Minnesota Department of Transportation

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MnDOT Policies

Legal Holds

MnDOT Policy #DM004
Effective Date: September 17, 2020

View/print signed policy (pdf)

Please go to the MnDOT Org Chart to find specific contact information: Org Chart.

Responsible Senior Officer: Deputy Commissioner/Chief Administrative Officer and Deputy Commissioner/Chief Engineer
Policy Owner: Chief Counsel, Office of Chief Counsel
Policy Contact: Data Practices Compliance Official

Policy statement

The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) is committed to meeting its legal obligations under state and federal law to preserve and produce evidence when MnDOT is a party or a witness in legal proceedings. This policy establishes a process by which MnDOT initiates, implements, enforces, modifies, and releases Legal Holds to meet these requirements.

The Chief Counsel and Responsible Authority issues a Legal Hold when MnDOT reasonably anticipates or is engaged in legal proceedings involving MnDOT. When MnDOT issues a Legal Hold, custodians must identify, collect, preserve, and not alter, delete, or destroy any relevant evidence in their possession, custody, or control.

MnDOT’s records retention policy and destruction schedules are suspended for the duration of the Legal Hold. All Legal Holds remain in effect until the Chief Counsel and Responsible Authority issues instructions that the Legal Hold is released and it is permissible to treat the preserved evidence in accordance with MnDOT’s records retention policy and schedule.

Reason for policy

  • MnDOT has a legal obligation to preserve evidence necessary for actual or reasonably anticipated litigation or other legal proceedings.
  • Avoid criminal and civil penalties for spoliation or the failure to take adequate steps to preserve evidence.
  • To provide guidance to MnDOT employees on what to do when there is actual or reasonably anticipated litigation or other proceedings.

Applicability

All MnDOT employees must comply with MnDOT policies.

Key stakeholders affected by this policy include:

  • Chief Counsel and Responsible Authority
  • Office of Chief Counsel
  • MnDOT Employees/Custodian
  • Managers and Supervisors

Definitions

Evidence

Data and other materials that are relevant to actual or reasonably anticipated legal proceedings, including all drafts, final versions, and metadata, regardless of the format, age, location, or source. Data and other materials may be printed, handwritten, electronic, physical (such as trucks, guardrails, or equipment), graphical/visual (such as photos, videos, or CADD), or aural (such as audio records and voicemails) and include:

  • Physical artifacts, records, documents, and data in printed formats, and
  • Electronic records, documents and data contained within:
    • Desktops
    • Laptops
    • Personal or shared network drives
    • Flash drives, CDs, DVDs, or external hard drives
    • Telephone voicemail boxes
    • Cell phones or other portable devices with internal or cloud storage
    • Document management systems
    • Databases and servers
    • Personally-owned hardware or devices
    • Cloud computing services
    • Social media or collaborative technologies

Custodian

Any MnDOT employee having possession, custody, or control over evidence relevant to actual or reasonably anticipated legal proceedings.

Legal Hold

A formal directive issued by the Chief Counsel and Responsible Authority directing MnDOT employees to identify, preserve, and not alter, delete, or destroy any evidence that may be relevant to any legal proceeding in which MnDOT is or is reasonably anticipated to be a participant.

Relevant

Having some reasonable connection with the matter described in the Legal Hold.

See: Minnesota Rules of Evidence, Rule 401.

Responsible Authority

MnDOT official designated by law or by the Commissioner of Transportation as the individual responsible for the collection, use and dissemination of all government data under Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 13, Government Data Practices Act.

Spoliation

The intentional or negligent destruction, mutilation, alteration, or concealment of evidence that may be relevant to anticipated or actual legal proceedings.

Trigger Event

An event precipitating a legal hold such as:

  • A summons or complaint properly served on the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office pursuant to Minnesota Rules of Civil Procedure 4.03(d);
  • A notice pursuant to Minnesota Statutes, Section §3.736, Subd. 5 & 6;
  • A complaint filed against MnDOT with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights or the United States Equal Employment Opportunities Commission;
  • Communications from an attorney threatening legal action against MnDOT; or
  • Reasonable anticipation that MnDOT will be involved in a legal proceeding. Examples include serious injury or death on MnDOT right-of-way, significant disputes involving a construction contract, or a significant employee grievance.

Note: Trigger events can occur either before or during the course of legal proceedings, audits, government investigations or other proceedings, and create an obligation for MnDOT to preserve all relevant evidence.

Responsibilities

Chief Counsel and Responsible Authority

  • Approve the Legal Hold notice.
  • Release Legal Hold when it is no longer required.

Office of Chief Counsel

  • Identify and analyze trigger events to determine the duty to preserve evidence.
  • Oversee and manage the Legal Hold process:
    • Define the scope and issue the Legal Hold;
    • Serve as liaison to senior management;
    • Educate and train employees to understand and follow the policy and processes for implementing a Legal Hold; and
    • Commit staff, time, and financial resources to effectively implement and communicate a Legal Hold.
  • Coordinate with MNIT to:
    • Modify the operation of information systems to suspend deletion, prevent overwriting, or prevent general loss of evidence; and
    • Maintain equipment and software applications necessary to preserve evidence.
  • Ensure ongoing compliance with the Legal Hold policy.
  • Serve as liaison to the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office for all discovery-related issues.
  • Notify employees when the legal hold is released and that it is permissible to treat the evidence in accordance with MnDOT’s records retention policy and schedule.

MnDOT Employees/Custodians

  • Identify trigger events and notify the Office of Chief Counsel.
  • Assist and follow the directives of the Office of Chief Counsel to identify, collect, and preserve evidence pursuant to a Legal Hold; and
  • Suspend deletion and prevent overwriting of data and general loss of evidence pursuant to the Legal Hold.

Managers and Supervisors

  • Comply with the account deletion process to review data, whether in printed or electronic format, of separating employees to ensure the preservation of data subject to a Legal Hold in the appropriate repository.

Policy Owner (Chief Counsel)

  • Review policy every two years, or sooner as necessary, to ensure policy remains up-to-date.  
  • Ensure documents and training associated with the policy remain current.
  • Work with Policy Coordinator to revise policy and/or confirm its accuracy.
  • Communicate policy revisions, reviews, and retirements to stakeholders.

Resources and related information

Process, Procedures, and Instructions

Resources

History and updates

Adopted

August 20, 2013

Revised

  • First Revision: September 17, 2020

Policy review

This policy's next scheduled review is due September 2022.