Ben Langhinrichs

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Making sure your fax gets there

Mon 18 Oct 2004, 09:39 PM

by Ben Langhinrichs
Volker Weber had a link to a story about a case where a Lawyer's fax blunder costs EC €100m.  It is a pretty amazing story, in which a 100 page legal document was put in the machine upside down, so the court received 100 blank pages and thus had no legal argument to use in court, but I really think the author missed the crucial point.  He says, 
The incident illustrates how a failure to use technology correctly can have massive consequences, but also underlines the dangers of not moving with the times. Had the EC's documents been emailed, then the EC might be a hundred million euros better off.
This is silliness.  The crucial error was not putting the pages in upside down.  That is understandable human error and is not worthing blaming somebody about.  The crucial error, as I am sure Christopher Byrne would point out, is an error of business controls.  Who the heck would send a 100 page legal document and not check that it got there correctly?  This is why they should fire the lawyer, not for the simple human error of placing the document incorrectly.  The author clearly misses the point, because even in the case of e-mailing, as suggested in the quote, the document could have been marked as spam, thrown out as too large by a router, stopped in the original mailbox, etc. etc.  The incident does not "illustrate a failure to use technology correctly", but rather illustrates a dangerous blind faith in technology.  Even if a courier had been sent to deliver the document in person, the lawyer should have checked that it was received.  Anything else is negligence.

And before you laugh, do you always check that your faxes and e-mails get through?  Every time, or at least every time the future of your business or career is at stake?  It is worth taking a lesson from this, even if not the lesson the author thought you should.

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