NOTE: THIS IS ARTICLE IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO BE CONSTRUED AS LEGAL ADVICE.
Electronic communications--particularly email--may contain a treasure trove of evidence in commercial litigation matters. There are three key reasons for this fact. First, email is a very informal means of communication. Why? I don't know, it just is. Though I personally insist on specific grammer and sentence structure in my "hardcopy" written correspondence, court pleadings, etc., in emails I sometimes choose not to follow rules of written English.
Second, though intellectually many of us know it is not, email "feels" anonymous. I'm sure there have been studies conducted in effort to understand why email feels anonymous. Maybe it's because of instantaneous nature of email--you can simply vent your emotions and knee-jerk reactions immediately and press send button, rather than having time to reflect on your written thoughts as you otherwise would if you were forced to sit down and write a letter; sign it with your own hand; put it in an envelope; put a stamp on in it; and take it to mailbox and mail it. Whatever reason(s), fact of matter is that email does feel anonymous.
The third reason email evidence can contain critical evidence in a commercial litigation case: permanence and retrievability. Most people don't realize that when they "delete" an email from their email program it actually remains on computer or network unless and until portions of computer's memory containing email are overwritten by other information. You can be certain, however, that every single electronic commuincation you make--email or otherwise--is being recorded somewhere. Perhaps on your company's network server, perhaps at your Internet service provider, or perhaps on your own computer's hard drive. Savvy litigators know this fact and, depending stakes of case, you could end up receiving a letter such as this should your business find itself in a business dispute:
Dear Mr. John Doe:
This is a notice and demand that evidence identified below in paragraphs 2 through 5 must be immediately preserved and retained by you until further written notice from undersigned. This request is essential, as a paper printout of text contained in a computer file does not completely reflect all information contained within electronic file.
The continued operation of computer systems identified herein will likely result in destruction of relevant evidence due to fact that electronic evidence can be easily altered, deleted or otherwise modified. THE FAILURE TO PRESERVE AND RETAIN THE ELECTRONIC DATA OUTLINED IN THIS NOTICE CONSTITUTES SPOLIATION OF EVIDENCE AND WILL SUBJECT YOU TO LEGAL CLAIMS FOR DAMAGES AND/OR EVIDENTIARY AND MONETARY SANCTIONS.