Documentation is very important in a construction project because it provides a “memory” of the project. It is the only contemporaneous record of what was actually happening at any given time during the course of the project. Documentation is the framework on which a claim is built; without it, there is no contemporaneous evidence to prove a claim and, thus, little chance of a fair outcome.
Project documents kept on a contemporaneous basis provide a permanent record which allows the detailed reconstruction, review, and analysis of events and actions of the project.
The destruction of project documents is destruction of evidence which severely handicaps the impacted party in presenting its case to the trier of fact. Such destruction “erases” the memory of project events. This violates industry practice, likely violates internal corporate policy, and may violate the law depending on the circumstances.
The most likely reason for destroying such project documents in the midst of claims and litigation is to eliminate incriminating evidence. A contractor’s destruction of evidence undermines the owner’s ability to prepare a detailed, documented case and the owner is thus prevented from a fair dispute process and the trier of fact is prevented from making an informed and fair decision.
It is essential, industry practice, and standard internal corporate policy for construction companies to maintain a project documentation system. In addition to being a contract requirement in most large construction projects today, thorough and organized documentation throughout a project provides the only contemporaneous “memory” of what actually happened on the project.
Documentation is the foundation on which all proposals, disputes, or claims are built. Without documentation, there is essentially no contemporaneous evidence and, therefore, it is difficult to present a persuasive case. Documentation is critical to resolving disputes in two ways.
(1) Documentation provides a contemporaneous record of what was actually happening on a project at any given time during the course of the project.
(2) Documentation provides a contemporaneous record of the parties positions regarding particular events at the time of the event.
Documentation for construction projects generally consist of the following types of documents:
Proper administration of the contract requires that all communications between the parties be in writing and preserved. Clear communication is vital to the success of a project and written documentation of the communication process forms the basis for analysis and resolution of disputes when a project has gone astray. Contemporaneous documentation is essential for reconstructing the facts if a dispute arises.
Project documents kept on a contemporaneous basis provide a permanent record which allows the detailed reconstruction, review, and analysis of events and actions of the project. It is not practical or possible to bring a building into a courtroom to demonstrate a defect during construction, but a party to a dispute can bring contemporaneous documents to demonstrate a point at issue.
In construction, it is often easy to take a "just get it done" attitude and ignore the needed paperwork. However, as the project goes south and the battle enters the courtroom, the paper trail becomes one of the most significant pieces of evidence is support of your claim