Document Retention is a valid defense, with the right documentation.
There’s a great article published by K&L Gates discussing a $28M verdict against an aerospace engines manufacturer. From the story, it appears this is yet another case of ‘Document Retention Defense’, which is a valid argument with the right documentation around it.
In this case, the Plaintiff requested design schematics, R&D and documentation around the design of a carburetor. The Defendant couldnt or wouldnt produce this data, as it claimed these kinds of documents were deleted from thier computers in routine data pruning due to established document retention policies.
If I may be so bold as to speculate here, if your job is to create complex industrial machinery, dont destroy your design and test data ever. Furthermore, the Defendant couldnt produce any documented policy around the company’s document retention plan to back up thier policy claim. Frankly, it would have been a better defense if they just claimed to have lost the data in a server crash. Maybe a rogue employee. Give the people a story they can get behind. Instead they just pissed off the judge and jury.
In this case, that was a -$28M strategy move.
What’s your company doing for document retention? Are you ready to discuss it with the judge and jury? Do yourself a favor and get on top of it before it gets on top of you. We’ve collected a short list of online resources you can use to get started.
- From Lexis Nexis: Elements of a Good Document Retention Policy.
- From Tab: Designing a Records Retention Action Plan: 7 Things You Need to Know.
- From the ABA: Sample Document Retention Policy.
- From AIIM: Formulating a Document Retention Policy.