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Adverse Inference Instruction for Missing Emails but No Sanctions for Wiped Hard Drive

Posted on March 25th, 2016

The Plaintiff in Core Laboratories LP v. Spectrum Tracer Services, LLC et. al., Case No. 11-1157 (W.D. Okla. Mar. 7, 2016) filed a Motion for Spoliation Sanctions against Defendants contending that, despite its duty to preserve evidence, Defendants intentionally destroyed relevant evidence relating to certain missing emails, deleted computer files, and wiped hard drives. Defendants argued that Plaintiff had not shown prejudice and that Plaintiff had not identified what specific relevant evidence was lost.

The court looked at the recently amended FRCP 37, noting that spoliation sanctions are only proper when the accused party had a duty to preserve because it knew or should have known that litigation was imminent and if the adverse party was prejudiced. Defendants had taken steps after the filing of the case to switch email service providers so that each email was captured to comply with the requirements of the lawsuit. However, the court found that Plaintiff was prejudiced by the missing emails, as they related to the issues at stake in the suit. The court also found that Defendants should have taken steps to make sure emails prior to switching to the new service were saved.

Regarding the deleted files and wiped hard drive of a defendant’s employee, Defendants argued that all the files deleted were the employee’s personal files and the wiping was done as a normal part of the repair process and not for the purpose of destroying evidence.

The court found no prejudice against Plaintiff for the deletions and found that there was no bad faith. The court noted that Plaintiff had not provided any evidence of what files were actually deleted.

As a result, the court ordered an adverse inference instruction with respect to the missing emails but denied the motion for sanctions as to the deleted files and the wiped computer.

ILS – Plaintiff Electronic Discovery Experts

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