Believe it or not, there are always a wealth of emails and other documents produced in litigation that help “make the case” for the other side. Take, for the example, the e-mail I found in the files of one superintendent entitled “PROJECT DELAYS” … the words could not have been clearer … “I think we need to begin to tell management that we are late. We also need to consult the claims team to determine how late we really are.”
On another case, I found this nugget: “Although we should give them notice of this claim, let’s wait until our equipment has left the port on their vessel before telling them.”
Best Practices advises that you should have a written document management policy in place. This policy should define and describe the role of the following:
- Critical project documentation, such as correspondence, meeting minutes, daily reports and logs, calendars and diaries, accounting records, submittals, schedules, photographs, etc.
- Non-critical documentation, such as personal emails, instant messages, text logs, blog trails, website traffic logs, etc.
The advent of project management software and web based platforms (i.e., Procore, Microsoft Dynamics, buildertrend, planswift, PlanGrid, e-Builder ) have enhanced document control by allowing the user to track revisions, store master files, and streamline the review process. However, the human element is still involved. Any policy must set appropriate boundaries and guidelines for the following:
- Personal use of email (…a good place to find “mismanagement” emails…)
- Use of profanity (…I always search for the juicy four-letter words…good emails…)
- Risks of informal communications (…see emails above…)
- And, of course, a document retention policy (…don’t shred right after lawsuit is filed…)
Failure to formulate a policy that addresses these simple areas almost guarantees that the bad little email will get created and produced.