March 26, 2018 Top Story

Court Order Sent to Spam Folder Costs Client Appeal

Setting the filtered emails to delete automatically resulted in a failure to review

Stephen Carr

An overzealous spam filter and an absence of human monitoring caused one law firm to lose a chance to appeal an order of attorney fees, costing its clients. The lawyers set up their spam filter to automatically delete unwanted emails without creating a backup file or notifying anyone at the firm that the server had received spam email. Unfortunately, an order awarding attorney fees to the firm's opponents somehow got caught in the firm's system, which deleted the email with no one seeing it.

The lawyers' argument that the mistake was excusable convinced neither the trial court nor appellate court. The decision to deny relief from the final order highlights the importance of a reliable email system, but also the need for human backups. "The reality is, in this day and age, putting in place proper IT monitoring systems is a cost of doing business for any law firm, no matter what the firm's size or resources, that lawyers cannot avoid," says Emily J. Kirk, O'Fallon, IL, cochair of the ABA Section of Litigation's Solo and Small Firm Committee.

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