,” a “cost of doing business,” and what does this mean in terms of the business’ obligation to preserve evidence (i.e., email, voice-mails, instant-messaging, SMS, etc., etc.)?

For example, if a company conducts a “RIF,” a “reduction in force” or lay-off, does that act, by itself, trigger a preservation duty as to all of the communications about the RIF for all of the subject employees? When is that duty triggered?  For how long does that duty last?  And, does that duty to preserve mean that the business can’t even archive that electronic data (i.e., put it on back-up tapes, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars to restore and several months)?

Seagate USA LLC, with a facility in Bloomington, Minnesota was recently absolved of claims of alleged spoliation when plaintiffs sought to hold the company liable for its conduct in regard to preservation of information related to a 2004 RIF.  On March 14, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Michael J. Davis (D. Minn.) upheld Mag. Judge Arthur J. Boylan’s earlier decision in favor of Seagate.

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