Law Practice Management

Are Your Client Files Hazardous to Your Health? SC Supreme Court Weighs Document Destruction

A lawyer appointed to represent the interests of another lawyer’s clients encountered an unusual health hazard: Some of the files are unsanitary.

The South Carolina Supreme Court weighed in on the dilemma in a Sept. 8 order (PDF) noted by the Legal Profession Blog.

The appointed lawyer notified the court that that some of the inherited files are moldy or infested with rodents or insects, according to the order. As a result, the lawyer is hesitant to inventory the files, remove original documents and turn over the paperwork to clients.

The documents could be destined for destruction. If the lawyer provides the court with photos or other sufficient documentation showing the files pose a heath hazard, the order says, “the court will determine the procedure which shall be followed in the matter and may, if appropriate, order the destruction of some or all of the lawyer’s client files without first inventorying and removing original documents.”

The supreme court cautions that its order does not relieve lawyers from safekeeping files in an appropriate manner.

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