Company Archive, or Black Hole? via Industry Week

Ryan Lucinski | Jun 25, 2019

Recently, I learned that a global manufacturer received a multi-million-dollar settlement because its legal team constructed a case, in part, from the records and photographic negatives pulled from its corporate archive. People familiar with the matter – including one of the archivists – say maintaining the collection and properly tagging the contents was critical for successfully representing the company.

When manufacturers think about their archive, the thoughts range from “we’re actively archiving and meta-tagging everything” to “that would be a room, maybe several rooms, with a lot of boxes.”

Like insurance, people think of an archive or document repository only when it’s needed. For example, an engineer might tap the archive, be it a room or server, to locate and find historical drawings to review past decisions to improve future designs. But imagine the frustration and missed opportunities (and potential legal issues) that arise if assets aren’t easily located or preserved.

As a lawyer, I have a vested interest in the contents of my client’s archive and the ability to easily access its contents.  I always advise clients at the outset of any representation on the risks of not preserving documents and information that may be relevant to the case.  For example, “spoliation” is the legal term for the alteration or destruction of a document either intentionally or negligently. In my experience, a manufacturer can face significant consequences in court, and severely prejudice its defense, if it knew or should have known certain documents were relevant to potential or actual litigation, and intentionally or accidentally destroyed them (or couldn’t find them).

I represent manufacturers of all kinds. I can tell you a company’s archive is among the primary sources for electronically stored information and other forms of hard-copy discovery, a very common part of litigation. Every manufacturer, in theory if not practice, should have a uniform system and policy for organizing and preserving its documents. I often see factories and plants owned by the same entity, each with their own rules and approaches to archiving.

Continue reading at The unintended cost of finding what you own in the article.

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