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N.Y. JUDGE CRITICIZES DELETION OF E-MAILS NEW YORK — A Manhattan federal judge has castigated the nation’s largest provider of disability insurance, accused in a class action suit of plotting to deny high-cost claims, for failing to take adequate steps to prevent the erasure of e-mails ordered preserved by a Dec. 27 agreement. Policyholders sued Chattanooga, Tenn.-based disability insurer UnumProvident in November for allegedly providing incentives to employees to deny claims. In discovery, the plaintiffs had sought records of the e-mails sent in the three days following the airing of each of two television reports on UnumProvident’s alleged plot. UnumProvident agreed to preserve the e-mails but limited its efforts to taking a “snapshot” of the company’s e-mail system between Dec. 20 and Dec. 23, 2002, failing to prevent the erasure of earlier e-mails stored on backup tapes. Southern District Judge Denise Cote found that the company’s actions were unintentional but criticized its poor compliance with the Dec. 27 preservation order. “If UnumProvident had been as diligent as it should have been in complying promptly with the Dec. 27 order, fewer tapes would have been overwritten,” she wrote in Keir v. UnumProvident, 02-8781. Judge Cote found that the company’s management had left its compliance with the Dec. 27 order in the hands of insufficiently supervised information technology workers, including contract workers from IBM. — The New York Law Journal

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