When Midwest Data Group was assigned the job of looking for e-mail evidence in a recent business dispute over sales commissions, it seemed like just another job. But when no responsive e-mails were found and Midwest discovered that approximately 70,000 files had been deleted from a computer system, investigators suspected evidence might have been destroyed.

The court had given the company protocols to work by, but those didn’t offer much direction beyond directing computer examiners to look for e-mails pertinent to the case. But this discovery forced examiners to decide if they should simply report that the search was unproductive, or report suspicions of spoliation to the lawyers or the court.