On January 23, 2018, the Northern District of Indiana issued a decision that clarifies what constitutes spoliation of evidence under Indiana law. In Arcelormittal Ind. Harbor LLC v. Amex Nooter, LLC, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10141 (N.D. Ind.), the defendant filed a motion for sanctions, alleging that the plaintiff intentionally spoliated critical evidence. The defendant sought dismissal of the action, asserting that the plaintiff intentionally discarded and lost important physical evidence within hours of a fire that occurred while the defendant’s employees were performing work at its facility. The decision underscores the importance of taking immediate action to properly identify and secure potentially material evidence in order to satisfy one’s duty to preserve pre-suit evidence and avoid any spoliation defenses and associated sanctions. Continue reading
In Emerald Point, LLC, et al. v. Hawkins, et al., 808 S.E.2d 384 (Va. 2017), the Supreme Court of Virginia considered whether a trial judge’s adverse inference instruction regarding the spoliation of evidence was warranted when there was no indication that the defendant destroyed the evidence at issue with the deliberate intent to deprive the plaintiff of a fair opportunity to use it in pending or reasonably foreseeable litigation between the parties. Continue reading
In Cumberland Insurance Group v. Delmarva Power d/b/a Delmarva Power & Light Company, 130 A. 3d 1183 (Md. App. 2016), the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland (the Court) addressed an issue of first impression: the appropriate spoliation sanction when the physical object that was destroyed is, itself, the subject of the litigation. The Court, finding that the plaintiff was at fault and that the destruction of the house at issue irreparably prejudiced the defendant’s ability to defend the case, held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it dismissed the plaintiff’s case as a spoliation sanction.
By: Edward A. Jaeger, Jr. and Michael J. Wolfer
In Tatham v. Bridgestone Americas Holding, Inc., 473 S.W.3d 734 (Tenn. 2015), the Tennessee Supreme Court addressed whether intentional misconduct is a prerequisite to imposing sanctions for spoliation of evidence. The Supreme Court held that a finding of intentional misconduct is not a necessary prerequisite to imposing sanctions. Its presence, however, is a relevant factor in the totality of the circumstances to consider when determining whether to impose sanctions.