ICYMI, Joe McGinnis, the alleged journalist who moved in next door to Sarah Palin and then wrote an extremely negative book about her and her family is in a world of trouble. Last week, Andrew Breitbart‘s Big Government site broke the news that McGinnis had admitted in an email that his book was full of “tawdry gossip” and rumors without any “factual evidence.”
Well, now Random House, the publisher of McGinnis’ book, is joining McGinniss in the hot water. After it became clear that Random House was aware of the lack of factual support for the accusations in McGinniss’ book, the Palins’ attorneys sent a letter warning them to preserve evidence in preparation of a potential lawsuit:
Michelle Malkin | Palin Lawyers Warn Publisher of ‘The Rogue’ Not to Destroy Documents Ahead of Possible Lawsuit
For the non-lawyers out there, this formal written notice not to destroy documents has serious legal implications. Every state has a different evidence code, but the general rule is that once formal notice is received, a potential defendant is legally required to comply with the request to preserve all evidence that could be relevant to the potential litigation. This includes not just written documents, but also emails and electronic records, handwritten notes, video and sound recordings, etc.
Penalties for wrongful destruction of evidence can be imposed against both the litigants and their attorneys, and can include monetary sanctions, being held in contempt of court, and, maybe worst of all, adverse rulings from the court. For example, if Random House wrongfully deletes emails that the Palins could have used to prove certain allegations, the court could rule that those allegations are accepted as true. In other words, if one party is caught destroying evidence, the other side could automatically win their lawsuit.
The rationale behind these rules is that it is not fair for a party to win a lawsuit because they hide or destroy evidence that the other side had a right to see. We have provisions to protect attorney-client privileged communications, trade secrets, personal medical records, etc. but the evidence that is relevant to business litigation must be disclosed in a proper and timely manner.
If I were advising Random House, I would tell them to immediately offer to publicly apologize to the Palins, revoke and destroy all copies of the book, disclaim any support for the contents, pay any legal bills that the Palins have incurred so far, and to donate a significant sum to the charity of the Palins’ choice.
[Cross-posted at Sunshine State Sarah]