NOTE TO SELF: Emails Can Be Evidence

on March 5, 2014 by James Hunt

SFTH 11We all know that feeling of hitting “send” on an email only to realize you unintentionally “replied all” or sent it to the wrong person. And if this hasn’t happened to you, it is likely you have at minimum sent an email that contained an embarrassing typo. While these seemingly innocent mistakes are embarrassing, they can also have legal consequences.

In the business world it is important to slow down and remember the importance of communication with our clients, associates or colleagues. Emails and text messages are an effective and quick way to transmit information, but they are also a reflection of you and your business. Taking time to be polite and proof read before sending your message cannot only improve your reader’s impression of you, it can also prevent you from making costly mistakes. Digital evidence, including emails, is playing an increasing role in business litigation matters. In almost all cases, emails will be discoverable in litigation, and you and your company will be forced to turn over any damning email evidence to your adversaries.

There have been many examples of embarrassing and legally consequential emails made public in recent years, including many emails that Wall Street executives were grilled about in Congressional hearings, and more recently regarding Governor Chris Christie’s aides plotting to close lanes at the George Washington Bridge.

Below are a few quick and simple steps you should take before sending an email or text, especially when it is regarding a business matter:

  • Clearly state the subject of the message in the subject line of the email
  • Review and comply with your company’s digital evidence and email preservation and destruction policies
  • Properly address the recipient by using his/her name in the salutation
  • Be polite – use “please” and “thank you” when appropriate
  • Do not write a message while you are angry. Give yourself several minutes to calm down and think through what you should put into “writing.” Remind yourself that whatever you put in your message may be reviewed by a judge or jury someday. Any emails could go from your inbox to the jury box !
  • A simple rule to live by: if you would be embarrassed by your email being plastered on the front page of the New York Times, do not write it or send it.

Even if your email never sees a courtroom, it never hurts to use good manners. And isn’t it always better to be safe rather than sorry?

For a free initial consultation with skilled corporate litigation lawyers, contact Slater, Tenaglia, Fritz & Hunt, P.A. We have been providing outstanding legal services for more than 35 years. We are conveniently located in New York and New Jersey. To schedule your appointment, please call us at (201) 820-6001 or (212) 692-0200. We can also be found on the Internet, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Youtube. We also have a network of local counsel throughout the United States.