Does Your Business have a Litigation Hold Policy?

Does Your Business have a Litigation Hold Policy?

Most businesses and individuals who have been involved in civil litigation are familiar with the discovery process – when the parties of a lawsuit exchange information and documents that are relevant to the issues of the case. Anyone who has been involved in a lawsuit in Indiana knows that they have a duty under the Indiana Trial Rules to turn over all relevant, non-privileged documents responsive to the discovery requests. But what you might not know is that the duty to preserve this potentially relevant information arises long before discovery requests are ever exchanged. In fact, this duty often arises before a lawsuit is even started.

The duty to preserve evidence arises when a party reasonably anticipates litigation. This might be when a defendant receives “notice of a credible threat of litigation,” such as a demand or cease and desist letter. See Kristin Lohmeyer’s article, Litigation hold: When is Litigation Reasonably Anticipated? http://www.btlg.us/News_and_Press/articles/Litigation%20Hold (last accessed 10.2.18). It may also occur when a potential defendant receives a “litigation hold notice.” For a plaintiff, the duty may arise as soon as the plaintiff discovers it has an actionable injury. The timing of when a duty to preserve evidence arises is not a precise calculation but depends on the facts of each particular case. Regardless of when the duty arises, however, it is a duty that must be addressed. Failure to preserve evidence relevant to reasonably anticipated litigation can lead to sanctions and even the giving of an adverse inference instruction at trials, which would allow the jury to infer that the missing evidence was detrimental to your case.

It is therefore very important that businesses maintain document retention policies and litigation hold policies. Such policies should include, among other things, instructions as to whom litigation hold notices should be sent within the company, who will be the contact person(s) for any questions regarding the litigation hold, how the evidence is to be stored, etc. It should also include an instruction to immediately turn off or disable any automatic deletion or destruction of electronically stored information.

When crafting a litigation hold policy, it is imperative that you think about the culture and practice of your business. How are your files stored – electronic vs. digital? Do your employees conduct business and store documents on their personal devices, such as iPads, laptops, and cell phones? Do they conduct business via text message? All of these issues should be covered by your litigation hold policy.

Elizabeth (Libby) A. Klesmith, Litigator, Business Counsel, Tuesley Hall Konopa, LLP

Author: Elizabeth (Libby) A. Klesmith is a civil litigation and business attorney at Tuesley Hall Konopa, LLP. Her practice areas include real estate, insurance defense, and trademark law. She is licensed to practice in Indiana and Michigan

You can contact Libby by calling 574.232.3538 or email eklesmith@thklaw.com

Disclaimer: The THK Legal Blog is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. In no case does the published material constitute an exhaustive legal study, and applicability to a particular situation depends upon an investigation of specific facts. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.
Veterans Administration Imposes New Rules

Veterans Administration Imposes New Rules

Effective October 18, 2018, the VA is imposing new rules and regulations on the popular Aid and Attendance program. These rules are designed to clarify the previously ambiguous asset limit rules and impose a more certain and predictable penalty period for gifting.

First, the rules impose a clear asset limit of $123,600 to establish eligibility for the aid and attendance program. The VA defines “assets” as the fair market value of countable resources less any mortgages or liens plus the applicant’s annual household income. Unreimbursed medical expenses in excess of 5%  the maximum annual pension rate will still be deducted from annual income.

In deciding what expenses will qualify as medical expenses to be deducted, the VA will now require a statement from a physician or qualified medical professional that home care is required for those payments to be deducted. Payments to assisted living or other facilities that include meals and lodging will be included as long as health or custodial care is also included in the payment.

The rules also clarify the treatment of a residence, stating that a primary residence will be an excluded asset, even if the applicant is not residing there. However, the definition of primary residence is limited to a lot size of two acres. Any land above two acres will be counted as an asset. The rules also exclude the proceeds from the sale of a primary residence if they are used to purchase another residence in the same calendar year.

Finally, the VA will impose a penalty period on any gifts made within thirty-six months of an application for VA benefits. This penalty will apply to any gifts made after October 18, 2018. The number of penalty months is calculated by dividing the amount gifted by the maximum annual pension rate. The applicant will not be eligible to receive benefits during the penalty period. There is a maximum penalty of five years.

While the lookback period on gifts is an unwelcome change, the certainty that the new rules provide to applicants may make an application for VA benefits a more viable option for some.

Contact Jennifer at 574.232.3538 or email jvanderveen@thklaw.com for an appointment if you need help planning for the future using your VA benefits.

Author: Jennifer L. VanderVeen is a certified elder law attorney (CELA) at Tuesley Hall Konopa, LLP where she counsels clients on long term care planning, Medicare, Medicaid, veterans benefits applications, guardianships, special needs trusts, and complex estate planning issues. Jennifer frequently speaks to community groups on caregiver responsibilities and caregiver burnout.

You can contact Jennifer by calling 574.232.3538 or by email jvanderveen@thklaw.com.

Disclaimer: The THK Legal Blog is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. In no case does the published material constitute an exhaustive legal study, and applicability to a particular situation depends upon an investigation of specific facts. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.