As much as we would like to avoid them, there are times when homeowners associations must take legal action. When this happens, HOAs end up incurring expensive legal fees, eating into annual budgets and causing tensions among members. To move everything along at an efficient pace, it’s vital that homeowners associations organize any information that may be requested by either legal team. This is where eDiscovery comes into play during HOA litigation processes in Arizona.
Discovery and eDiscovery
When taking legal action, also known as going through the litigation process, both sides must present evidence to assert or defend their cases. As stipulated in Rule 26 of the Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure, both parties must exchange “nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party’s claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case.”
Both the prosecution and the defense are responsible for gathering any information or data in their client’s possession, custody or control, as well as any information or data that the client can ascertain, learn or acquire by reasonable inquiry or investigation.
eDiscovery pertains to any digital data that is related to the case and includes:
- Text messages
- Messages exchanged via messaging platforms (for example, Snapchat or WhatsApp), instant messaging tools (such as Slack) or virtual meetings (like Skype)
- Files saved to devices
- Electronically-stored information (ESI)
In 2018, the state changed the Civil Procedure Rules to address eDiscovery, which directly impacts HOA litigation processes in Arizona. Parties are now required to meet with attorneys to determine relevant documents, identify people with relevant data and ascertain where that data is stored. They must also discuss a plan for collecting all necessary ESI.
Preventing the dreaded deletion
Many worry that eDiscovery is a wasted effort because people can just delete anything that might hurt their case. Preservation letters are sent to parties and nonparties to officially notify them to not delete any relevant ESI for pending or anticipated litigation. Ignoring a preservation letter means a party or nonparty can then be held liable for any ESI lost.
Don’t overlook eDiscovery
All too often, clients make the mistake of neglecting the importance of evidence available through some simple eDiscovery. People feel that diving into digital records is only relevant in larger cases, but this is a detrimental misconception that can negatively affect the outcome of your case.
It’s wise to invest in a third-party vendor to image the information provided from e-discovery. A device (such as a phone) is copied to the cloud, where the pertinent pieces of data are found by the vendor and then provided to the attorneys. While the sticker shock of the hourly cost for this service might have you second-guessing this option, you’ll find that it pays dividends in the long run.
HOA litigation processes in Arizona can be quite complicated if you are unfamiliar with the nuances of the legal system. That is why communities throughout the state trust the Goodman Holmgren with all legal matters related to homeowners associations. Get in touch with us today to learn how our services can ease your HOA’s legal concerns and costs.