Even the most careful community association is bound to have the occasional dispute with an owner, a municipality, or vendor. Typically, documents are created, records are made, and emails and letters are exchanged. What records, if any, should a community association retain?
In some circumstances, parties are under a legal obligation to preserve relevant documents and evidence for purposes of potential litigation. Importantly, this duty can apply regardless of whether a lawsuit has been filed. The failure to comply with that duty is known as “spoliation”.
When dealing with spoliation, courts are empowered to impose a variety of punitive sanctions. These sanctions are varied and may range from an award of attorney’s fees to an adverse inference instruction, which is an instruction to the jury that they must infer that the litigant’s failure to preserve the evidence means that the evidence was unfavorable to the litigant. Needless to say, such an instruction to a jury could lead to a substantially increased damages award.