What You Need to Know About Electronically Stored Information (ESI)
Most important business information is now stored on a computer hard drive or on the internet. As a natural result, discovery in commercial litigation cases is increasingly centered around electronically stored information (ESI). For both plaintiffs and defendants, discovery is the foundation of effective litigation. If you are involved in a commercial dispute, you need a commercial litigation attorney who fully understands how to deal with the complicated issues presented by ESI.
What is ESI?
Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, ESI includes any information that is:
- Stored; or
- Best utilized, in a digital form.
In many business litigation cases, you will have a right to access electronically stored information through a process known as ‘e-discovery’. The goal of discovery is to give each of the parties to a dispute an opportunity to obtain, analyze and assemble the information that is relevant to their upcoming legal case. E-discovery can include access to e-mails, internet messages, computer files and other any other potentially relevant electronic information.
All Florida companies should be aware of their discovery obligations. Once a firm becomes involved in litigation, discovery is often not far behind. Ultimately, the other party has the right to access information that is relevant to the litigation, specific discovery related legal duties include:
- Identification: The first step for any company is to develop a full understanding of the what documents might be relevant to the impending litigation. Companies will need to take a full inventory of all relevant electronically stored information.
- Process: Of course, not all electronic data is relevant to an impending legal matter. During the processing stage, information will be sorted and the relevant information will be organized. This may seem like a daunting task, but an attorney will experience handling complex ESI discovery cases can help your company efficiently deal with the electronic documents.
- Preservation: Once the documents are identified and processed, the relevant ESI needs to be protected. Businesses have a legal obligation to preserve relevant electronic data. The importance of this should not be underestimated. If ESI is lost, or modified, a business may face a spoliation claim. This type of action could result in an adverse inference, or perhaps even worse. An adverse inference could do serious damage to your case. Essentially, an adverse inference means that the court will just assume that the lost documents were going to be unfavorable to your case. In reality, of course, the documents could have been neutral or might have even supported you. Do not get sloppy; you must protect relevant ESI.
- Production: Finally, the ESI must be produced and passed off to the requesting party. Typically ESI is required to be produced in its native format. That means that the produced information should remain in the format it was originally created and modified in.
Contact An Experienced West Palm Beach Commercial Litigation Attorney
The commercial litigation attorneys at Pike & Lustig, LLP have extensive experience handling complex disputes involving electronically stored information. We help our clients work through any ESI related issues using practical, efficient and cost effective solutions. Let our team help protect the rights of your business. If you have any questions about electronic discovery in commercial litigation cases, please contact our West Palm Beach office today to schedule a free initial consultation.