By Steve Rizer
To print or not to print? That is perhaps the question William Shakespeare would ask if he were working in today’s construction industry and trying to decide whether it is a good idea to routinely make hard copies of his organization’s electronic documents to prevent some potential legal headaches. And though the playwright did not pose this question to attorney Matthew DeVries during a recent WPL Publishing webinar, someone in the audience did, albeit in a slightly different way.
Specifically, the webinar attendee asked DeVries, a Stites & Harbison PLLC member, “Should e-documents be printed routinely or only when called for?”
DeVries responded that, “from a legal standpoint, I think they just [need] to be printed when called for…. I would say, from an e-discovery point of view, if everything is [being produced] electronically, more than likely, until you actually need to reduce them to writing for the purposes of arbitration, litigation, or exhibit use, you’re not going to need to produce them or print them out.”
Another attendee asked, “We use a database called ‘Viewpoint,’ and all of our documents, submittals, and RFIs [requests for information] are stored electronically. Should we keep hard copies as well?”
In response, DeVries said, “I would probably say the answer is ‘No,’ But, let me give you the lawyer answer. The lawyer answer is: ‘It depends.’ If all of these documents are originally created as hard copies, and then, as part of you having an electronic storage project database, you scan them in, I think as long as you’re maintaining that backup of the electronically stored information, you can go ahead and shred and get rid of those hard copy documents. You don’t need to maintain them.”
However, if the only copy is electronic, “then I wouldn’t see a need to keep any paper documents,” DeVries said. “Of course, if you’re in litigation, I would keep them because as you come to the end of the project,” it is prudent to “not start destroying anything” that exists as a hard copy because there may be a difference in the information appearing on those documents. “So, when I look at the types of documents, I’m going to have an RFI that is a hard copy document that gets scanned in. I now have two copies: I have a hard copy and a scanned copy. But, what if I then mark up the hard copy? Then I have a third document. I have different information, so it kind of depends on where I am in the dispute and where there is a need to keep that stuff.”
To purchase a recording of the webinar, entitled "From Paper to Paperless: Controlling Construction Documentation, Improving Record Management & Identifying Risk in an Electronic Age," visit http://constructionpronet.com/Products/2014-10-17paperlessAd.aspx.