The Baltimore Ravens currently are under investigation for claims that management knew about but took no action relating to former player Ray Rice’s domestic violence incident. In a similiarly less-than-proactive vein, the Ravens reportedly failed to send out a document preservation letter until two weeks after the investigation was announced.

The Ravens, like all parties in a lawsuit or potential lawsuit, had a duty to preserve evidence in any form, including emails, text messages, pictures, etc. Without this legal obligation, nothing would stop litigants from deleting or shredding anything that might have negative implications for their case or defense.

It was announced on September 10, 2014 that former FBI Director Robert Mueller would be conducting an investigation.  By that date (if not earlier!), the Ravens probably should have instructed anyone with potentially relevant information to preserve that information.  This instruction is most effecitively communicated by sending a document preservation letter to all pertinent employees and individuals.  According to reports, the Ravens did send the document preservation letter — but waited two weeks to do so.

This delay may prove costly.  Courts have the power to issue monetary and other sanctions against parties who fail to properly preserve evidence, and the sanctions can be hefty.

Learn from the Raven’s misstep.  Once it becomes clear that there is a potential claim against your company, take immediate action to confirm that evidence is preserved.  And do it in writing, so that if necessary you can demonstrate to the Court that the evidence was preserved.Contact legal counsel if you need help drafting a disseminating a preservation letter.