E-mail discovery saves construction firm money

Company learns missing e-mail can raise attorney fees – and lose cases.

When your company is involved in nine or 10 lawsuits a year, the lack of an effective e-mail discovery system can easily cost you thousands of dollars, John Buraczyk says, from personal experience.

A senior IT manager for the construction company CF Jordan, Buraczyk says litigation is just a fact of life in his industry. Sometimes, CF Jordan screws up, and other times clients misinterpret contracts, he says. No matter what the problem, the US Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require litigants to produce electronic documents including e-mails in their "native format," or original form.

CF Jordan is involved in one lawsuit with a school district that has stretched more than five years -- and Buraczyk believes it would have ended long ago if he could have just found a single e-mail that may have exonerated the construction company.

So last August, Buraczyk led an e-discovery project involving new storage along with software from C2C that archives and searches e-mail needed in litigation.

The software cost US$25,000 plus ongoing maintenance fees, and CF Jordan paid another US$4,000 for two Infrant network-attached storage devices, but the project will more than pay for itself, Buraczyk says.

"If we save 10 per cent on attorneys' fees this will pay for itself very quickly. It probably already has," he says. "[Legal fees] can run into a million dollars a year."

Before last August, when CF Jordan needed to find e-mails for litigation it relied on PST files in Microsoft Exchange -- personal files that store an employee's messages.

In the aforementioned litigation involving a school system, Buraczyk says a school district that had problems with a remodeling project blamed CF Jordan. The construction company believes one e-mail from several years ago would have shown that it wasn't involved in the portion of the project in question, but the e-mail was never found.

"Although I'm confident we'll be exonerated, in the meantime we're paying a lot of legal fees," Buraczyk says.

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