Following the construction industry and related legal topics in the United States.


Thursday, October 5, 2006

E-Mail Gaffes --- and Worse

The risk of careless language in e-mails goes beyond the potential for embarrassment when e-mails must be produced for some investigative purpose. Frequently, the "smoking gun" in a lawsuit will be in e-mails (as everyone who has listened to the news this week will know).

While ordinary business e-mails are much more mundane than those we've been hearing about this week, still, the use of thoughtless but seemingly innocuous words can be a potent weapon in an adversary's hands. For example, words like "troublesome", "concerning", "inadequate", "substandard" and the like are lightning rods for potential vulnerability. Worse, the careless use of legal terms like "negligent" or "false" or "malicious" can easily be taken for an admission.

As this writer has experienced, a million-dollar award in a construction arbitration rested in large part on a single email --- reinforcing what should be main rule of e-mail: "Never send an e-mail you wouldn't want a jury to see." (Today's entry was published by Karen Carey of Womble Carlyle's construction and real estate development group).

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